While my husband gets to take the reins on music theory and culture, I am in command of life skills development for my daughter. Food, meal planning and house organization – this is my wheelhouse. Our daughter’s chores include laundry (i.e. folding towels and her clothes), unloading the dishwasher and making her bed. She wakes up to her own alarm clock and can run a vacuum cleaner – we’re still working on using a broom!
In my newest attempt at life skills development, I introduced “Manners Monday” to the Stewart household a few weeks ago. This means every Monday night at dinner we practice our best, polished table manners and act as though the queen could stop by at any moment. My daughter is learning the basics of setting a table along with important manners like placing your napkin in your lap, waiting your turn to talk, not talking with your mouth full, chewing with your mouth closed, keeping your elbows off the table and complimenting the meal.
I’ve also shared with her a few of my tricks for remembering where items are placed on the table. Did you know these?
- Fork has four letters, and so does the word left, so the fork always go on the left side of the plate.
- Spoon and knife have five letters and so does the word right, so those two are always placed to the right of the plate.
How about this one?
- If you make a “b” and “d” with your fingers, the “b” on your left hand is a reminder that the bread plate goes to the left and the “d” on your right hand reminds you that the drink goes to the right!
Since my daughter is just as competitive as her father, we’ve started keeping score of our Monday table game and guess who’s winning? Hint: not my husband.
All that said, the life skills list continues to grow. From table manners to cooking, she is at the perfect age to help in the kitchen. Her favorite ways to help right now include baking, measuring out ingredients, washing and chopping vegetables, cooking pasta and cracking eggs!
- Start early. The sooner kids can help in the kitchen, the sooner you can have help with dinner! There are plenty of small jobs for kids as young as two to five years old.
- Let kids choose a recipe. Whether it’s a family recipe, a new recipe you found online or from a cookbook, let them choose something they like and want to help make.
- Ask your children if they want to help. This seems obvious but sometimes if my daughter is playing or watching TV, all it takes is me slowing down and asking, “Hey, do you want to crack these eggs, or do you want to help me cut these veggies?”, and usually I get a very enthusiastic “Sure, mom!”.
- Make it fun. This could mean getting matching aprons for you and your little one or putting a pen and notepad in their hands and having them take everyone’s drink order like a server at a restaurant.
- Put them in charge. Allowing your kids freedom to oversee something may be all it takes to get them more involved. This will look different depending on your children’s ages. For teens it could mean they plan and cook one meal a week all by themselves (or at least with minimal supervision). While it may mean choosing a set day to help for smaller kids or a set dinner chore that fits with their age.
Smaller hands in the kitchen could sometimes mean more messes and mistakes. Remember to give your kids grace and give yourself some grace, too, if these don’t work in your family and focus on the things that do work.