Ask any homeschool mom what her biggest challenge is, and chances are she’ll say, “Getting everything done each day.” With so many responsibilities pulling us in all directions, our to-do lists include both schoolwork and housework. Finding that balance and getting a good meal on the table can be a daunting task. Doling out some of the workload not only teaches kids responsibility, but it also makes life less hectic for Mom.
Teaching kids some basic kitchen skills can help them become a real asset when it comes to meal preparation. We wouldn’t expect our kids to cook all the food, but since they are capable of a variety of tasks—even at a young age—why not let them learn to help? Kitchen tasks should not be seen as chores, but rather as life skills and as contributing to the family. Time in the kitchen has educational benefits as well, but the practical aspects of having everyone pitch in are valuable on their own.
Since homeschooling usually means everyone is home for lunch, equipping kids with easy-to-prepare ingredients on hand makes the middle of the day a lot easier to manage. It seems like morning lessons often run long, and if Mom is still helping younger students with lessons, maybe the older kids can get lunch moving along. When suppertime rolls around, it’s all hands on deck!
Kitchen safety is of utmost importance, so it’s crucial to be organized, have a plan for responsibilities, and cover the basic rules with everyone before setting the kids loose in the kitchen! Young children should never be unsupervised in the kitchen, especially around knives and other sharp utensils, appliances, and certain foods (such as raw meat or hot peppers).
Only you will be able to gauge your child’s skill level in the kitchen, but there are a few general suggestions for age-appropriate kitchen skills.
Kitchen Skills for Kids
Kids of all ages can learn kitchen skills that will help get meals prepared for the family. And the added benefit is the fun quality time everyone will experience in the process. Nothing beats the deliciousness and love of a home-cooked meal, especially when all hands have contributed to it. Start off by finding some cookbooks geared toward kids, and plan to try a few recipes together. Before long, your crew will be efficiently getting meals on the table at least a few times each week.
Even young kids are capable of doing a great deal in the kitchen. They love to help, especially with “grown up” jobs. Some tasks the youngest chefs can handle include:
- measuring ingredients
- cracking eggs
- stirring or whisking batters
- tearing and mixing salad greens
- buttering bread
- washing fruits and vegetables
- greasing pans
- setting/clearing the table
Middle School Ages
In addition to the tasks for elementary ages, middle schoolers can handle many tasks independently. Some things your tweens can help with also include:
- using appliances like the mixer, blender, waffle iron, or beaters
- using the microwave
- setting the kitchen timer
- peeling vegetables
- grating cheese
- chopping/dicing (with supervision)
- helping with meal planning
- gathering ingredients and setting up prep areas
- reading and following a simple recipe
- washing dishes or loading/unloading the dishwasher
Older teens can do almost anything an adult can do when it comes to meal prep. Learning to cook is also excellent training for them as they prepare to start their own homes (this goes for both sons and daughters!). Having a few basic meals in their arsenal is invaluable. In addition to all of the tasks above, teens can handle more advanced kitchen skills, including,
- meal planning
- grocery shopping from a list
- following a recipe from start to finish
- using the stove/oven and other appliances
- knife skills
- pantry organization
- supervising younger siblings in the kitchen
- creating ‘signature’ dishes
Even if you have a child who does not like to cook, there are plenty of kitchen tasks for everyone. Meal preparation can become a smooth and easy process when everyone helps out. Be willing to let go of your perfectionist tendencies in the kitchen and allow kids to make some mistakes and some messes, as long as they help with the cleanup. You might even discover a future chef on your hands!