It’s halfway through October, and the dust of a new school year is starting to settle. As parents, we’re busy adjusting our schedules with an influx of homework, sports, and extracurricular activities. Trying to manage it all can be stressful, and meal-planning is just one more thing to worry about.

As it turns out, it’s a common struggle getting the family to the table these days. According to a survey by Loblaws and the President’s Choice team, 42 per cent of British Columbians said they ate more dinners as a family growing up than their kids eat with them.

Besides that, there’s the challenge of preparing meals that are nutritious and creative without needing hours make them. The same study showed that although 77 per cent of parents would rather pack a homemade lunch than have their child purchase one at school, 41 per cent of parents find that their children bring home uneaten lunch items.

kids in the kitchenA great way to save time and produce some kid-friendly fare is to get your kids involved!

Tips to get your kids helping in the kitchen

1. On your grocery trip, divide the list up and let your older kids conquer a section to save time. As a reward for finding all the items, let them pick one treat to take home.

2. When preparing lunches, have your kids wash the fruits and vegetables. Older kids can also do the peeling, grating and slicing. (Grating is one of the skills that Montessori preschools begin at age 3 or 4!)

3. Buy some small, child-sized items for meal prep such as tongs, spatulas, etc. Kids will feel more included and excited if they have their very own cooking utensils! Remember, too, that kids are operating from different sight-lines in the kitchen. It looks like a GIANT’s kitchen to them. Small tables and chairs or ways to raise them safely to counter height will help them feel less intimidated.

4. Let your kids set the table for dinner – include placemats, napkins (we love Funkins!), cutlery, glasses and plates. To get creative, have them fold napkins into different shapes or create name cards. This is also a great opportunity to work on table manners.

If you have more than one child, split the family into prep and clean-up teams for dinner. Have half the family work together to make the meal, and the other half is tasked with clean-up. Rotate which days based on your family’s schedule.

Let your kids pick their lunch snacks from a selection of healthy options – they will be more likely to eat it if they chose it themselves.

For those of you feeling the school-time slump, there is a way out. These are a few of my favourite, easy-to-prepare meals that always have my kids asking for seconds and thirds.

  1. Fresh and Simple Portuguese Salad
  2. Gluten-Free Tortellini with Fresh Tomato Herb Sauce
  3. Harissa Cauliflower Steaks

Kitchen skills are essential to raising a well-rounded, self-reliant citizen. Do you have other ideas for ways to weave your kids into meal preparation? We’d love to add them!