A post for moms who feel guilty because they know they need to teach their kids life skills, but get chills just thinking of the littles in the kitchen.
You love cooking with your kids, right?
Let me put it another way: You love the idea of cooking with your kids, amirite?!
You see it all over Pinterest: Cook with your kids. Bake with your kids. What a great way to connect with them and teach them life skills.
It makes you feel so guilty when you put your kids in front of the TV just so you can get dinner on the table. Because aren’t you supposed to have them there with you, every step along the way?
And you start wondering if your kids are ever going to come out right if you’re not even teaching them to cook. At the tender age of 26 and a half months. Is it too late already?!
And so one night you decide you have to get started on those precious life skills, because else you might just as well resign from your job as a mother.
But then… You realise a couple of things: The sink is full of unwashed dishes. Every countertop is cluttered with… Just stuff. Papers. Bills (which reminds you: You need to pay that bill STAT!). Cereal bowls from a week ago. Random little toys. And for some reason… A dog collar? You don’t even own a dog!
And in creeps the feeling of dread.
And even if you try to be all good and intentional about it, and somehow free up part of your working surface… Having the kids in the kitchen is just so much extra work. You need to climb over them constantly if you need to look for something. Because that’s no easy feat either – your kitchen cabinets are stuffed to the absolute max and you have no idea where to even find a clean mixing bowl.
So in the end you decide it’s easier to just let the mommy guilt rule your life and occupy the kiddos with Paw Patrol while you at least try to get dinner together in your kitchen. The kitchen that’s kind of always winning the war against you.
And you feel like a failure at mothering, because the entire Internet makes cooking with kids out to be the easiest task in the world – and why can you not even manage to pull off the easiest thing ever?
But mama: I can tell you a few simple secrets to turn things around, so you can enjoy spending time with your kids in the kitchen.
1. Get rid of most your kitchen stuff.
I’m serious. Just do it. You do not need five whisks, and neither do you need multiple spatulas or seven large mixing bowls. Purge your kitchen so you can actually FIND what you NEED.
2. Set up your kitchen the right way.
This is essential. Things you use daily, put them into the nearest drawers, on the lower cupboard shelves and just generally where you need them. Things you use less often? They can go on the upper shelves or in the back of a cabinet. And seasonal things like Christmas cookie cutters seriously do not need to occupy the prime location in your cabinets.
3. Make sure your kitchen gets cleaned after every meal.
Housework is a never ending story. And the sooner you can make peace with that, the sooner your kitchen will stop looking like a garage sale of dirty dishes.
Let’s face it: It needs to be cleaned at some point anyways, why push it? If you wait until later and let everything accumulate on top of each other, you will need to spend way more time getting things back into order than if you spend a little time on it a few times per day.
This also means your kitchen is ready for the next meal – no more washing dishes or cleaning up countertops just so you can make a sandwich for lunch.
4. Don’t have high expectations with kids in the kitchen.
I know, seems contrary to all the cute images of moms baking pies with their kiddos, right?
But really, teaching kids life skills such as cooking, especially if your kids are still very young… It’s not something that happens on the fly while you actually need to put a meal on the table.
Make time to bake cookies, but don’t view it as a “providing food for the family” kind of activity. See it as a “crafting with the kids” kind of activity. Totally shifts the focus.
Or do number 5…
5. Be intentional about involving your kids in the kitchen and prep everything beforehand.
If you can just focus on making the dish vs paying attention so that the toddler doesn’t suffocate the baby while you’re cutting up vegetables… It makes it so, so much easier.
If you do 1, 2 and 3 on this list AND prepare ahead – you can absolutely cook dinner with young kids a couple times per week.
Or per month, as often as it’s important to you. No judgement here.
One meal I love to do this with is this Skillet Beef Tips and Gravy Recipe I shared on Food Fanatic the other day. You can cut and prep pretty much everything during nap time (or in the morning before the kids wake up, or even the evening before; whatever your schedule allows). And then it’s basically a case of “throw this into the pan and let it simmer”. Easy peasy!
Your kid will experience the joy and excitement of making dinner for the family, and you can ease your feelings of guilt. Because those all-important cooking skills? Now you can choose if you want to involve your kids on any given day, vs feeling defeated by your kitchen and HAVING to say no.
Post first published as Skillet Beef Tips and Gravy on Food Fanatic.