If your house is anything like mine, mealtime has been known to be a very unpleasant event. Does this sound at all familiar? Around the table sits picky eaters, little people having trouble sitting still, parents bribing and pleading with the children to eat the meal that was so painstakingly prepared. Not a fun time at all! As my children are getting a little older though, we’re definitely well on our way to mealtime being a more pleasurable family time. As a busy mom who doesn’t enjoy cooking, I often find it tedious to plan and prepare meals each evening. Honestly (besides cleaning the bathrooms, yuck!) it’s probably my least favorite household responsibility. The amount of preparation that goes into something that is going to be gone within 20 minutes is so discouraging to me.
All in all, I like to think of myself as a fairly organized person. I try to plan my meals for the week well in advance so I have time to do the shopping and have all the ingredients on hand. If I leave a day unaccounted for, forget it! You can either expect to see breakfast for dinner or the take-out menus scattered across the counter. I do really care about serving my family healthy meals and I try very hard to make this a priority in our house.
Lately I have started including my 6 year old in the meal planning process. He has some choices as to what he would like to see on the menu for the week. His answers have truly surprised me. Very often he will choose a new recipe for us to try out which breaks up the monotony of the same old meals week after week. Another great benefit is that there aren’t any complaints from him while we are eating and he’ll actually eat the meal. Ahhh….and we’re one third of the way to a pleasant meal!
My children have always loved to help me bake and I try to include them whenever I can. I have great memories of making homemade pasta with my family as a young child. It was a wonderful family experience; all of us working together to create something delicious. I want my children to have similar memories. It’s a great thing for my family to do together but I also see it as a wonderful opportunity for learning. As a teacher, I always tend to notice the educational benefits to any activity my children participate in. Baking allows children to practice measuring, as well as comparing different units of measurement. i.e.: They can see that a teaspoon is less than a tablespoon and a quarter of a cup less than a third of a cup. It is a great way to practice the importance of following directions with kids and I often use this time to practice counting with my own children as well. As they stir the batter, we count to 30 or forty to alert us to when it’s the next person’s turn to stir. Even my two year old can count to 24 or so. Baking is also an excellent way to practice fractions with kids and I often used this technique in my classroom when teaching fourth grade. Suddenly it becomes easy to visualize that 1/2 of a cup is the same as 2/4 or that 3/3 is also 1 cup. Talk about real life math!
It’s fun and it’s educational! Now that’s what I call quality time. Some favorites that we like to bake together in my house are cookies, muffins, pies and pizza. It’s extra special if we are baking for an occasion like a birthday or holiday. My kids love announcing that they helped make somebody’s birthday cake. I actually got a little teary-eyed this year while baking the pies with my boys for our Thanksgiving dinner. It’s so hard to believe that the little boys who are almost constantly clamoring for my attention will someday (not too soon, I hope!) be off doing their own thing and not want anything to do with baking with me. But for now, it’s a fun thing for us to do together and a time I will always cherish. I can’t wait to start planning what kinds of Christmas cookies we will make this year!
Do your children enjoy cooking or baking with you? What are some of your favorite things to make together?