There are many benefits to sitting down at the dinner table together as a family, and I highly encourage you all to make this a priority in your lives as often as possible. And once you’ve accomplished this first step, I would encourage you to try preparing and cooking a meal together at least one night a week. I say this not because my own family has mastered it (we are still working on this very goal), but because when we do it we always create great memories, make fun meals and the whole family APPRECIATES the food that much more. Here’s a recent story to help show you what I mean:
Midway through last week, we had all had a busy day. And it was one of those days where I kind of knew what I could throw together for dinner, but I didn’t have an exact plan. I had thawed some wild salmon filets that my husband brought home from his recent ski trip to Alaska, and I knew I had some greens and other odds and ends in the fridge. But, honestly, I was tired and had little motivation. Luckily, my family stepped up to the plate and offered to help. My husband was first in line, telling the boys, “you guys need to find something to do while I help Mommy get dinner ready.” “I want to help make dinner,” said our oldest. “Me too!” said our little one. So off they went to wash hands and fetch their stools.
We had so much fun sharing in the experience that it turned from feeling “chore-like” to simply enjoying the moment. I grabbed some veggies from the fridge that I thought would be yummy to sauté together and pulled a bag of frozen organic peas from the freezer (simple, but good). My boys then washed the baby kale and bell peppers, sprinkled herbs on the salmon, got a lesson on how to slice a lemon (from my husband), squeezed lemon juice over the fillets (probably their favorite moment), and filled a pot with water for steaming the peas. They watched how I sautéed the veggies and how my husband grilled the fish.
When it was time to sit down and eat I was curious as to what they would eat! They aren’t normally big fans of salmon, and I often will pair our salmon with some shrimp (which they love), but not tonight. Our oldest, was a touch hesitant, but once he put the first bite in his mouth, he was all about it. “This salmon is really good. You should try it,” encouraging his little brother. Our youngest was certainly not sold on the idea, but after his one-bite-requirement (proceeded by words of, “taste all your work you put into dinner”) we caught him gobbling the rest of his portion!
Not only was it fun to have the whole family working together to prepare dinner, it also resulted in a DELICIOUS meal (seriously) that I didn’t expect, and nearly clean plates from our youngest family members. I am a firm believer that your kids will enjoy quality real foods that much more if they have a part in selecting and preparing them. So, next time your family has the opportunity to hang out in the kitchen together, encourage everyone to participate. Start with small jobs for your little ones, and give each person some sense of contribution. Let them choose the seasonings, a veggie to include or something they want to add to the dish. Have fun with it! Remember that you will also be developing self-sufficient cooks in the process:-) Build your children’s confidence in the kitchen and I think they will be more likely to cook for themselves in the future.