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when your kid doesn’t want to “help in the kitchen”

Posted by on Feb 7, 2011 in Blog Posts | 6 comments

You can’t read an article about picky eaters that doesn’t exhort you to “get your kids involved in food preparation!” That’ll do the trick!

Now, I too have written close to those very same words, as there are studies that suggest when kids have a hand in growing  or preparing food, they are more likely to try it and like it.

But what if they don’t WANT to help you in the kitchen? (Note, this is an OLD photo of M helping me with beans…)

This afternoon I was prepping for dinner, and I asked M if she wanted to help me get the green beans ready. (A favorite.) She said, “No thanks, but I’ll give you a kiss?” It was so cute. “I said, “OK, I’ll take it!” and she planted one on my cheek and was off to play Legos, or Nintendo, I’m not really sure 🙂

So it’s just one more thing for moms to feel pressure over and guilty about, and inevitably to pressure kids with. “You WILL help me make dinner, you will learn to cook and you will like it!”

If little Susie doesn’t want to cook, trying to force her will turn her off more. (Hmm, kind of like the Division of Responsibility…) I offer and make it safe for her to help. I have a stool, I have child-friendly knives, I make it pleasant, but if she says “no,” I stay neutral and respect it. In the meantime, while she’s having a snack after school, I often take that time to sit with her with a cup of tea and chop veggies for dinner, so she see me chopping leeks, carrots and mushrooms for the pasta sauce, or watches how I shred potatoes for the potato pancakes.

As my mom said about me when I was too busy or fidgety to cook, “She likes to eat, she’ll learn to cook!” In the meantime, I keep offering, and as she gets older, I might need to get a bit more directive, but we’ll figure that out when we get to it! (She’s five now, and readers have written in in the past how their teens are responsible for one dinner a week, which I love!)

Do your kids like to help in the kitchen? (Go ahead, make me jealous!) 🙂

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  1. lyorn

    I disliked helping to cook when I was small, because I was afraid of noise and heat. When things went sizzling, I’d rather be safely away. For chores, I much prefered doing the dishes, which was nice and quiet and clean, even though I needed a chair to reach up to the sink. My mother didn’t care either way as long as I did *some* chores.

    I still find doing the dishes calming, and there are some things in cooking which I can only do if someone else is even more scared than I am (deep-frying comes to mind). *g*

  2. Ines Anchondo

    Oh what an excellent topic, Katja. Isn’t the DOR so perfect for this situation? At home, my daughter Milagros goes through phases. She likes to help one day and not so much another. As she gets older (she will be 8 on Wednesday!) she enjoys more and more being able to be at the stove. I see it all as a process.

    • katja

      i agree. She used to like it more, and I imagine with time her interest will wax and wane. Happy Birthday Milagros!! They are so cute this age. M is 5 1/2 and I love it!

  3. AcceptanceWoman

    We are not so perfect about the division of responsibility, especially at breakfast, and I’ll ask my six year old girl what she wants for breakfast. If it’s something that takes some effort, I’ll ask her to help me get out the ingredients or do some of the work. I have been making blintzes (doctored up with a banana and flax meal) that she asks for somewhat often, so she gets the eggs and milk from the fridge and the flour from the cupboard while I put all of the ingredients in the blender.
    Yesterday, she added the oatmeal to the boiling water.

    I also want to say that I’m so grateful for your blog. It really reminds me of what I want to be doing for/with my daughter. It makes it so much easier when there’s some cajoling going on from the other people at the table for me to just stick with what I believe in — we put the food on the table, she decides what to eat of it and how much.

    Yesterday, she didn’t want what was served, but was still quite hungry at dinner after eating what she felt she could. So, knowing I needed to have something for her lunch, I made her something different. I’m not worried about this as a setting a pattern in place. She wanted noodles. We had talked earlier about how different sauces were different colors, and we had talked about making a “pink cheese sauce” — with tomatoes in a white cheese sauce. So, she picked out the pasta shape (whole wheat shells) and I made a sauce with fresh pureed tomatoes, cream cheese, mozzarella, and laughing cow cheese, salt and sweet paprika. She loved it — she was really hungry and ate two servings of it — and will have it in her lunch for school today. I think she’s going through a growth spurt, too.
    Her dad also has started letting her help him make homemade chappatis. She loves it! But if she says she would rather not help in the kitchen, which happens from time to time, I don’t make a big deal about it.

  4. Dawn

    Noah used to like to help me bake but Madison is all about cooking. Of course Pennie is studying to be a chef and Madison loves all thing food. She likes to make up recipes, too, although she doesn’t do anything major with that. (For example, she’ll add interesting things to sandwiches and to her killer Lemonade recipe.) I think it’s just another thing that some kids like and some kids don’t.

    And so you don’t feel bad I can tell you that she truly sucks at picking up her socks. SUCKS.