Cooking with Kids vs. Cooking in a Rush

I love cooking, and am so pleased when my kids want to help me in the kitchen. But every mama knows that kids aren’t always truly helpful, and it takes a real commitment to patience to involve them with meal preparation.  As they get older, they surprise me with what they’re capable of handling in general, but in the kitchen, their role is typically limited to measuring, pouring and stirring ingredients and washing veggies. Anna is also reasonably skilled at cutting soft things (like mushrooms and cucumbers) with a butter knife.

When I was at Disney World for the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration, we had the opportunity to interview Disney chefs and stars about their new Magic of Healthy Living initiative. I’m really impressed with the commitment Disney has made to helping kids and families lead healthier lives. My question for the panel?

“We all know that kids are more likely to eat healthy foods if they are involved in the preparation of the meal. But we also all know that kids in the kitchen aren’t as “helpful” as they think they are. What advice can you share for busy parents who want to involve their kids, but also just need to get dinner on the table?”

I was hoping to hear new ideas of tasks the kids could do that I hadn’t thought of yet. The best piece of advice, however, was a time-saving tip as opposed to a kid-involvement tip. Basically, “Give yourself permission to buy pre-cut, washed veggies.”

What? A shortcut? But that’s cheating! I was raised to not spend money on something that I could do myself. Like chop veggies. Or clean my house. But I’m finding that my time is more valuable to me than the money these days. {Which is why we pay some lovely folks to come clean our house once a week, but that’s another subject.}

Even though I’ve been telling myself it’s acceptable to buy pre-cut veggies, I just haven’t talked myself into it until yesterday. I was having too much fun playing outside with the kids and visiting with my lovely neighbor, and didn’t want to go inside to make dinner until the last minute. A quick trip to Trader Joe’s, and I had all these veggies for our tofu curry creation. In fact, I even bought pre-cooked rice!

With the veggies and rice ready in an instant, it gave the kids and I time to invent a new curry.  It was delicious and fast and best of all, we did it together.

Now that Farmer’s Market season is upon us, most of the veggies I buy will be not only whole, but dirty as well. I’ll need to spend the time each weekend to wash and prep them so we’re ready to go all week. And I’m fully giving myself permission to make other shortcuts, like using the pre-cooked rice.

How about you? Any advice for involving kids in the kitchen? Talking mine into it isn’t my problem, it’s keeping my patience when they do silly things like pour soy sauce all over the freshly heated rice. Yes, that really happened. No, it wasn’t the end of the world.

In good health,

I attended the 2011 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration at Walt Disney World. Although we paid for our own trip to Disney World, the conference fee included 3 nights at the Grand Floridian, the conference and meals for me, several amazing meals for our entire family, park hopper passes for each of us, and some pretty incredible swag items to take home. Disney did not ask me to write about this event, and all opinions are my own.


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