They will love learning about the process, plus they will be proud contributors to the event…and you will have less work. Here’s to happy hosting!
The Right Tools Make the Difference
Ready, set, peel: Fall is here, which means root vegetables galore! While they may bring some fresh, fall flavor, they also bring an extra set of skin that needs peeling before cooking. Try giving your kids a Y-peeler, which is easy to use (you might prefer it, too!). If you’re making mashed potatoes or a sweet potato dish, give them a pile of potatoes to peel. If you’re making apple pie, let them peel the apples.
Diced, sliced, and chopped – Cutting 101: Invest in some kid-friendly kitchen knives so your kids can help with the chopping. Make sure you set them up for success: Stabilize a cutting board by either putting down a grip pad or a kitchen towel and place it on a table low or high enough that they can approach the food from the right angle. Start with easy tasks like chopping or crushing nuts or garlic with a rubber mallet or cutting softer veggies like bell peppers and cucumbers.
Explain the basics of using a cutting board correctly: Keep the center of the board clear by placing scraps and the finished product in bowls. Show them how to make a claw with their fingertips to avoid cutting them. Preschool-age kids can tear herbs, scrub veggies or slice soft foods like pears with a plastic knife.
Make an Assembly Line
Line them up and start loading! Have two to three stations in a line with ingredients in a bowl. For pizza, the dough can pass from one station to the next – marinara, veggie toppings and cheese. For more formal affairs, kids can help fill sweet and savory tarts, or lend a hand with plating or garnishing. Kids can also help form cookies or falafel balls – they will love getting their hands in the dough! Don’t underestimate your kids’ skills and learning capacity, and do publicly appreciate their contributions to the meal.
Table clearing & dish duty: Are the dishes already piling up before finishing appetizers? Eliminate some of the stress by having your kids clear finished plates and unclaimed glasses left out in the open. They can discard plastics and paper in the recycling and place dirty dishes in a sink filled with hot water. You’ll actually be saving water and scrub time with this pre-scrub soak.
Enlist your kids in dish duty and let the bubbles reign for their entertainment. After helping you, your kids may even be a little bit more likely to understand and appreciate their role and enjoy being around clean kitchen bliss Mommy — at least one can wish!
Dining Room Ready
Fancy place cards: Using place cards creates a fun art project for the kids and helps balance out the personalities of certain guests. Pull out those unused stickers collecting dust and some markers, colored pencils and stencils. The place cards may not come out “perfect,” but your guests will appreciate the handmade, family touch.
Left, right, and centered – table setting: Of course, we can all remember a time when our parents asked us to set the table, and the request may have been met with limited enthusiasm. Help your kids understand that setting the table is an essential part of setting the stage for a relaxing and pleasant meal together. Describe the menu and let them figure out what kinds of dishes and utensils will be needed. This is a great opportunity to teach table manners and proper utensil settings (forks on left, knife and spoon on the right). Setting the table can actually be something kids take pride in (especially if they’ve been involved in one of the “fun” activities listed above).
The final countdown – prep & clean up: Here it is again! No, it doesn’t have to be drudgery or an undesirable chore. Do you have silver you want to use for a special occasion? Let your kids polish it and delight in its new luster. Are you planning a more informal gathering, but your living room is a mess because your kids’ toys are everywhere? Ask them: “What they think the guests will think of our home? Is it messy or neat?” “How do feel when you go to a tidy home versus a messy one?”
With a little stress lifted, a tidy house and dinner plans running smoothly thanks to your little helpers, you’re ready for a happy holiday season!