I’d like to get my kids more involved in meal preparation and cleanup. Any thoughts on how soon kids can start helping and what types of jobs kids can handle at various ages and stages?
Kids can be involved in mealtime preparation and cleanup from a very early age—right from the toddler stage on up, in fact. (Hey, why not harness some of that delightful toddler enthusiasm for trying new things and that overwhelming eagerness to “help”? After all, most kids don’t remain that keen through every age and stage.)
So what kind of jobs can a toddler tackle? Start with toddler-sized jobs that don’t take very long. (A typical toddler attention span times out pretty quickly.) Your toddler can help put the cutlery on the table (except for anything sharp, of course).
Preschoolers can help to wash fruits and veggies in a plastic basin. (You may want to give the produce a final swish and scrub.)
School-aged kids can help plan menus, set the table, assist with some of the meal preparation (e.g., gathering up the necessary ingredients and measuring each ingredient for the cook), clear and wipe the table after dinner, load the dishwasher or wash the dishes in the sink, and sweep the floor.
Teens and preteens can help with all of the above types of chores, plus cooking (as long as you take the time to show them the ropes).
The kitchen is truly the hub of your family. It only makes sense to have “all hands on deck.”
Ann Douglas is the author of numerous books about pregnancy and parenting, including The Mother of All Pregnancy Books, The Mother of All Baby Books, The Mother of All Toddler Books, The Mother of All Parenting Books, Sleep Solutions for Your Baby, Toddler, and Preschooler, and Mealtime Solutions for Your Baby, Toddler, and Preschooler. Find Ann online at www.having-a-baby.com.