Have you ever thought about why it’s so important for your kids to learn how to cook? If you have, I’m sure the first question on your mind now is how on earth will you ever find the time that it takes?
That’s why this post will cover how to make time to cook with your kids.
We will examine WHY it’s crucial for you to cook with your kids, as well as HOW to find the time to do it.
Why is it so crucial to cook with your kids?
I know this is hard to believe, but cooking with your kids just might be the most important thing you can do with them and for them. Don’t believe me? Just read this post about all the amazing advantages your child will have when you add ‘Cook with my kids’ to your weekly schedule.
The older they get, the harder it becomes.
You may be looking at your small toddler or young child and think, “I have plenty of time to teach him/her this necessary skill. Why should I start now?” Well, here’s the rub. Spending time with your kids doesn’t get any easier as they get older. It only gets harder!
More homework, more extracurricular activities, more friends vying for their attention, and the most depressing of all, they begin losing interest in spending time with you.
Take action now.
Once your child hits their early teen years, they can’t be told what to believe or how to behave any more. They need to be guided at a young age to develop their own sense of what’s important.Then they will carry and model those ideals for the rest of their lives.
Your influence as the parent will have the greatest impact on them while they are young and still developing their sense of self.
So the BEST thing you can do NOW is nurture a deep and meaningful relationship with your child. Adolescents who have a strong connection with their parents, have fewer behavior problems and greater social awareness. So give your kids the greatest advantage in life by developing a rich and fulfilling bond with them while they’re young.
Give up the things that don’t matter.
It has been said, there are two kinds of things in the world…the things that matter and the other things. If you want to separate the important things from the ones that don’t matter, consider the relationship endgame you desire with your children who are fast-approaching adulthood.
Perhaps the easiest way to do this is to study your relationship with your own parents. Are you satisfied with the connection you have with each of them? Why or why not?
Do you believe that if your parents had made a greater effort to develop a loving and open relationship with you in childhood you would have a closer bond today? Consider the simple sacrifices you can make now to ensure a better relationship with your own kids in the future.
Nurture the things that DO matter.
There is a quote by Jim Rohn, author and motivational speaker, that goes, “If it’s important to you, you’ll find a way. if not, you’ll find an excuse.” As a fellow mom, I understand that each of us only has 24 hours in a day and we want to make every second count.
Which is why it’s super important to prioritize your time by considering what matters most to you. According to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, an 18th century German writer, the “things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”
Nothing worthwhile is easy.
If you want to find time to spend with your kids doing fun and beneficial activities such as cooking with them, you have to make it a priority. I bet you’ve heard the saying that nothing worthwhile is easy. I’m going to echo that statement.
Cooking with your kids might be one of the most challenging, yet amazing, things you can do for them. So I encourage you to be more intentional with your time, and consider spending more of it with your kids.
Here are 8 simple things you can do to make time to cook with your kids.
- Prioritize your household chores.
- Get your meal planning done ahead of time
- Keep your pantry and refrigerator stocked
- Cut out extra activities.
- Schedule your child’s cooking duties on a night that isn’t filled with other events.
- Plan easy activities to keep younger children and toddlers preoccupied.
- Cook often with your kids—so they gain experience and need less help.
- Put your phone down and realign your focus!
Now, let’s dig a little deeper into each of these ideas!
1. Prioritize your day to stay on top of household chores and free up time to cook with your kids
Laundry, cleaning, organizing, shopping, decorating, planning, self-care,…a mom has so many responsibilities on any given day, it’s enough to make your head spin! In order to combat the inevitable overwhelm that WILL happen, take some time first thing in the morning to map out a plan-of-attack.
I recently read a book called The 7 Habits for Highly Effective Families by Stephen R. Covey. (It has become one of my very favorite parenting books of all time!)
And I learned that to stay focused and prioritize your most important goals, Covey recommends spending 20 minutes every morning to plan out your day, by writing down all of your tasks for that day and putting each of them into categories.
- Important activities that are urgent (these must be done now or soon)
- Important activities that are not urgent
- Unimportant activities that are urgent
- Unimportant activities that are not urgent
For all you visual people, here’s a colorful graphic to illustrate the point:
You hold the power.
As mom, and chief-executor in the house, you have the power to decide what the most important tasks are for that day.
