By Chef Selwyn Richards
Cooking for a family can be a chore. Kids complain about the food. Parents don’t have enough time to put a healthy meal on the table. And mealtime ends up being stressful. It doesn’t have to be this way. Here are a few creative ideas for making family cooking fun.
Let everyone choose a meal. Even kids know what they like to eat. Make mealtime planning a family activity. Invite each child to choose a meal for the upcoming week. If they’re old enough, they can also help prepare it. You may run into a few bumps with younger children who always choose chicken fingers or pizza. If this is the case you have a few options. You can provide them with a list of three to five menu items to choose from. Or you can look through a cookbook together to come up with new ideas.
Encourage older children to look at the store supplements too. That way they can help you save money when they’re making their menu choice.
This strategy is also a great way to motivate children to try new foods. Give them an age-appropriate cookbook that they can choose their recipes from. You may be surprised what they come up with.
Make breakfast for dinner. Lighten it up once in a while and make breakfast for dinner. Pancakes, eggs, waffles — you name it, it’s all good. Who says breakfast can only be served in the morning?
There are many ways to get the whole family involved and to make family cooking fun. Adapt your strategies to the ages of your children. Offer support but let them learn and make mistakes too. Cooking teaches many life skills including planning ahead, improvising and of course learning from our mistakes.
Make ahead meals. Make ahead meals are great time savers. You can make them, freeze them, and then warm them up for an easy mealtime. However, make ahead meals also offer something else. They offer you the opportunity to ask your children to help with the preparation.
If you’re cooking lasagna for example, younger children can mix the cheese sauce while older children brown the meat. All hands on deck for the layering. This is a great bonding experience. It also helps your children learn how to cook and manage recipes. That’s certainly a skill boys and girls will need when they get older.
Make it themselves. When children are old enough, ask them to be responsible for a meal. You may have to make the occasional schedule adjustment if they have an afterschool activity. However, this is a fantastic lesson in responsibility. And you’ll be surprised how much fun your child can actually have when they’re given this responsibility. Try to be supportive. Not all meals are going to be delicious. Use this as a learning experience.
Get everyone involved. Some meals are just made for group involvement. For example, the “make your own pizza” night. Make the dough ahead of time. Buy the toppings that each family member likes. Then let everyone make their own pizza. This is great for a family game night or weekend meal when you have a lot of time to laugh and cook.
Selwyn Richards is an award-winning master chef. He is also the President and Executive Chef at The Art of Catering Inc. and is the author of “The Art of Cooking: Soul of The Caribbean”. Chef Selwyn can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone — (905) 619-1059.