The Truth About Cooking With Kids

I know that cooking with kids is important. As a dietitian and blogger, I preach it. And as a mom, I desperately want my two children to have some basic skills under their belts by the time they leave the house. But cooking with kids isn't always the big, happy bonding moment in matching aprons that it's portrayed to be on Pinterest. At least it's not in my house. Here's what it's really like:

It's messy.When my children are with me in the kitchen, I can pretty much guarantee twice the amount of dirty dishes and some kind of catastrophic spill (say, the bottle of olive oil). Someone will stick their fingers into whatever we're making, lick them, and stick them in again. Someone will stir the bowl so roughly that half the contents will splash out all over the countertop. The vacuum cleaner will be needed at some point.

It's tedious.Kids slow you down in the kitchen. That's natural, since they're just learning—and sometimes (like on a leisurely Sunday afternoon) that's totally no big deal. But sometimes (like at 5:30pm on a Tuesday right before soccer practice) I just want dinner on the table as fast as possible. And sometimes (like after a particularly long day at home with my children) I just want a blissful hour of alone time in the kitchen with absolutely no help at all.

It's a tough sell.Not all kids take to cooking. Mine haven't yet. If my Facebook news feed is to be believed, everyone else's offspring seem to be making their first soufflés by first grade. Mine act like I've called them into the kitchen to get a cavity filled when I ask for help making dinner.

It still matters.No doubt about it: The art of home cooking is something that needs to be practiced, valued, and passed on to our children if we want to reverse course on obesity, type 2 diabetes, and so many other health problems facing our country.

So I keep trying. And gritting my teeth through the mess and the time and whining. Because I want my kids to grow up knowing how to nourish themselves with actual food. I want them to be able to cook for their own families someday. I also want them to eventually take over dinner prep at least once a week while I put my feet up and read a magazine.

Do YOU enjoy cooking with your kids?

Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian, educator, and mom of two who blogs at Real Mom Nutrition. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. She is the author of Cooking Light Dinnertime Survival Guide, a cookbook for busy families. In her spare time, she loads and unloads the dishwasher. Then loads it again.

Make your own snacks and save money with Catherine McCord's cheese cracker recipe.

Image: Cooking with kids via Shutterstock

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