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Peeling garlic – tedious for me, best thing ever for my daughter

The other night, my 5 year old daughter told me that peeling garlic cloves was her “favorite thing.” Do I remember showing her how to peel a garlic clove or the fact that we had done this before? No. But this is apparently great fun for her. We have one of those rubber cylinders that you put the individual cloves in and roll back and forth on the counter so the clove slips out, skinless. Boring for me, fun for my daughter. Just one example of the ways kids can help – and have fun in the kitchen.

Here are some other “boring” tasks my kids enjoy:

Cracking eggs! My 3 year old son has just mastered this – mastered being he doesn’t just either crush the egg in his hand or have equal amounts egg and shell end up in the bowl. My three kids actually squabble over this job if we are making something with only two eggs.

Measuring and pouring in ingredients for baking/cooking – especially chocolate chips (they are of the “one for me, one for the cookies” line of thinking)

Stirring – and remembering to hold the bowl with the other hand

Spreading with a spatula or butter knife – peanut butter, pizza sauce, cream cheese, butter, mayo, etc.

Pounding chicken with a mallet between sheets of plastic wrap or in a freezer bag for chicken cutlets. This is quite loud and quite empowering for the pounder!

Turning the mixer on and off – this actually takes some finesse as far as not putting the appliance on too high a speed and avoiding dry ingredients from flying out

Dishes – soap, warm water – what’s not to like? Although our kids have been banned from dish duty as so much water was landing on the floor that the flooring starting to warp – yes, I could have put down some kind of splash mat but I’m not that organized.

Another positive aspect of your kids lending a hand while you cook is that – gasp – they may actually learn something  – i.e., math – while they help. A lot of cooking and preparing recipes is math at work. The other day I was talking to myself (so I thought) and was doubling a recipe and muttering “Now what’s three fourths and three fourths?” My older daughter chimed in from the couch where I thought she was in Hannah Montana land – “Six fourths.” That didn’t help me much as I was looking for one and one half – but she was listening and thinking. Score one for me. 

Another example was when I came downstairs this morning – day after Halloween – and entered the living room to see my three children on the floor with their Halloween candy meticulously laid out in front of them, categorized by candy bar type. My seven year old daughter had actually made a graph of her candy by type and amount. Halloween candy – it’s not just for gorging any more. Another example of the wonderful world of food as a learning tool.

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Rachael Ray