The past couple of weeks I’ve been having some…issues with a certain Kola Nut. He’s not a bad kid. In fact, he’s anything but. Still, he has moments of seeming malicious intent. Like the time he dumped all the soap out of the dispenser in the bathroom and filled it up with water. Last week. Or yesterday, when he decided to help Kumquat remove every item of clothing from her dresser so she could find the perfect outfit. What about the day he played “Master of Disguise” and stole away into the garage, emerging armed with a beach shovel that he used to dig random holes in the yard?
I’ve been struggling. His Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde antics have left me confused, sloughing helplessly through the pea soup of motherhood, uncertain what to do with this little man, his jokes and his propensity to get into everything when he knows that I’m preoccupied with work and his siblings and cleaning up the messes he leaves in his path like a mini hurricane tearing through my house, a pile of orange peels left in its wake. Then he flips on his charm and wit, and all those things melt away.
“What are we having for lunch?” he demanded to know the other day as I rummaged through the fridge. “Umm…grilled cheese sandwiches.” “Yahoo! Sandwiches. What are you going to put on them?” “Cheese.”
What exactly is it that he expects from me? Yes, just cheese. Butter-bread-cheese-bread-butter. In a pan until brown. Cut in two, on a plate, on the table, in front of you. That’s it. Cheese.
Wholly unsatisfied, Kola Nut proceeded to watch me make his grilled cheese sandwich (and burn it when I was focusing on coffee and mail). He waited until they were on the plate until he again asked for more than what I was offering. “I don’t like it with just cheese. That won’t taste good. It would taste better with more stuff on it.” “What kind of stuff?”
Really. What kind of stuff does the four-year-old think would be suitable for the grilled cheese?
“Tomatoes and meat and maybe some salad. Can we put some on it, please?” Tomatoes? Salad? Go crazy. And he did.
Here it is. Grilled Cheese: New and Improved.
What’s better is that he ate it. All of it.
He also took his own picture of it. He’s been taking notes on how to take sub-par pictures of food like his mom. I think maybe I’ll give him the camera for my next recipe.
And then I saw these were also on there.
Maybe he won’t be in charge of the pictures quite yet, but he’s definitely on his way.
5 Simple Ways to Get Kids Involved in the Kitchen Today
1. Give them a choice. Will it be tuna salad or chicken pot pie today? Giving them a choice of what they’ll be eating can help increase their self-confidence and may get them to eat more of whatever it is you offer, even if it’s not their favorite thing.
2. Have them set the table. Matching colors, shapes and sizes for different family members or simply learning how to organize the different objects into groups is a wonderful learning activity.
3. Work their small hands into the food preparation. Aimée gave a great list of possible ways to keep young fingers in the mix. Keeping them busy with their food things will also keep them out of yours.
4. Let them serve themselves. Whether it’s adding tomatoes and lettuce to a sandwich, scooping rice onto their plate or using tongs to pick up their own chicken nuggets, all of these things are wonderful sensory motor skills to practice and learn.
5. Get them involved in cleanup. Kids love to wash dishes, and having them wash the one plate and cup in a small pan with soapy water will occupy them long enough for you to get some real cleaning done (or maybe you could use that time to read your mail).
Whatever you do, have fun. The kitchen can be a wonderful place to create memories and build relationships with your kids. It doesn’t have to be involved, and you don’t have to be a wonderful cook to do it. It could be as easy and baking chicken nuggets with them and having them arrange them on the cookie sheet before you stick it in the oven.