In folklore, the witching hour is a time late at night when supernatural powers of creatures like witches, demons and ghosts are most powerful. In parenting, the witching hour is the time of day (usually early evening) when everybody is tired, hungry and cranky. As an added torture bonus for parents, it also typically coincides with the time of day when you have a cranky baby, need to prep dinner and have to help older kids with homework. So what’s a parent to do? Have you tried having your kids help in the kitchen?
One solution I’ve found for making the witching hour less painful is involving my children in preparing dinner. Not only does it help me get my work done more quickly, but it also gives them something to do instead of whining.
Kids of all ages can be involved in dinner preparation and it will help them develop important life skills. Here are a few suggestions and age-appropriate tasks your kids can help with.
Dinner Prep tasks for Toddler/Pre-schoolers
Think of this age as capable of basic restaurant server duties. Have them help you with these tasks.
- Making vegetable/fruit plates: They can put the fruits and vegetables from the bag onto a serving tray (or onto individual plates if that is your family’s style).
- Setting the table: Littles actually LOVE to set the table at our house. Teach them proper placement but let them do the best they can. Adding in napkins and straws can make this especially thrilling for little kids.
- Stirring sauces: Anytime I’m making a sauce that isn’t on the burner, I have my younger kids help me stir and often pour in the ingredients. During a particularly busy dinner time the other day, I measured out all of the ingredients for the marinade and had my four-year-old pour them into a bowl and stir them up. She was so excited to make the sauce all by herself.
- Mixing juice: If you are preparing juice from concentrate or some sort of drink, kids this age are great at stirring.
- Putting ice cubes in cups: Place all of the cups on the counter along with an ice bowl and some tongs or a small measuring cup. This will help younger kids work on fine motor skills as well.
Kids in the Kitchen Tasks for 6 to 9-year-olds
This age can definitely step up to beginner sous-chef duties. Add these tasks depending on your particular child’s strengths and abilities
- Cutting soft foods with a butter knife (strawberries, mushrooms, cheese etc,,) then transitioning to a sharper knife with parent supervision for chopping fruits or vegetables
- Following simple recipes for sauces and rubs
- Making most or all of simple dishes like mashed potatoes
- Buttering garlic bread
Dinner Preparation Tasks for kids ages 9 to 12 (and up!)
Kids of this age range are ready to take on a lot more in the kitchen and it gives them so much confidence. They should be able to do all of the tasks for the younger ages and now can transition into cooking entire recipes and eventually entire meals.
- Meal Planning: Have them choose and help make one recipe a week or a month. You can even serve as their sous-chef as they get older and more able. Encourage them to start with family favorites and ease into new recipes…it can be a confidence buster when you start out with a recipe that no one likes to eat.
- Grocery Shopping – with the advent of online grocery ordering (yay!) you can also have kids this age start making grocery lists for meals. Start small, with grocery planning for one meal they want to make, then maybe have a challenge week during the summer where they plan all the meals for one week and do the grocery shopping.
- Making favorite foods from scratch: I also love having kids this age try to make their favorites from scratch. Some foods to try include muffins, pizza dough, bread/rolls, cookies, brownies, cakes. They will be more likely to take on a whole recipe if it is one of their favorite foods.
Children are capable of so much more than we give them credit for. Having your children help with meal prep from a young age will give them a very worthy distraction, teach them important life skills, and eventually lead to giving mom and dad a little time off from the kitchen. Try it out, your kids will love it!