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Do Your Kids Help in the Kitchen?

Tina Rupp

It’s no secret: I struggle to get dinner on the table on weeknights. When I went back to work full-time, I somehow thought that I could walk in the door at 6 pm and magically have a home-cooked dinner ready for my kids… immediately. When it became evident in just that first week back in an office that I couldn’t make that happen—which was disappointing, because I really do believe in family dinners (but I also believe in a 7 pm bedtime for my super-early risers)—our au pair (whose praises deserve to be sung daily) stepped in and took over the dinner-making during the week (although I’ll take credit for some occasional slow cooker-produced meals, thankyouverymuch).

Plus: 11 Easy Recipes to Cook with Kids

Beyond the fact that I now get to enjoy the time I have with my kids once I get home (instead of racing around like a crazy person in the kitchen—I am so not an organized or speedy chef), our au pair has also gotten my sons (ages 2 and 4) interested in cooking. My 4-year-old calls himself her sous-chef and my 2-year-old says that he is her sous-sous-chef. She finds age-appropriate tasks for them—they are now expert whisk-ers and egg crack-ers, for example—and they actually enjoy cooking (unsurprisingly, they're more inclined to eat what they have helped to make) and even have favorite recipes in their repertoire. And because my sons are learning to love cooking, on weekends my older son and I enjoy leafing through cookbooks together, shopping for ingredients, and leisurely making dinners or baking up special treats.

Plus: Cooking Tools for Kids

At my sons’ ages, limited helping in the kitchen is probably as far as it should go—but I was delighted to read a recent piece in the New York Times about a mom who has her 10- and 14-year-old sons each produce a weekly dinner. They each plan a complete balanced meal in advance, have learned new cooking skills and techniques—and, best yet from their perspective, get out of their usual task of cleaning up the kitchen (which they have to do when their mother cooks). I'm already penciling in this idea for 2017... 

Plus: Smart Ways to Make Cooking with Kids Easier

Do your kids help out in the kitchen? Which tasks (washing produce, cutting, cooking, etc.) do you allow them to do?