Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Tip #3, Ten Tips Continued

3. Enlist Family Help in Making Meals, Setting Menus, Cleaning Up.

Putting dinner on the table every night does take work and it is more do-able for parents if both partners help and the kids chip in. Depending on the age of your kids, they can be enlisted to do many set-up, prep and cleaning tasks. They might think of it as a chore and they might complain, but it builds “investment” in the family table. When you are involved in making the meal, you are more likely to enjoy it and feel proud. Here are more tips on engaging kids of all ages in the kitchen.

My daughter likes setting the table with placemats and candles. We usually only have time for this extra step on weekends, but it’s still fun. My son prefers emptying the dishwasher and though he definitely complains, it’s become a routine chore. For many meals, I am the prep cook and get the vegetables chopped or meat marinated ahead of time. Then my husband comes in and does the actual cooking. Getting some of the work done ahead of time means the meal can get from stove to table in 15 minutes.

A complaint, and generally a true one, is that it takes more time to enlist the kids than it does to just do it yourself. But that's not the point. It's a bad habit to do "everything" yourself. By insisting that they help, you are teaching your kids that their contribution is important. Plus, they get experience with the actual life skills of cooking or cleaning. AND, with practice and as they get older, they will, in fact, start being more helpful. Be patient and believe in them, and they might surprise you. More on this here.

More on Hanukkah: Recipes and Stories from the New York Times archive.

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