I have all sorts of good intentions when it comes to teaching my kids life skills. I want them to know how to do the laundry, practice financial responsibility, cook… But somewhere in the daily grind, teaching those skills gets pushed aside in favor of school, work, baseball practice, family obligations, etc.
I have found that I must be extremely intentional in creating life skill learning opportunities for my kids or it’s just not going to happen. It’s way easier for me to throw that load of clothes in the wash and whip up dinner than to painstakingly teach them how to do it.
But recently, a simple idea struck me with a flash and started to grow in my mind. What if I dedicated one day of the week to teaching my kids how to cook dinner? I could make them totally responsible for it. They would need to chose the meal, write out the grocery list, cook it from start to finish, and even serve it to the family. Since I have 3 children, each one would have a turn every 3 weeks. But it needed a catchy name, something that would get them excited about it…
And that was the beginning of My Meal Mondays!
The kids find inspiration for meals from foods they have enjoyed in the past or by looking through cookbooks. They make a list of ingredients then go over it with me. When Monday evening comes, they are so excited to get into the kitchen.
I sit nearby as they cook because this is a teaching opportunity. I address the multiple skills that come up during the course of cooking a meal like working the can opener, peeling the vegetables, and browning the meat. As the children gain practice, these skills will repeat, and the teaching will become less necessary. I always assist with potentially dangerous things like draining boiling pasta or knife use.
I was shocked (and proud) when my 12 year old daughter chose to make clam chowder from scratch on her first My Meal Monday. This is a dish I have never even attempted to make. She used the recipe from The America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook. It smelled amazing as it simmered, and it was delicious! The best part was that even her brothers were excited to try it because it was what their sister had chosen and made on her own. I guarantee if I had made clam chowder and announced that as dinner to my boys they would have groaned and gagged.
My kids range in age from 8 to 12, but I think this cooking project could easily be adjusted to suit almost any age child, even preschoolers. For younger children, an appropriate kids’ cookbook with photographs would make choosing the meal easier. Even if the child requires more hands-on help from a parent, there is a huge opportunity to gain skills and experience the joy and accomplishment of preparing food for the family.
Mondays work well for our family because we don’t have anything going on that night of the week. It also gives my kids time over the weekend to look through cookbooks and decide on a meal to make. Plus, I happen to do my grocery shopping on Monday mornings. It might need to happen on a different day of the week in other families. Choosing the right day is key to the success of the project. And of course, I recommend a catchy name, so get busy brainstorming! Sizzlin’ Saturdays? K.I.K. Night? (Kids in the kitchen…)
Teaching my kids to cook used to feel like a looming burden. I wanted to do it, but it never happened, which made me feel vaguely guilty. Now we all look forward to our weekly time together in the kitchen. Far from being a chore, it has turned out to be a highlight of the week! We are trying new foods, having fun together, and I can’t begin to imagine how many skills they will gain in the process.
Now if I can just figure out a way to get more intentional about teaching them to do laundry…