Teaching My Boys Essential Kitchen Tasks – 2013 Goal

by Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom on January 4, 2013

There’s all this talk these days about goals and resolutions. And “words of the year.” But I’ve missed much of it, as I’ve been in bed with the flu. (You know the one that’s hit the entire country, the B strain that wasn’t in the vaccine this year. Sigh.) In year’s past I’ve made goals for different aspects of life – fitness, spiritual, financial, parenting, personal, etc. But starting the year out with the flu, just before having a baby, it seems that the only real goal that seems achievable right now is just to survive. But in all seriousness, Im very goals driven and hope to make a few more solid goals in March or April, when I emerge from the “newborn fog.” :)

I’m finally coming out of the flu-funk, with Cuatro due to arrive in less than 2 weeks. (Better to have it run through the family now, than after he is born!) But I wanted to share something that happened when I was really “down in the dumps” a few days ago…as it explains how I came up with this particular goal.

I wandered downstairs in a dazy fog of congestion and fatigue to help the boys get breakfast, mind you I’d just woken up and was already ready for a nap. They were all coming out of the bad days of the flu, just as I was going into them. They were begging for eggs, so I said we could make some…as they’d been living on saltines and toast for days and needed the protein. By the time I made it into the kitchen, the skillet was on the stove, and my oldest son was whisking up 6 eggs in a bowl.

Huh.

It was almost as if I were dreaming. Maybe I was. But I wasn’t.

Is he seriously whisking eggs? 

When did he learn to do this?

I plopped myself onto a barstool and started chatting with him about his egg making skills. As we chatted, he pushed the stool over and got down the salt and pepper from the spice cabinet and set them next to the stove. Then he asked me to turn on the burner.

Seriously.

What is happening here? How did I miss this?

And then it occurred to me…he’s way older and way more responsible than I give him credit for…and it’s time we step things up in the kitchen.

Goal: I want to teach my boys to be better independent and little cooks in the kitchen!

Turns out…while I’m upstairs in the morning getting little man up and going for the day, the older two are already downstairs getting breakfast together or cooking with my husband. And over the past few weeks/months, my husband has taught Ryan how to scramble eggs! (With help on the “start the burner part.”) I’m super impressed and am so thankful for this eye opening experience , and how it’s shown me that I need to push the boys a little more in gaining independence in the kitchen and teach them the essential skills they need to know.

All the boys do many things “supervised,” but Ryan and Charlie are both at ages where I’d like to move them from “supervised” to “independent” with tasks in the kitchen that I don’t really need to closely supervise. (And all this, just days before Cuatro is to arrive. I suppose the addition of a tiny human will help force some of this independence in the kitchen.)

We’ve got the whole “set and clear the table” thing all figured out, but there are some more “food preparation” tasks to work on. Here are a few things I’d like to teach them:

  1. Make their own sandwiches.
  2. Assemble their lunchboxes (with pre-made treats like muffins, banana bread, as well as fruit and other favorite lunchbox goodies.)
  3. Make cookies, from mixer to cookie sheet. (with pre-measuring of their dairy free butter!)
  4. Assembly line kinds of dishes…making breakfast burritos, enchiladas, etc
  5. Scramble eggs (middle one), hard-boil eggs (both).
  6. Shred chicken from the slow cooker with forks, divide into baggies to freeze.
  7. Load the rice cooker and bread machine.
  8. Measuring out ingredients for marinades and salad dressings. And shaking them up! (They’ll love this!)
  9. Make pizzas with the crusts that I’ve got in the freezer.
  10. Making smoothies/learning the right “fruit to milk to juice” ratio for smoothies.
And of course, continued supervision with cooking of stovetop meals, like scrambled eggs, stirring chili, preparing “dump and go” kinds of soups and stews, etc. I don’t think they are ready for cutting with sharp knives, but whenever they shows signs of readiness, I’ll introduce that carefully. (Could be in a few years still!) And I’ll continue to handle all raw meats and other sensitive ingredients!

There are so many benefits to teaching my boys in the kitchen…from independence to practicing math to deepening our relationships to learning about healthy food choices and so much more. I look forward to a year of helping them learn about food and grow in their independence in the kitchen!

Helpful Resource

I’d love to know what you have your kids doing in the kitchen (and include ages!), as well as what you plan to be teaching them soon! (I’d love to add to my list!)

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Cathy January 4, 2013 at 4:40 pm

I know it’s small solace, but at least having the flu now means your baby will have the antibodies when born, having gotten them from you!

I love your goal, and I always feel like it should be mine too, only my kids have so little interest in cooking that I don’t push the issue. However, I do believe they’d love the science aspect of it, so I might try to go more Alton Brown on them :)

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Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom January 5, 2013 at 9:57 pm

Love that…”Let’s go Alton Brown on our kids”…good call!

And yes, glad to be building up immunities!

