Monday, January 28, 2013

Kitchen Classroom {Mindful Mothering Mondays}


I remember being a young girl and witnessing my Mom in her kitchen.  Mom was the queen of our house, no question about it, and the kitchen was her throne room.  I remember the smells of dinner wafting upstairs in the late afternoon while I lolled with a book, sniffing the air and wondering what magic she was working.

Mom welcomed kids into her kitchen.  She nearly always had a baby on her hip and a toddler sitting on the counter, content to stir at something or other or peel a potato.  Because of this, I got 364 lessons a year in how to cook, yes, but in so much more besides.  By the time I had my own home and my own little band of helpers, I had  a memory bank chock full of the mechanics of it all...and in the important role the kitchen classroom plays in raising little ones.

What could a child possibly learn in a kitchen?  They learn counting, basic math and fractions, safety and direction following.  They learn taking turns and where food comes from.  They learn about patience, hard work and rewards.  They learn about delayed gratification, manners and chemistry.  They grow in confidence and curiosity.  And, of course, they learn about cooking.

All of this, and they don't even realize it's happening.  Yes, the kitchen classroom is a magical place.

My first few years as a mother, I barred children from the kitchen.  In my mind, a kitchen was a place I wanted to be in for the least amount of time possible.  I was there to do a job and move on.  The last thing I needed was little hands making bigger than necessary messes, or making the whole process take three times as long in their desire to do it all "on their own."  As a result, my oldest 2 didn't have much experience in the kitchen until much later.

How times have changed!  My babies are now practically brought up in the kitchen.  From on my back, the babies see the sights and smells first hand.  The toddlers touch everything and "help" as much as I'll let them.  And those bigger kids, why, they can actually do quite a bit.  And the beautiful part of it is that it is nearly effortless.

I am asked quite a bit how I manage it without losing my mind.  "I want to have my kids in the kitchen with me, but every time I do, it is mayhem!"  one mom  confided to me.  So here is a quick list of how I make it work without losing patience - and actually end up enjoying the process.

1) Be Intentional.  {Don't most of my checklists begin this way?  I think they might!} Not every experience in the kitchen is going to be some glowing moment of wonder, but if you adjust your expectations, you will find good things happening everywhere.  Remember that they are kids, remember to breathe, remember why you are doing this.  Not for a pinterest-picture-perfect result, but because you are raising kids and this matters.  Keep that your central focus!

2) Timing is everything.  If you have an hour to bake and frost a cake, now is really not the time to let little ones help.  There are definitely times when I don't let my kids in the kitchen - and a time crunch is one of those times.  Meal planning has allowed me to prepare dinner earlier in the day - usually after lunch.  Without  the need to get it on the table as soon as possible, it's ok if it takes a bit longer or the mess is a bit more of an undertaking to get a handle on.

3) You want it, you make it. Growing up, Mom didn't buy cookies or treats at the store...but if you wanted them, you were always welcome to make them.  She stocked her pantry with plenty of supplies and as preteens my sisters and I would churn out cookies and brownies on a whim.  In our family, we espouse this same principle - if you want it, make it!  As a result, kids are excited to learn new skills and put those skills to the test.  Sure, there are a lot of baked goods hanging around, but I'm not complaining.

4) Set Rules and Stick to them.  Rules include: obey mom (a definite must when hot things are involved!), take turns, no complaining about dinner.  The truth is, kids want to be in the kitchen with you.  Our times in the kitchen are among the smoothest of our day, simply because everyone wants to be there and is willing to follow those rules to ensure they get to stay.

Day after day, we work together in our tiny, warm little kitchen.  I can watch them and know how much they are learning, just here in our kitchen classroom.

{Photo credits: 1 - an apron is a handy thing to have.  2 - Dinah working with my Mama on family dinner in the same kitchen I learned to cook in.  3 - You can have muffins if you make them! 4 - Jonah relishing farmer's market fare. 5 - Fiona and her pie crust.  6 - Jonah loves breaking the yolks!}


{It's Mindful Mothering Mondays, a day to take a deep breath and write out your mothering journey, whatever form it takes. A day to link up for encouragement from others who are in this same phase of life. A day of writing out the trials and triumphs and what you're learning right where you are, right now.

You might post recent struggles or thoughts. Maybe just a picture or a quote. Or maybe you'll just come here and read the links that others post. Whatever form your participation takes, this is a day for you.
We are all in this, together. Together, we can encourage and build one another up, be honest with our shortcomings and strengthened by community to keep fighting the good fight.

I chose Mondays because what Mama doesn't need a little encouragement on a Monday? As such, I'll have the link up ready to go on Sunday night for you to begin submitting your links.

I hope you'll meet with me each Monday! Here's what to do ~

Link up your post below. Remember to put the link to the exact post you want to link, and not just your blog url. Include in your post a link back here so others who want to join in can find us! And visit some other Mamas who have linked up.

Post the community graphic within your post, so people who are reading your Mindful Mothering post can come back here and find the rest of us!

Invite the writers of your favorite blogs to join in!

Share this meme with others on facebook and twitter. This community is for all moms, and the more that participate, the more we will be able to enjoy!!}

Grab the graphic here:

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to future posts.  Thank you.


  1. Oh how I love the time in the kitchen with my little man. He loves being my "kitchen helper" and I love having the "help" :)

  2. I love this post. I find I am always stuck in the rut of scooting my two out of the kitchen so I can get things done quickly and "efficiently". I have lost so much time with them doing this. Now they are older, I am feeling a tug in my heart to involve them more in my kitchen escapades. This post is so inspirational. Bravo to you for doing such a great job! Your children will be so blessed by the decisions you have made.

  3. Our kitchen is tiny so I usually assign someone as the kitchen helper on a particular day. The eight month old sits in his highchair and has bites of things (garlic, bread, frozen vegetables, and whatever else is handy). The oldest two can really cook simple things (they are five and six, so salads, shaping rolls, and stirring things that need to be stirred constantly are often tasks for them). The three year old is still learning to keep his hands to himself, but he does a lot of finding ingredients. Meal planning is such a help as I can have in my mind that "so and so is going to make such and such" I love hearing about how other mothers include their children in this daily task....K

  4. I love having my kids in the kitchen with me(now. I didn't always either) They love to help and I feel they are learning lots of good lessons!

    p.s. I sent you an email a couple days ago. Did you get it? You and I have a lot in common! Glad to have found your blog.

  5. This is so beautiful! My little miss three loves helping in the kitchen, and it encourages her to try new foods and appreciate her food too. I love this link up too x


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