In a pickle: What to do with too many hands in the kitchen
While it's great to have a helper or two in the kitchen, any more than that can be quite overwhelming. Here are a few tips if you happen to have one too many cooks in the kitchen!
Ideally, I prefer to cook alone. I turn on some music, pour a glass of wine and get to chopping and sauteing. It's relaxing and allows me time to de-stress and unwind at the end of a long day. Now that I have kids, that doesn't happen as much as I'd like. In fact, cooking can be quite stressful with so many hands and helpers in the kitchen! Luckily, there are a few tricks of the trade to make things run a little smoother while still allowing everyone to pitch in.
Let the kids help
Young kids love helping out and feeling like they're contributing something of importance. If you never allow your kids to pitch in, they'll quit asking and will lose that desire to do things on their own. By letting them help you in the kitchen, you're teaching them responsibility from a young age — which will come in very handy down the road when they're teenagers!
Assign age-appropriate tasks
Keep the little ones busy by giving everyone a task. This allows you to focus on getting the meal prepared and, hopefully, distracts them for a good amount of time.
Toddlers can wipe down the table, put the silverware on the table and help pour and stir ingredients. They can help clean up by throwing small items away, wiping down the table again and helping load items into the dishwasher.
Children up to 11 years old can measure ingredients, crack eggs and make sandwiches and salads. They can pour drinks for family members and fully set the table. They can also rinse dishes and load the dishwasher.
Children 12 and up can follow recipes, operate the oven and microwave, learn about safety in the kitchen, begin to understand food labels and nutrition and assist younger siblings with their tasks. Older children can even be fully in charge of a meal one night per week after they've had a little practice and guidance from you.
Have a "no helpers" night
If you're like me and enjoy cooking solo, that's OK! Designate one night per week where you — and only you — are allowed in the kitchen while preparing dinner. You can have the kids do their homework during this time, watch a movie or plan a craft for them. Keep them busy and entertained so you can do your thing — guilt-free!
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Make it fun
Though it can be overwhelming to have four extra sets of hands in the kitchen, know that this time is short-lived and enjoy it! Soon enough, they'll be teenagers, and you'll be begging them to help out. Then, not long after that, they'll be heading to college, getting ready to start their own lives. Make the most of them being little and soak in each evening where they're eager and willing to pitch in. More than likely, these will become some of your most cherished memories.