Take a look again at the graphic above. Some duties can’t be pushed off to another day, most duties need to be completed in order of importance, some can be delegated, and the rest should probably just fall off the wagon. Amiright??
I’ve also included some examples of tasks you might have in each category.
The “Important but Not urgent” category is where you can arrange your daily to-do list in order of importance. If cooking with your kids is a task that is important to you, it should be added to your “Important but Not Urgent” task list so you can weave it into your day.
Prioritize your household chores, such as laundry, cleaning, and shopping, and get them done earlier in the day so you leave more time for other important tasks. Don’t let the “Not Important and Not Urgent” activities—such as Netflix bingeing, surfing Pinterest, or lurking on your favorite social media sites—sabotage your daily goals!
2. Stay on top of meal planning to make it easier to cook with your kids.
Many people already have a system in place for planning our their family meals for the week, or even the month. It’s a simple enough task where you determine what meals your family will eat and on which days you will eat them.
Next, you will need to gather your favorite recipes for each meal and write down a list of ingredients you’ll need to make each menu item. Then head to the store!
Menu planning can be fun!
A fun way to plan your meals that will make it more exciting and less of a chore, is to give each night of the week a food theme, such as Pasta Night, Mexican Food Night, Soup or Sandwich Night, Taco Night, etc. This makes meal planning quick and painless!
You can even have a handy-dandy list of ideas for each category on-hand when you make your weekly menu. And I LOVE to include my kids in this process. You can read all about how my kids help with our menu planning by using our menu suggestions cheat sheet!
3. Cooking with your kids is easy when you keep your pantry and refrigerator stocked.
This task might be easier-said-than-done. But I promise, it’s well worth it!
Make it a priority to plan your meals FAR enough in advance that you have plenty of time to hit your neighborhood grocery store, or your favorite bulk item warehouse (I love Costco!), for all of your menu ingredients and snack items.
You can save yourself a headache by making your list ahead of time and only going to the store once per week. Take it from me, you will waste so much time (and money!) if you forget to make a list and then later have to go back to the store for a forgotten ingredient. 🙂
Don’t forget when making your shopping list, to include breakfast and lunch items, as well as any snacks or desserts you may want!
Store ingredients properly for effective meal planning
Some ingredients can be keep on hand in your pantry—aka stock piled—for months or even years, while others have a shorter shelf life, such as milk, bread, fruits, and veggies. These items must be purchased every week, and most of them should be stored in the refrigerator.
Some produce, such as root vegetables (potatoes, carrots, and onions) can be stored in a cool, dry place for several weeks. But no matter your chosen ingredients, learn the best way to store each ingredient to keep it fresh, and you will have an easier time planning out your menu.
Pro tip: Easy stockpiling!
I’m completely obsessed with storing extra food items—mostly canned goods, bottled foods, cereals, and boxed mixes—on hand for any unforeseeable dinner disasters. This concept is commonly known as stockpiling.
One trick you can implement is to add several extra items from the store that you won’t need for that week’s dinner menus. Add them to your stockpile for future use and gain a feeling of comfort knowing you have food stashed away for your family in case of emergency.
By adding a few extra ingredients to your shopping cart, you can shop the sales and stock up on inexpensive items that your family will use on a regular basis. It also acts as a sort of safeguard for those weeks that you may have forgotten to buy important ingredients.
4. Cut out extra activities that are not-so-important.
You always reap what you sow. To put it bluntly, if you focus all of your attention on putting your kids in a lot of difficult school classes or extracurricular activities, you will end up with a very gifted and talented child.
However, if you spend quality time with your kids by teaching them to clean and cook alongside you, play games with them, or craft, hike, or play ball with them, you will reap a beautiful parent/child relationship. The trick is to find the perfect balance of both.
The things that take up your time are the things that matter most.
Do you remember learning in middle school science class about the properties of gases? One of those properties is expandability, which just means that the volume of a gas is equal to the volume of its container. Simply put, a gas will expand to fill all available space.
Well, this concept can also be applied to parenting. The activities you choose to add to your family schedule (the gas) will expand to fill all available time (the container).
As a parent, YOU get to decide which activities are the most important to your family, and which things you will make the time for. Those activities will expand to fill your entire day, leaving no extra time, no matter what.
