My position on letting the kids help with dinner is this: No.
For me it’s one of those things that fall under the Sounds-Fun-But-Actually-Sucks category of kids activities. (Others on the list: parades, ice skating, any kind of music class that mom has to be present at.) That does not mean I’m categorically against my kids cooking with me. In fact, I love doing it, as long as I have psychologically earmarked it as a “project” as opposed to an actual meal-generating endeavor. For me, when the dinner countdown is on, I start twitching if I have to slow down to help my daughter “help.” Anyway, I’m not a complete monster. I have written before about my Babysitter in a Box, a carefully curated container of kitchen gear and foods (think rice maracas made out of tupperware bowls) that keep them busy making a pretend meal while I tend to the real meal. And now I’m on to the OK Shelf, which is an easy-to-access shelf (the middle one in the photo above) containing a bunch of kitchen-related bowls and pourers that my daughters don’t have to ask me to use. (The answer will always be “OK.”) Every item on the OK shelf is either non-breakable or so cheap (hello Ikea tea set!) that it matters little if they chip it.
Love this idea. I keep hearing that my picky-eater two year old will suddenly start eating like a charm if I just involve her in the cooking process. A tiny kitchen with barely enough shelf space for a careful adult to cook, plus a husband with OCD issues relating to cleanliness, specifically with our daughter, just makes this impossible. So I love a solution that will involve her but not in a mess-making capacity! I just bought a second-hand play stove and am looking for a tea set, too….wish we had an IKEA here!
Both kids love poppadums (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papadum). Made in the microwave and brushed with a little cooled-off melted butter at the end, they even are moderately healthy because of all those lentils.
So: hand your 4- and 7-year old the poppadum packet, a pastry brush each and a littel bowl of cooled-off melted butter (in Switherland, it even comes in bottles!), set up the microwave in another room – we’re lucky to have a pantry in addition to our tiny kitchen – and tell them how to microwave each poppadum on high for about 2 1/4 minutes, while you enjoy your glass of wine and get on with making cucumber raita, curried leftover chicken and rice in blissful peace.
Oh, and bask in the knowledge that every crumb of the poppadums will get eaten. If you’re really lucky, the cucumer raita will vanish, too.
oops, typo alert: “little”, of course.