Kids in the Kitchen – without too much mess

This post is inspired by Sara whose comment sparked some thoughts about small children in the kitchen.

I’ve never been one for a mess.  Next to mothers who can handle mess in the name of learning and fun I feel…small.  Bewildered.  
Because frankly there is only so much mess I can handle before turning into a basketcase.

My mess threshold is very low.  (Self-knowledge!  Important!)  Therefore, kitchen exploration is fairly tightly controlled in my kitchen.

I love Montessori who advocates teaching children to do real tasks.  In the kitchen, the trick is to find ways to involve them in what I am doing.  That lets me keep an eye on them, and on the mess, as well as actually helping prepare the food.  I love to kill three birds with one stone.  So satisfying.

I made a small list of things that the kids often do in our kitchen.  It looks different for each child, according to age.  The two year old might hack away at his piece of cucumber.  The four year old gets lessons in how to cut it into sticks.  The seven year old uses a real knife.  You get the picture.

Get things out of the fridge.  Ketchup, vegetables, peanut butter.

Chop things.  Levi has his own lettuce knife (sharp enough to cut vegetables, not sharp 
enough to cut fingers) and a cutting board.  He gets half a tomato, or a carrot, or a fourth 
of a cucumber to chop (and eat).  He eats a lot of vegetables while ‘helping’ cook…score!  
I usually chop them a bit more to at least kind of resemble the sizes I need.

Peel carrots and tangerines.

Load and run the machines.  Blender, food processor, rice maker, kitchen aid.

Stir things on the stove.  (Seven year old).

Set the table.  

Wash dishes.I don’t mind cleaning up a water mess.  A few swipes with a towel for 20 minutes of cooking peace = good deal.  And sometimes the dishes actually get clean.

I love to bake and this often brings out the crowd of eager bakers.  But I am less than eager to have flour spilled everywhere.  I am also less than eager for things to take all day.  So I run a fairly tight ship.

I measure, they pour.  I dig the cup measure in the flour.  A child might level it if I’m feeling relaxed and magnanimous.  A child pours it into the bowl (with guidance to avoid losing half of the ingredients).

Lia is probably ready to do some baking on her own, but she hasn’t shown much of an interest, so she generally reads the recipes and I call it good.

Play with dough.  Here is a place where I let them play without much supervision.  They each get a child size rolling pin and a board scraper and are free to play and experiment to their heart’s content.  The only rule is that the dough stays on the counter.  And they can’t get out any other tools.  And they can’t add any other ingredients such as 
water or flour.  Haha.  But the result is good – they have fun, the mess is controllable.

What do your kids do in your kitchen?

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3 thoughts on “Kids in the Kitchen – without too much mess

  1. Love this. So practical. My kids don’t get to play in the kitchen very often. Mess is very hard for my psyche too. And I don’t like wasting food. Although when I myself forget an important ingredient in a recipe {like sugar, ahem} I’m breaking my own rule. Tim is so kind to eat my mistakes. hah Peter has helped me flatten out dough but mostly just mixes dry ingredients for me. And sometimes scoops and dumps, but that can be very problematic. The chopping vegies idea is intriguing. Never thought about that. Never heard of a lettuce knife before hearing about it in your previous post.

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