Erin

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Roxie Moreland January 4, 2013 at 8:04 pm

I started early with my kids putting them on the counter while I cooked. I must admit I didn’t think my daughter was going to be a cook but when she married she started cooking. Borrows pages from my recipe book and then doesn’t return then! My son is a great cook and so is my son in law. Lucky me. I learned my cooking from sitting on my grandmothers counters and helping her in the kitchen. After all boys are not necessarily going to have girlfriends or wives to take care of them right. I also taught my son basic hand sewing and how to do laundry and iron.

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Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom January 5, 2013 at 9:59 pm

Good for you Roxie…thanks for sharing and inspiring us!

Erin

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Michelle (What's Cooking with Kids) January 4, 2013 at 8:10 pm

Oh Erin! I am so touched and honored that you listed my book as a resource :-) Thank you!
And congrats, to your eldest, for rocking out those eggs. I love seeing the kiddos do more than we ever thought possible!!!
xoxo
m

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Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom January 5, 2013 at 10:06 pm

It’s an amazing resource…and glad to share it!

Erin

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Rene January 4, 2013 at 8:31 pm

My son is 16 now and still learning his way in the kitchen. He started helping me make homemade pizza around the age of 7 or 8. He would put on the toppings with a little help. I would let him pull out ingredients as I cooked or get me pots, pans, utensils (helped him learn what they were for and to recognize the difference in a blender and a mixer). I then taught him how to make pancakes followed by scrambled eggs. He knows how to make his own breakfast and his own lunches. He has helped me make cookies, pies, cakes, etc. We practice reading instructions and recipes. One way I do it is to sit at the bar and guide him through the steps of making dinner. He made country style steak and potatoes once and it turned out great. This of course didn’t start until he was old enough to turn on the stove by himself (we cook with gas). That turned out to be about the age of 13-14 I think.

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Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom January 5, 2013 at 10:07 pm

Love it Rene…love hearing what he’s learned! Thanks for sharing!

Erin

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Katie January 4, 2013 at 8:41 pm

I love, love, love these ideas! Both of my kids cook in the kitchen with me, but if the recipe takes too long to prepare, they lose interest. Both are excellent egg crackers, and my oldest loves to make peanut butter toast. I’d love to get my oldest familiar with packing his own lunches before he thinks that only Mom makes lunches…

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Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom January 5, 2013 at 10:09 pm

Indeed Katie…”before he thinks that only Mom makes lunches”…this is it! Our morning schedule is pretty packed, as they get on the bus super early, but I’m hoping to do some “setting out after dinner” to start and then getting them more involved right when they finish their breakfast in the morning.

Erin

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Alli January 4, 2013 at 8:42 pm

I think Fuller was 4 when he learned to make his own pbj. Now he is 8 and makes all kinds of sandwiches, his own lunches (ramen in the microwave, nachos, leftovers) and empties the dishwasher on his own (if it is Monday, Wednesday, or Friday ). I started with Tebow this week on pbj. He turns 4 next month, time he starts chipping in!

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Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom January 5, 2013 at 10:10 pm

Awesome Alli! We’ve got the rinsing dishes thing down…next on my list is the help in emptying. I imagine that won’t start until once baby is here!

Erin

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Steve aka the hubs January 4, 2013 at 9:37 pm

Great post. Love helping and working with you on our parenting goals.

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Terry Rochelle January 4, 2013 at 9:41 pm

I have a cousin who home schooled her children. Not sure I believe in doing that, but one of the things she did that I thought was brilliant was to have them look at the Wednesday store ads, cut coupons, make the list, go shopping (with her of course) and see how much money they could save, as well as expanding their sense of helping. In the mean time, they were learning all kinds of skills, math, logic, project management, finance, as well as some downright good life skills like planning, budgeting, shopping, etc. Then they would take turns helping put things away, and keeping track of anything that needed to be replaced or re-stocked the next time. From there, they would each pick a meal to help prepare each week. She had two boys and a girl, and the boys went into their marriages being good cooks, understanding the family budget, helping, planning, saving, everything. I have worked with a mentor program through the court system, and teens could decide to do the mentor program or serve their time in “kiddie jail”. Most chose the program. But getting them to do the work was exhausting at times. They didn’t even know how to open a bank account, write a check, fill out a job application – nothing. So I think that is one of the reasons I think my cousin did a great job – they learned those life skills at home and mastered them as young adults. They went into the world very well prepared for real life. I think it gave them a sense of ownership and pride in what they had to offer to a future mate.

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Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom January 5, 2013 at 10:12 pm

These are such important life skills Terry…and you’re so right, in that the ultimate goal is for them to go well prepared into real life. That’s the “end goal” that my husband and I are always looking towards…then it’s just a matter of breaking it down for each kid, and each year of their life!

