I have a friend who's much smarter than I am, and she also happens to have three kids. Her oldest is just a little bit younger than my youngest (follow that?), and because I often feel overwhelmed with just two children, and her kids are younger than mine, one day I jokingly asked her how she stays sane. Her answer? "I make the kids cook dinner."
I laughed, and said something about how letting the kids help me cook is sometimes way more stressful than just doing it on my own. And she quickly corrected my erroneous assumption: She wasn't having the kids help her cook, she was letting them cook entire meals. On their own. For the entire family. Even her kindergartener! Surely she was exaggerating...?
She wasn't. And her kids are turning into magnificent cooks. Plus, when I saw a picture of her littlest cutting up vegetables, I realized that I wasn't doing my children any favors by assuming that they weren't capable. As nervous as it made me to surrender control of the knives, I knew my friend was right. If I assumed the kids could do it, they would. Right?
It turns out that they really did rise to the occasion. We had a family meeting and I explained that each child would be responsible for dinner one night a week. "You'll pick what you want to make, give me a shopping list before I do the weekly grocery run, and then you'll prepare it on your assigned night."
The intial announcement was met with shock and quite a bit of skepticism. "But... we don't know how to cook!" they protested.
"Can you read?" I asked. They laughed, because of course they can read! "If you can read, you can cook," I told them. "I'll help if you need me to, but you can do this."
And then I sat back and waited for menu requests of boxed macaroni and cheese... that never came.
It turns out that all these years of feeding my family food cooked from scratch and letting them help me sometimes has really paid off. Once they got over their initial fear ("What if I cut my finger off with the big knife?" asked my son. "Don't do that," I said.) they both loved it. They'd raid my cookbook stash or go online to find recipes, and both of them did great. My daughter explored Indian cooking while my son discovered that he loves adding fresh herbs from our garden to nearly everything; that's him, above, chopping up fresh basil while singing, "Chiffonade! I love to chiffonade!"
We've had from-scratch pizza (even the sauce was homemade) and we've had grill nights. We've had old favorites ("Teach me how to make that thing we always eat!") and discovered new ones. And the looks on their faces when we come to the dinner table and start heaping that night's cook with praise? Priceless. I daresay they're more likely to compliment our cooking, too, now that they really understand the work that goes into making a nice meal.
Do your kids cook? Would you consider having them start, if they don't already?