Families are spending more time at home than ever before. Stay-at-home guidelines have led many parents to expand their culinary horizons, and time in the kitchen can be made more enjoyable by getting the whole family involved.
As stay-at-home measures continued throughout spring, boredom was a common complaint among people of all ages. Families sticking out social distancing together can confront that boredom by working together to prepare delicious, homecooked meals. The following are some simple ways to get the whole family involved when the time comes to get dinner on the table.
• Include young children. Younger children may not be able to cut, dice or chop, but that does not mean they can’t participate in nightly cooking sessions. Kids can stir, pour and, perhaps most importantly, shake. The Extension Nutrition Education Program at Purdue University notes that helping to prepare food can help children feel like they’re part of the family and even encourage them to make healthy choices. Each of those things can benefit children in the short- and long-term. Older kids can take on more responsibility when preparing meals, and teenagers can even tackle entire meals on their own if they so prefer.
• Rotate the responsibility for choosing dishes. The family chef may be accustomed to choosing meals. But with stay-at-home measures in place and restrictions only slowly lifting, sharing that responsibility can be a great way to make everyone more excited about mealtime. Parents can still choose the majority of meals, but let kids choose one or two meals per week. To prevent kids from always opting for less healthy fare like macaroni and cheese or pizza, establish certain rules. For example, note that each meal must include at least one fruit or vegetable, relaxing these rules as you see fit. This is a great way to teach kids about nutrition while also showing them how less nutritious fare like pizza can be made healthier by replacing toppings like pepperoni with freshly cut vegetables.
• Expand your operation. In-person baking sessions with grandparents and large Sunday dinners with extended family members may not be possible in the era of social distancing. However, such traditions need not be abandoned entirely. Utilize video conferencing apps like Zoom to prepare foods together, with each family member whipping up their own meal or dessert. Items can then safely be dropped off at each other’s homes. Go the extra mile by keeping the video conference going as everyone sits down to indulge in a tasty meal.