Erin

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Barbara January 4, 2013 at 10:28 pm

I have three boys 7, 9 and 11. My oldest has always showed a strong interest in food and cooking and even took a kids’ cooking class. He can open a cook book and basically follow simple recipes: He’s made his favorites like chocolate chip cookies, pumpkin pie, grits and omelettes, and I helped him some with his favorite – lasagna for a “how to” class project last year. We videotaped him from start to finish and showed it to his class and took the whole dish in. The kids really loved the video and eating his lasagna! My middle child likes to make breakfast and smoothies and his own sandwiches. My youngest hasn’t showed much interest yet. They usually only do any ‘cooking’ on the weekends as the school week seems so busy and it’s faster for me to do it. So far they have acted pretty safe around the burners/microwave and oven. No injuries or fires!

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Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom January 5, 2013 at 10:12 pm

Awesome Barbara! You are serving your boys well by teaching and guiding them…thanks for inspiring us!

Erin

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Jennifer Chronister January 5, 2013 at 12:13 am

Recently 2 of my kids, Alissa age 12 and Logan age 11, asked me if they could make Banana Bread. After my doubts I told them to go ahead since my husband and I would be in the next room. They worked together, better than I expected :), and did a wonderful job. They were so proud of their work that they ran some across the street to their Aunt and Uncles house. Logan has gotten over the novelty of baking but my daughter is still growing strong. My husband nicknamed me Mrs. Crocker years ago and now calls our daughter Little Crocker. I love the fact that she’s enjoying baking!

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Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom January 5, 2013 at 10:14 pm

Hilarious…love this! And I love that they worked so well together and were able to accomplish something on their own and be proud of themselves…self-esteem is hard to teach, but this is a perfect example!!! Thanks for sharing!

Erin

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Edward Antrobus January 5, 2013 at 12:07 pm

We were a big tuna salad family, and I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t making my own. Aside from that, I remember shredded blocks of cheese and heads of cabbage from a young age, as well as stirring sauces.

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Jan January 5, 2013 at 7:06 pm

Yikes all I can think of is the mess I would have to clean up after! LOL

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Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom January 5, 2013 at 10:14 pm

Yes Jan…there is lots of mess involved. But I’m learning (sometimes more slowly than others) to embrace the mess, and let them learn and grow in their skills!

Erin

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Lori Parker January 5, 2013 at 8:04 pm

I cheated when my boys were little they are now in their 30’s I asked them if they ever were going to get married. I think it was at the age when girls have cooties. They said no yuck and told me girls have cooties and they were never going to get married. So I told them they had better learn how to sew on a button and they were game. Cooking was fun. The boys each got their day of cooking. They would get the weekly sale ads and plan their menu and the budget for their day of cooking. We had some very tasty experiments. I remember the first time I had shark was on one of their cooking days.There were some wars but for the most part they enjoyed it. I think they are more curious about how things happen. They both married girls who didn’t know how to cook so their skills have made them a better partner.

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Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom January 5, 2013 at 10:16 pm

Wonderful…love hearing this Lori! I like how you structured it and gave them days, and they made all the choices, etc. Seems like a great and practical way to accomplish your goals in helping your guys learn valuable kitchen skills!

Erin

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Jennifer January 6, 2013 at 7:19 pm

I like to teach my kids to brown ground meat and chop veggies for salads. I need to teach them more skills though! My oldest (14) is learned to saute an apple as well. My youngest (8) knows how to scramble eggs, but doesn’t do it very often. I think it is time for a refresher so she doesn’t forget.

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bonnie walker January 8, 2013 at 12:07 pm

Recently, my 9 yr old son made homemade waffles on his own. He followed the recipe (didn’t put enough water in the first time) and then by time I saw him he had overloaded the waffle iron and it overflowed all over the counter. Oh well…he’ll learn :)
My 7 yr old son likes to make his own ham and cheese omelet under my supervision.

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Jess P January 10, 2013 at 9:31 pm

Hi! I’m not sure how old your kids are, b/c I just started visiting. I like your site, and did a whole week and a half of your menus. Most of them went great! Anyway, I wanted to share that for my two oldest (7&9, boys) I put a large piece of paper on the fridge and make a grid. I put a section for protein, grain, fruit, & veggie. Under each category, I list whatever I have purchased for the week. I tell them they can pack whatever they want in their lunch as long as they pick 1 thing from each category. They love the independence, and they are learning about the important elements of a balanced meal!

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hornblower January 11, 2013 at 4:12 pm

I just wanted to clarify that the most prevalent flu strains in the country are the A strains & they ARE fully matched to the vaccine this year, which includes:

A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)-like virus
A/Victoria/361/2011 (H3N2)-like virus
B/Wisconsin/1/2010-like virus

The actual flu activity this year is showing all 3 though 80% of serotypes are for Type A. The type A H1N1 is a perfect match; the type A H3N2 is a 99% match; the type B (which only constitutes 20% of the illness) is a 66% match (the other third circulating is B/Victoria which is not in the vaccine).

http://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/summary.htm

I hope you feel better soon. For everyone else, there’s still time to get the vaccine.

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