by Kate Heyhoe
Today's busy families need solutions. Parents and kids are on the go... fast-food and convenience meals supersede nutritious fresh foods and home cooking... And the quality-time families do spend together is often squeezed out by work and extra-curricular activities. Sound familiar?
Over the past two years I've consulted over 400 families to come up with a game plan that really does bring parents and kids closer, simply through the daily acts of cooking, shopping, and dining together—without driving each other nuts! Parents have told me they face three very stubborn challenges. They earnestly want to:
Is it possible to accomplish all three goals? Absolutely!
My new book, Cooking with Kids For Dummies, offers not just my tips, but it includes solutions from real-life families of all sizes, ages, and color.
With summer coming, kids will soon be out of school, so this is a terrific time to start bringing your kids into the kitchen—and the dining room, and the supermarket. To get yourself started, consider these tips featured in Cooking with Kids For Dummies...
Cooking doesn't just mean following a recipe. Half the fun of cooking is first deciding what to eat.
Include kids in meal planning. Kids who help plan meals are more likely to eat foods they've selected.
"Involve kids who are old enough to help by talking over menus and preparing them together. You can teach by example, and eventually your kids will accept your standards of healthy eating. Kids today are quite nutrition conscious—that's a great motivator to your meal planning."
—Shea from Port Washington, New York
Ask children for their suggestions—this shows that they are important, boosts their self-esteem, and nurtures parent-child bonds.
"We try to plan weekly menus while making out the grocery list. The kids love this, because it is their time to say what we are and aren't going to eat in the coming week and what was 'bad' and what was 'good' about last week's meals, especially if it was one of our 'experimental' weeks."
—Erin from Tennessee
As a junior shopping technician, your child can join in with tasks before and during the shopping trip. Make shopping fun and interesting with tasks like these:
Making the list and gathering items.
"My eight-year-old daughter is in charge of the list before we go. She writes the list while I tell her what we need. My five- and six-year-olds help check the inventory of toothpaste, soap, toilet paper, and so on. They also check the stock of cereal and pancake mix as well as count eggs to see how many are left. After we get to the store, my oldest crosses the items off the list as we get them. I'm in charge of the calculator—just to be sure we get the right total
—Lisa from Clarksville, Tennessee
"I used to lay out the ground rules before entering the store: 'I need your help today, so you're permitted to pick one box of cereal for yourself.' Or, I would have them help me find an item and give them tasks within the store. We still divide up the list when several of us shop. It makes it go faster and as they get older, they compare prices, work on math and learn about saving."
—Terri from Maple Plain, Minnesota
"I usually use coupons, so I give some to my daughter and have her find the product. She loves to do this and she gets really excited when she finds it."
—Cherie from Monroe, Connecticut
"Give the kids a list of their own and let them read the labels. Also, show them how to use a coupon with each item—they get excited like you when coupons can save money, maybe enough money for a movie."
—Karen from Baker, Louisiana
"I let them clip the coupons we use, and then they can keep the money."
—Mary from Rapid City, South Dakota
Comparing unit pricing.
"My mom usually gives me part of the list and my job is to find the stuff on it and compare prices per ounce. She taught me how to read the tags on the shelf and what it means."
—Ronda from Bear River, Utah (age 13)
Make the dining table a place for learning, interaction and harmony. Play word games, have theme nights, tell jokes, and set the tone by following tips like these:
Turn meal times and cooking times into positive memories.
"Dinner time was our family time—that's when we shared our day's events and it was fun hearing what went on during the day from everyone. So, now I let the kids help peel the potatoes, stir the sauce, roll the meatballs, or toss the salad. Cooking now includes memories of my grandma, family, and most important, love."
—Nicholas from Union, New Jersey
Plan the meal to fit the schedule.
"We eat dinner together every evening. Of course, during baseball/soccer/track season, we have difficulty having an organized dinner every evening, but even if we can only manage a quick sandwich or burger, we do it together. Dinner time is the best time for the four of us to discuss our days and share any special moments or problems. I feel that dining should be a pleasurable experience and what better way than to be with those you love the most."
—Pamela from Lanoka Harbor, New Jersey
Make talking the featured entertainment.
"Dinner is for letting everyone know what's going on in our lives. We try to let everyone just say whatever is on our minds. Even if you've already eaten, you must at least sit down and tell everyone one thing that happened in your life that day. Usually everyone hangs out for a while."
—Corene from Kennewick, Washington
Listen to others, show respect.
"Everyone at the dinner table must take turns talking and be polite listeners. Sometimes I put a glass or ketchup bottle in front of one of them—as long as the bottle is there that person is the only one allowed to talk. I do this because sometimes the older ones monopolize the conversation. The kids must also wait to be excused and everyone must be finished before they can ask to be excused. I think if you don't expect the best from your kids, you won't get the best they have to offer."
Pitch in at dinner time.
"Every one takes turns setting and clearing. Whoever sets one night, clears the next. Everyone helps, including the 2-year-old, who puts the napkins on the table (in sort of a lump!)."
You can see some of the book's families and read more terrific tips at cookingwithkids.com, including sample recipes like the ones below.
Sample Recipes from Cooking with Kids For Dummies:
Please note that these recipes are on my cookingwithkids.com site. You will need to use your back button or a bookmark to return to this page on The Global Gourmet site.
This Month in Kate's Global Kitchen:
4/03/99: Egg-straordinary Egg Recipes
4/10/99: Party Food—The Book
4/17/99: Rice Vinegar: My Secret Ingredient
4/24/99: Cooking with Kids for Dummies: Selected Tips and Recipes
Copyright © 1999, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page created April 1999
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