I used to invite give myself a serious mental coaching before I invited the kids in the kitchen for a kids cooking session: be patient, don’t think about the mess, stay calm, count to ten before giving instructions, breathe deeply, smile, resist the temptation to join in and do the cookie cutting for them (you’ll end up doing it all too perfect and too fast and the kids will be frustrated).
Many times, that mental coaching didn’t really work, I ended up snatching their cookie cutters and do it all myself, rushing and buzzing around them with a cleaning cloth. The kids would sulk. The cookies turned out just like the ones on the TV adverts!!
Well, life is not a TV advert. Kids aren’t that smiley, clean, smart and funny. On the contrary, they are clumsy and mucky and their jokes aren’t funny, yet they keep going on and on, knocking knocking and asking who’s there- in their desperate need for attention.
On those occasions when do manage to keep it together and even have fun, whatever we’re cooking turns out as a dog’s dinner, the kitchen a mess but the kids and I happy. We don’t have a dog, but the kids will eat most of the cookies anyway, regardless of how uncooked in the middle or burned on the edges, or crumbled they are. They eat them because they made them like that and they gave them names like fatty or skinny, brownie or pinky and because they innately know that life’s not perfect, they’re not perfect, nobody’s perfect but we love each other anyway however fat, skinny, messy or clumsy we are. My kids taught me tolerance, how to chill and let it go. They even laughed their heads off once when I simply lost it in the kitchen and I started punching some ginger bread men who got stuck on the chopping board. I ended up laughing with them, first because of the accumulated tension, and then simply because I found the situation hilarious.
That day, I realized that cooking with kids doesn’t have to be boring and frustrating and doesn’t need mental coaching …( but a glass of wine handy helps) It just needs to FOCUS on the right things. I stopped thinking about the end result. I don’t want results anymore. I want quality time spent with my kids. I want to laugh myself silly at their knock knock made up jokes. And guess what: I am cooking a lot more with my kids lately. And I am having fun. There is no secret to it but
- – Time: I know most of us can bake a delicious and fetching tray of shortbread fingers in less than half an hour and have the kitchen clean by the end of it. With kids give yourself at least an hour and a half.
- – Glass of wine – for getting in the mood.
- – Bowl full of Chocolate chips – not necessarily for the cookies,
- – Loud Music – so the voices can get louder and everybody can get carried away
- – The baking ingredients – these should be already weighed and placed handy in plastic bowls.
- – Positive attitude and living the moment
- – Focus on the fun: are the voices loud enough; are there enough flour clouds in the kitchen; do the kids have batter mustaches, are their teeth covered with chocolate?
- – Tip: Do not use your cookie cutters perfectly! Try and make many silly mistakes: Let the head of the gingerbread man fall off and stick a leg on it instead. This will urge your kids to show you how it’s properly done!!! – and only then you’ll see perfection, who knows you might even get a perfect cookie out of the oven – but don’t expect it. Expectations can lead to disappointment
- – Do not clean! Let the kids do it in their own messy way and praise them for it.-
- Praise them, smile and while you’re at it, try and see beyond the dirty faces, silly jokes, clumsiness. Try and see the wonderful little beings they are and the confident persons they are becoming thanks to your hour and a half spent with them in the kitchen, working undercover on teaching them important emotional and social skills. Because nobody said the kids should know how to cook or clean. They should learn how to be confident and tolerant to their and other’s faults and relate with others in a happy friendly manner. And have fun