PAREN(T)HESIS — Cooking with kids

August 1, 2016

By Jill Rothenbueler Maher

NEW Jill Maher Headshot Dec 2013I vividly remember as a child being sent with a bag of corn to the cement steps of our home. I would peel each cob, dropping the husks and silk into a brown paper Piggly Wiggly bag. If we had family or friends joining us for dinner, it seemed like a really big job and I resented it a little. Once in a while, one of the ears we bought from the roadside stands would be rotten and the surprise of finding brown ick instead of golden ears would gross me out a little.

Helping out with meal preparation was the norm in my family of origin, even though my sister and I didn’t always enjoy it. My husband and I have made it the norm for our daughter. Part of the reason we have her help out is that we heard it could help combat her minor case of “picky eater.” It really seemed to work since she enjoys a variety of foods now, as long as onions aren’t on the plate! We also wanted her to help make dinner so that she didn’t come home from daycare and plop in front of the TV, leaving the adults to work on the evening meal.

Kids’ contributions can begin with rinsing and drying raw vegetables or slicing anything soft enough to be pierced with a butter spreader. As they mature, they can progress to a butter knife and other knives. They can grate cheese and cut basil or other herbs.

In Montessori school, some children grate cinnamon sticks. Even young children can put a napkin at every plate.

Cooking and baking together can even involve a little math, like teaching how to double a recipe or to make three-fourths cup with one-fourth and one-half  measuring cups.

I think the very best helping hands are those that come forward after dinner to help clean up!

The author is a freelance writer and mother of one. Reach her with comments or suggestions at

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