In the frenzy of hosting and prepping large meals, many adults can shift into control mode—it’s a lot easier to do things yourself when you’re in a rush or multi-tasking. But this holiday season, don’t overlook that army of little helpers at the ready: kids. Take your children by the hand (or borrow your neighbor's kids, your nieces or nephews, etc.) and put them to work!
The Center for Food Literacy encourages letting children help for many reasons, but a great one is sparking creativity. Children see tools, processes, and ingredients in a fresh light. Let them figure out how things are used, come up with fun combinations or new ideas, and see how they inspire your own excitement about cooking.
There are more benefits beyond extra pairs of hands to help. Kidshealth.org encourages parents to use cooking together as a chance to also build basic skills, such as counting, measuring, identifying shapes and colors, and reading recipes. Cooking new foods also encourages healthy eating habits and an adventurous palate.
Lastly, allowing a child to cook is an incredible boost to their confidence. Think back to when you sliced into a perfectly grilled steak or baked an amazing cake to share with a neighbor—that feeling of pride, anticipation, and delight! Even grownups aren’t immune to that burst of “I made this” good feeling, and it’s even more powerful in children. Kids love to show what they can do, and thrive in the positive reinforcement from compliments and having their work proudly shown to others. A holiday meal is a perfect opportunity to let children create something and bask in the pleasure of sharing it.
- Choose a “sous chef” for each recipe. Being tapped as the assistant chef makes a child feel proud, and helps with the division of labor. Explain the recipe to them, and what ingredients and steps you’ll both need. Allow them to delegate to another child, and let them direct that helper themselves if appropriate.
- Tell stories. Was a certain recipe your favorite as a child? Did it come from a relative? The back of the box? A dear friend? Share memories of making and eating special dishes in the past, and what you loved most when you were their age. Family stories make holidays come alive for children, and help them feel a sense of history and connection to something larger.
- Tap their energy. Whisk, mix, roll, pound? These are great jobs for busybodies. Put down some old towels on the floor and let them really go after stirring and mixing, or have them help mop up after.
- Form teams. If you’ve got more than one kiddo, divide and conquer. Those on dish duty get gloves and all the suds they can handle; the decorating committee is in charge of setting the table and setting out special things like candles and place cards. Hint: Have kids make simple tent/folded place cards if you don’t have them already.
- Engage their senses. To keep them engaged and on task, forget the talk and let them do! Kids love to touch, taste, and smell ingredients. Let them sniff herbs and spices, sprinkle salt and cheeses, squeeze dough, and mash potatoes. Good helpers can enjoy the reward of licking a spoon or having some leftovers to taste in their fingers.
Bravo Supermarkets are locally-owned to cater to our communities and help your family find a little bit of home in every aisle. We hope these tips help bring extra joy to your home this Thanksgiving.