5. Schedule your child’s cooking night on one that isn’t filled with other events.
Although it’s important to cut out extra activities, let’s be real. We want our kids to have fun and experience growth. So in order to have the best of both worlds, you’ll need cut out excessive or time-consuming activities, and then plan around the rest.
In our house, all 4 of our oldest children contribute to planning and preparing family meals. We chose to set aside all of our weeknights—Monday through Thursday— for this event. However, with all of our kids in piano lessons as well as one extra activity of their choice, we still have a lot of activities to plan around.
Your dinner schedule can change as often as needed
This is where you can get creative—even fluid—with your planning. Maybe you have a cross country meet for one child on Monday and a band concert for another child on Thursday.
Depending on when your kids have their activities, you can alter the schedule—each week if necessary—to squeeze in dinner prep with each one.
6. Plan easy activities to keep younger children and toddlers preoccupied so you can cook with your older kids.
Sometimes, planning and preparing dinner with your kids is the easy part. Maybe your biggest concern is keep your baby or toddler busy and safe while you cook. Here are several things you can do (besides turn on the TV) to keep your little ones preoccupied while you make dinner.
- Pull out easy activities or games for toddlers—such as magnetic blocks, puzzles, or sorting items in a muffin tin.
- If you have several older kids that you cook dinner with, enlist their help in taking care of babies and toddlers when it’s not their dinner night. They can read books to them, play dress-up, build a fort, or create with Duplos. In fact, let THEM get creative with playtime for a change!
- Set your toddler up to the counter and let them watch! You can talk through the process with your young chef AND let your toddler learn along. (Just be sure to keep them a safe distance away from heat sources and sharp kitchen tools.)
- Let your toddler have a hand in preparing dinner by giving them easy tasks to do. They can do things such as set placemats, cups, or spoons on the table, or fold napkins.
In order to avoid spending too much time away from your youngest kiddos, you can also plan easy-to-cook meals that will require less time in the kitchen.
7. Cook OFTEN with your kids!
Teaching your kids to cook is not merely a means to pass off a household duty so you can put your feet up and spend more time on Pinterest! It’s a chance to create a lasting parent/child relationship, and help your kids build confidence in the kitchen, so they can develop awesome skills that will benefit them for the rest of their life.
So cook often with your kids! You can even try making it a weekly habit. When you schedule regular time with your kids in the kitchen, you are reminding them how important they are to you. And by default, they will gain experience with each meal they cook, and ultimately need less help from you. This will significantly cut down on the time you spend in the kitchen.
You can even reduce the learning curve for your kids by planning meals that use similar techniques so they can perfect their skills and perform future meal preparations with minimal help from you.
How you can hit THREE birds with ONE stone.
You’ve heard of the phrase “hit two birds with one stone”. This means to accomplish two results with only one action, and it’s what ‘multi-taskers’, especially moms, live for.
In this case, when you cook with your kids, you are hitting THREE birds with ONE stone: you’re teaching them important skills, making fun memories together, AND getting dinner on the table. Win, win, WIN!
8. In order to cook with you kids, put your phone down and realign your focus.
You’ve probably heard this definition of SACRIFICE: ‘to give up something good, for something better’. And in the case of *screen time*, time with your kids is ALWAYS better.
Stephen R. Covey has stated, “The family needs to be prioritized!” We must deeply prioritize our family and make sacrifices that will lead to lasting happiness with our kids. When you put your phone down and make your kids a priority—and do activities together such as cooking with them—you are making your family your main priority.
The enemy of the best, is the good.
Another favorite quote by Covey is, “The enemy of the best, is the good. The many good things that can take its place, become the enemy if that family is made secondary.” When we choose to allow good, but less important, things take the place of the best things, we fall victim to the enemy of our family.
In order to secure deep and meaningful relationships with your kids, the BEST thing you can do NOW is make them a priority.
Your kids are your #1 priority, so spend some quality cooking with them!
As a mother, your number one ambition is to keep your kids healthy, happy, and safe so they can grow up to be wonderful, amazing adults. But raising kids in this world is a challenge, and we are constantly being bombarded with conflicting opinions.
If your goal is to have a loving and special relationship with your kids, and you don’t know where to start, try these ideas to carve out extra time to start cooking in the kitchen with them. I know you’ll be so glad you did!