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How to Host a "Kids Make Dinner Night"



Nothing is more fun for kids if they think they’re getting away with something, right? Even if you’ve given them the go-ahead to be crazy, there always seems to be this itty bitty part of them looking over their shoulder for your reaction. Sound familiar?

Letting your kids make dinner for a night is a fun way to get them used to the kitchen. The catch is, you really need to let them go all out and have fun with this and make what they want to make. Your meal might be unconventional, but so what?

Find a night when you can let your kids take charge of dinner for a night, menu planning and all. Marshmallows and gummy bears as a main course? One night of it won’t kill you. Here are some tips for how you can make the most of your kids make dinner night:

  • Decide ahead of time what your ground rules are. When we first started this when the kids were small, we allowed them to put anything they wanted on the menu as long as there was a relatively healthy entrée served. I think our first Kids Make Dinner meal was spaghetti with sauce, M&Ms, marshmallows, gummy bears, and strawberries (and we survived quite fine!).
  •  Have your kids help make the grocery list, have them write it themselves if they can.
  •  Shop for ingredients together and be open to menu changes, additions and swap-outs. Let your kids have fun with it!


Dinner 1


  • Give your kids as much freedom as possible when preparing the meal. Be mindful of potentially dangerous situations – a small child should not drain a boiling pot of pasta for example – but do let them do as much as possible. If there are parts of the preparation you feel you need to do for safety reasons, let your kids know ahead of time rather than jumping in and taking over on the spot.
  • Stay nearby for support but as much out of the way as you can. Busy yourself at the table reading the paper or a magazine so you can keep one ear out for trouble but the other ear out for the laughter and cooperation going on.
  • Promise to take care of the clean up. Even if it’s normally the kids’ job to help with dishes, take over their chores for the night. Reward their hard work with a night off!


Dinner 2


  • Enjoy what served to you, regardless of how unbalanced a meal it may be. If your kids enjoyed preparing it (and who wouldn’t mind dishing up M&Ms for dinner?) and everyone enjoys eating it, they’ll be more likely to want to do it again. Assuming you usually have the basics of nutrition covered, over time they’ll adjust their menus to be more in line with what you typically serve. You can always add some additional ground rules along the way if you need them, but try to give them as much freedom as you can the first few times they cook for you.
  • And most importantly, relax and enjoy the change of pace and don't forget to thank your kids for the night off!


Silent Sunday

Growing Healthy Eaters: A Series on Cultivating Kids’ Interest in Good Food, Part 4