Dinnertime is such an important part of the day but it is so hard to pull it off 7 nights a week. Anyone else need a live in chef? It’s not even that I don’t like cooking — cooking is actually kind of relaxing for me. It’s just that with so many other things going on, finding the time to actually make dinner (and clean up afterwards) can be exhausting. That’s why I put my kids to work cooking dinner a few nights a week!
I’ve mentioned before but I’m already a big fan of teaching kids to work. I really think we do kids a disservice when we don’t teach them to work early and work hard. Life requires a fair amount of work and kids who know how to work turn into adults who know how to work.
Assigning Weekly Cooking Chores to Kids
Here’s how we do it in my house:
Each child is assigned 1-2 nights a week (depending on age and cooking ability) to be in charge of dinner.
On their assigned night, that child is in charge of planning the menu, adding the ingredients they need to the shopping list, and preparing the meal.
On nights they cook, each child is EXEMPT from cleaning up. The cook should never have to clean in my opinion, and this is a huge perk for my kids who would rather cook than clean.
Younger kids who haven’t developed their cooking skills can still choose the meal we will have that night. They will use their cooking night to learn how to make simple meals. For example, my almost 3 year old can not cook but she is still in charge of dinner one night a week. On her night, she decides what we will eat (I give her a choice of 3 meals to keep things simple) and she will help with basic prep work like stirring, spreading butter, etc. She’s still learning cooking skills and in a few years she’ll be able to make some basic meals too.
Doing things this way DRAMATICALLY lightens my load during the week and gives each child the chance to help out. We use this free Weekly Menu Planning Printable to plan meals. Each child is responsible for writing down what they want to make for dinner on their assigned night and adding ingredients to the shopping list.
If you want, you could even write each child’s name to the side of each day as a reminder about who is responsible for the food that night.
You may read this and think “that’s crazy! My kids can’t cook dinner!”. I promise you they can. And it’s good for them! There are so many reasons why your kids should be cooking dinner on a regular basis. Here are just a few of my favorites:
They’ll develop cooking skills. Cooking is a basic life skill but it’s amazing how many kids go away to college without even the ability to boil water. My almost 12 year old can now cook just about everything that I can and I keep telling him he’s going to be a popular kid once his college roommates realize how well he can cook. He loves making my favorite stuffed pepper recipe and spaghetti pizza on his dinner night (and we LOVE eating it!).
You will get a break. Moms work hard. Most of us don’t have unlimited free time on our hands. Since everyone wants to eat I think everyone should get to help cook! I don’t even mind cooking but I work at home, homeschool, and have 6 kids. By the end of the day I’m tired and cooking isn’t usually at the top of my list. Having a second set of hands helps me from burning out.
You’ll stay out of a dinner rut. Do you ever find yourself cooking the same thing week after week. I’ve done that with some of my favorite recipes and then I find that I get sick of eating them. Sometimes you just need something new. Putting my kids in charge of dinner a few nights a week lets us try recipes I never would have though of trying otherwise. My kids love pouring over my cookbooks or searching Pinterest for a tasty new recipe. I love seeing what they come up with when I’m not feeling especially creative in my menu planning.
It’s a fun hobby! I asked my 9 year old why kids should be cooking dinner and he looked at me like, duh, and said, “because it’s fun”. My kids love to cook. They have fun trying new recipes and my older kids have even started experimenting with a few of their own. Cooking is a good skill to have but it’s also fun. Kids should be given every opportunity to explore new hobbies and talents. That’s part of what makes life exciting.
They get to eat what they want. Kids like to have a bit of control. So many things are out of their control that it’s nice to give them a few choices. Putting them in charge of dinner, gives them a chance to assert their independence and practice making choices for themselves. We can’t expect them to be able to handle the big choices down the road if they never get to practice with the small choices along the way.
Learning to work is important. Kids need to learn how to work. It’s important for them to contribute at home so they learn to contribute when they go out into the world as adults. My kids all have chores. Some are paid, some are not. Sure, having them do chores helps me around the house, but more than that it’s going to help turn them into the kind of people that I want to see them become. Givers instead of takers. Capable instead of dependent.
Have you ever considered putting your kids in charge of cooking dinner on a regular basis? What tips do you have for getting your kids involved in the kitchen?
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