in the kitchen

Let Your Kids Cook Dinner Each Week

Kids and cookingWhen someone hears that my kids each cook a dinner every single week and clean-up the kitchen after the meal, they’re intrigued.  They want to know details.  Questions like:  How did you get started?  How do you do it?  Do your kids still need help in the kitchen?  These are all good questions and even better that parents are thinking about having their kids cook.  Cooking at home is so much better for our health and for the food budget.  And, don’t forget – if you let your kids cook dinner each week it means a night off in the kitchen for you!  That’s a deal I’ll take every single week.

Let your kids cook dinner each week

Two points to remember here: practice and low expectations.  No one is a good cook when they begin.  It takes a little practice.  Give your kids a chance to practice before throwing in the towel.  Controlling mothers and fathers (yes, you know who you are) will need to lower their expectations.  My kitchen is now mostly cleaned up to my standards but hasn’t always been but that’s okay.  Just let go of your cleaning standards and lower those expectations because the goal is to get your kids cooking and cleaning but both tasks take practice.

Kids can cook easy meals

How did we get started?
We started when our kids were young and wanted to help in the kitchen.  Yes, I’m using that term “help” loosely as young kids aren’t’ always the biggest helpers but they are enthusiastic!  When kids say, “I want to help with that!” that’s the signal to let them.  It’s second-nature to the child and they grow-up thinking that’s just what they’ve always done.

A good way to begin is by having your kids make lunch on the weekend or when you’re patient and not in a rush.  Soup, grilled cheese sandwiches, tuna salad or even peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are all good starting meals.  My kids had to make lunches on Saturdays when they were in the 3rd grade or around 8/9-years-old.  Weekly dinners began when they were in the 6th grade or 11/12-years-old.  Some kids are ready and willing to cook earlier once a week and if so, go with it!

Don’t ask your kids if they want to cook every week.  If I asked my kids if they wanted to cook and clean-up every week, they’d always answer, “No!” so I don’t ask.  I use my Jedi mind tricks on them while I smile sweetly and ask, “Which night would you like to make to dinner this week?”

Kids and cooking

How do we do it?
Meal plan for simple, easy meals that anyone can prepare.  Start when they’re young and teach your child to follow a recipe and begin with a kid’s cookbook.  Show them how to measure, stir, and if old enough, chop or cut.  Check your local library for lots of good child-friendly cookbooks.  Or ask your kids what they’d like to cook.  Instilling a love (or just a like!) of cooking is important.  They’ll be cooking for themselves before you know it.

My kids don’t pick what meal they’re going to cook.  We tried this but ran into meals like “pasta with bread” or “cheese quesadillas with cheese” which is fine every once in a while or served with a green salad but not really a balanced meal.  “What about a little protein (or vegetables!) with that dinner?” is what I found myself asking.  So, back to the meal planning done by the parents.  It’s easier that way.

We usually do the meal planning on Sunday evening.  We talk about what nights there are activities, meetings, what our kids are tired of cooking, and balancing the beans/lentils with meat, fish, chicken.

Kids learning to cook

Once the meal plan is posted, who wants to cook on what night is up for grabs.  The only rule is kids can’t sign up to cook on a night we’re having leftovers.  Leftovers are my night!

Do your kids still need help in the kitchen?
Not really anymore but they act like they do!  Sometimes they need an extra hand to get a big pot of boiling water drained but now that they’re older and used to cooking, they need less help.  My son, who is 15-years-old, likes to visit with his dad while he’s cooking.  My daughter, who is 13-years-old, likes to be left alone in the kitchen.  Both kids like to have their music playing while cooking.

Easy kids cooking ideas

I know the benefit is supposed to be for the kids to learn to cook but having my kids cook really benefits me.  I enjoy cooking but I also like to take a night off from cooking – and cleaning.  My kids also appreciate the meal on nights they don’t have to cook or clean – even when it’s lentils or beans!

Do your kids cook at your home?  Do you get a night off from cooking and cleaning?

Go Gingham related links:

Meal planning made simple and why I love leftovers
Need some meal planning menu ideas?  all of my meal plans are here
How you can avoid food waste is here
Frugal grocery shopping tips are here and buying from bulk bins is here
What other meals have my kids cooked?  Check here
An excellent article from “The New York Times” ~ A mother lets her sons do the cooking

8 thoughts on “Let Your Kids Cook Dinner Each Week

  1. Oh my – this sounds like a dream come true to me! I really want this to happen in my house, but one child is terribly picky and all of them have mastered the art of being incompetent in the kitchen. I wish I had started this when they were young. I haven’t given up hope, but it feels like it will take a tremendous amount of effort to get it started.


    1. Annie, they’re tricking you! If they can read a book and follow instructions for homework, they can cook. Start with brownies…everyone loves brownies and they’ll see how easy it is. Good luck! Try it – you deserve a night off in the kitchen, friend!


  2. Bravo!! I started my kids fairly young too. Being a single working mom and, later, living with chronic illness, having my kids cook once each week gave me two days off.
    I also taught my kids to do the shopping. At 13, they were both pros at checking unit pricing and finding bargains, lol.
    Now that they’re both young adults, they’re more than competent in the kitchen and are accomplished bargain shoppers (not just for food) too!


    1. Cynthia, bravo to you, too! That is such a good skill – well, they both are. The cooking and the bargain shopping as well. Most adults don’t know to check unit pricing when shopping. Great job!!


    1. Emily, you’re so welcome! Summer is a great time for cooking with kids. Everything tastes so good when it’s fresh and especially if grown in your garden. Good luck! Let me know how it goes 🙂


  3. This is a great idea! At 6 and 2 1/2 I’m not sure they are ready for dinner but I think this summer my oldest could definitely tackle lunch or breakfast with minimal help. Might as well while she is interested 🙂 Thanks for the idea!


    1. Magen, definitely! If the interest is there – go with it! Your 6-year-old will love being more grown-up than the 2 1/2-year-old, too. Thanks for leaving a comment.


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