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Getting your family to help in the kitchen

Naomi de la Torre is freelance writer and stay-at-home-mom with two delightful boys, ages three and six. Naomi has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona, is a self-proclaimed salsa diva, and can make a killer octopus ...

Make kitchen cleanup fun

Family meals are a great way to stay connected to your family members, but preparing healthy meals takes work. Try these helpful tips for fun ways to get your kids to lend a hand in the kitchen and make mealtimes even more enjoyable for everyone.
Family bonding in the kitchen

Give everyone a job

When everyone helps prepare a meal, kitchen tasks seem to go much faster — and everyone has a lot more fun. Give everyone in the family a simple job that is appropriate for his age range. Little children can help by washing produce, opening packages, finding foods in the refrigerator or pantry, mixing ingredients and even loading the dishwasher. Older children can wash dishes, set the table, sweep the floor, chop vegetables, measure ingredients and follow simple recipes. Not only will your children learn responsibility and life skills, but they will also internalize important lessons on healthy eating habits that they can share with their own children someday.

Make it fun

Kitchen work does not have to be drudgery with so many ways to keep it fun. Choose family dinner themes like "Build Your Own Burrito Night," "Fun with Fondue," "Cowboy Cookout" or "Italian Café." Let the kids get creative in planning the menus and finding accessories to dress up your dinner table. Eat by candlelight. Cook outside on the grill. Plan dinners that are all finger foods. Eat dinner backwards, starting with dessert first. Your kids will love helping out when they have a chance to use their imaginations to plan any one of these fun-filled evenings.

Try kid-friendly recipes

Kids love using their creativity, and trying new things in the kitchen can be just as much fun as a science experiment. Get your little ones involved in helping you cook by trying some tasty and healthy kid-friendly recipes. Make smoothies together and let them choose the ingredients. Bake individual pizzas, allowing the kids to roll their dough into any shape they want and choose their own toppings. Ask their advice for which vegetables to put in your stir-fry or casserole. Bake breads or muffins and have the kids choose which fruits or veggies to add to the batter.

Play games

Turn kitchen chores into a game and let the fun begin. Set a timer and see who can shuck the corn fastest. Have a karaoke sing-along while you clean up from a big meal. Play games like "What Food Am I?" while you chop vegetables. Challenge the kids to make origami animals out of your cloth table napkins. Let your kids knead the bread dough into interesting shapes and have everyone guess what they are once they are baked. Before you know it, your children will beg routinely to help out in the kitchen, and mealtimes will be a blast for everyone.

Quick tip

Assign toddler-size jobs like washing produce, folding napkins, sorting silverware and other simple tasks that won't end up in disaster, no matter how messy they get.

More family fun

Family game night essentials
How to stock your pantry for impromptu family nights
50 Fun family night ideas

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