We’ve all been home a little more than we’d like these past few months. We’re not used to being sequestered for so long and it’s ramping up our anxiety. On top of that, several of us (self included) have children we need to teach, entertain and FEED. At our house, we no sooner finish lunch and the question of “what’s for dinner?” arises.
If you’ve got teenagers, they seem like bottomless pits. You can’t feed them enough. Meal times are completely skewed with schedules being tossed out the window as they navigate school from home. Snacks seem more frequent, too. This could be due to boredom, stress, anxiety or just hunger!
And now, summer break has just begun. Since we’re unclear about travel (can we go, where can we go, should we stay home?), we may as well use the ‘thyme’ for something productive.
Respecting the right to eat
I’ve dropped several hints to my girls that perhaps they should be fixing their own meals, or at minimum, learn something beyond pancakes! But, if you want to get them cooking, sometimes they need to start with what they enjoy eating. For my girls, it’s waffles, pancakes and sweets. Our mixer is getting quite the workout these days.
Having dealt with an eating disorder myself at 16, the last thing I want is my girls to feel uncomfortable about food and their bodies. While 80% of what we eat is nutritious, I do allow treats regularly. They may not be eating sugar coated cereal or Poptarts for breakfast, but there is always at least one treat per day (typically after dinner) like ice cream or a brownie. Being militant does no one any good and shaming kids for enjoying food can wreck their relationship with food. Food is for eating!
Teaching kids to cook
If you want your kids to learn to cook, they have to get their hands dirty. Shows like Chopped, Top Chef and America’s Test Kitchen may increase their interest in food and cooking, but actually prepping the food requires them to be in the kitchen, not on a couch.
Below are some tips to get kids started in the kitchen:
- Ask them to make a list of what they’d like to learn to make from each meal. From here, you may start with a basic omelet, French toast or pancakes then move on to salad, soup or other dish.
- Involve them in shopping. Once we’re able to shop as families again, bring your kids to the store and have them pick out the fruits or vegetables they like or side items they’d like to have for their meal.
- Let them collect ingredients for you. This teaches them what goes into a recipe and how you can make substitutes if needed. No oregano? Try Italian seasoning instead.
- Utilize math skills. Ask your kids if they can scale a recipe up or down. This is a great way to teach or reinforce fractions. Have them weigh or measure ingredients. Teach them the difference between “wet and dry ingredients”.
- Talk them through it. Explain what baking soda or baking powder does in recipes or why using whole wheat flour changes the texture, color and taste of things. Ask questions and see what they already know.
- Let them plan a meal. Have them choose a protein, vegetable and starch of choice. Start with having them make the side dish.
- Encourage sanitation. Now more than ever, hand washing is super important. Remind them that raw eggs and raw flour contain bacteria and cookies should be COOKED before being eaten. Use separate cutting boards when cutting meat or vegetables.
- Teach them how to reduce food waste. Show them how leftover chicken can be made into soup, tacos or other dishes. Discuss food insecurity with them. They may never have heard of the term before.
- Experiment with spices. Make a batch of plain rice then try different dried herbs or spices in it. They might find that they like curry, cumin, paprika or oregano. It’s also fine to keep it plain!
- Be patient. Your kids are going to make a mess. They aren’t going to like everything they prepare. The key is to let them try and fail. It’s the only way we really learn.