Modern parenting gets some things so right. Positive discipline and treating children with respect? Brilliant! We should have been doing this all along!
But we’re totally blowing it in other areas, like chores. Somehow we’ve gone from the household being the family’s collective responsibility to grown-ups handling everything while our precious snowflakes play Minecraft on their iPads.
But they’re focusing on homework! School is so tiring! Their extracurricular calendars are already too busy! Well, chores have value, too, it turns out, and not just for exhausted modern parents who could really use a hand. Children who begin chores at ages 3 and 4 are more likely to have good relationships, to be academically and professionally successful, and to be self-sufficient compared with kids who didn’t have chores at all or started them as teens. Word.
With this in mind (and because involving kids in the kitchen is sort of a personal mission) here are 12 ways your little (yes, LITTLE) kids can start helping in the kitchen right now:
- So, you can either frantically shell peas during naptime or the post-work/pre-dinner rush, or you can let your kids handle them and call it a fine motor development activity. Your call.
2. The Pioneer Woman‘s Parkerhouse Rolls have become a Thanksgiving tradition. That’s a big pot and a little kid, but look at my four year-old stirring dough like a boss.
3. Dipping dough in melted butter and folding it on the pan is a terrific job for tiny hands, too. (And sometimes they’re just not feeling it. He’s two, so whatever, dude!)
4. Squeezing citrus for fresh juice, marinades, salad dressings, or, uh, blood orange margaritas.
5. Our favorite Hummus recipe requires skinning the garbanzo beans, which takes FOREVER unless you make your kids do it for you. And they will — happily! — because it’s slimy and tactile and surprisingly satisfying.
6. A tiny spatula or pastry brush is perfect for “painting” olive oil on veggies before roasting.
7. DIY pizza night is my go-to for afternoon playdates because it’s both an activity and a meal. Chris Bianco’s fresh pizza dough recipe is excellent if you’re feeling motivated, or pick up some Pizza Politana dough and sauce in your next Good Eggs order.
8. Tiny hands are just the right size for sprinkling streusel topping on muffins.
9. Washing and drying produce is a simple task for just about any age.
10. Gifting homemade treats to friends and neighbors teaches a wonderful lesson about generosity. (And it was my mom’s secret weapon to staying healthy even though she loved baking cookies.)
11. Being trusted with grown-up tasks like working the controls on the KitchenAid Mixer makes my kids feel like badass superheroes.
12. Ditto for the Vitamix blender. Just establish safety ground rules & be a broken record about them. (I also keep my scariest kitchen gadgets unplugged & stored out of sight.)
PS, this chart of age-appropriate chores for children is really terrific. Like, print-it-out-and-tape-it-inside-a-cupboard-for-reference terrific.