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How can my children help with dinner?

Right before dinnertime, kids tend to get overexcited. They’ve rested up after school, finished their homework, and perhaps are anxious for a parent to arrive home from work. This is a great time to have your kids help with preparing the meal. Even toddlers can be given a job to do -- something as simple as putting napkins on the table. Older kids can stir the sauce or, with supervision, chop vegetables. Teenagers who like to cook can be assigned one night a week to fix a meal for the entire family.

Make sure the task is age-appropriate (no sharp utensils for little ones). Thank them for their efforts and overlook the less-than-perfect. Who cares if a recipe didn’t turn out exactly as planned, or a little milk is spilled in the pouring? Keep the goal in mind: enjoyment and healthy habits.

Kids can:

  • Tear lettuce up for a salad
  • Mash yams or potatoes for, as my kids say, smashed potatoes
  • Snap green beans and pea pods
  • Shuck corn on the cob
  • Assemble lasagna, sandwiches, and salads
  • Read recipes and ingredients aloud to you (a great way to improve their reading skills)
  • Measure dry and wet ingredients (sneak in a little math while they’re at it)
  • Decorate the table -- paper placemats and crayons are all they need
  • And finally, do the dishes (but don’t expect that to be done without a little resistance)

From Good Kids, Bad Habits: The RealAge Guide to Raising Healthy Children by Jennifer Trachtenberg.

Good Kids, Bad Habits: The RealAge Guide to Raising Healthy Children

More About this Book

Good Kids, Bad Habits: The RealAge Guide to Raising Healthy Children

When kids start going on TV binges or devouring fistfuls of cookies, it's easy to say, "They'll grow out of it." More likely, they're acquiring bad habits that could lead to childhood obesity and...
Charles J. Sophy, MD
Adolescent Medicine
Your children can help with dinner by being initially designated with some fun responsibilities, a little at a time, until self-internalization of the responsibilities takes over. Setting the table, pouring the drinks or helping cook can be great ways to start!

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.