Kids spending time in the kitchen is an important part of life, because they need to be familiar with the basics of preparing food. But it’s also important for their survival.
Recently in the news, I saw a story of a 3 year old who survived for several days after her mother died in the home by raiding the fridge.
Now, I don’t like to think about that, but I do feel better that if something was to happen, at least my kids could feed themselves and keep themselves from getting dehydrated.
As far as a prepping survival skill, kids need to know how to cook. How to get around the kitchen. How to meet their most basic needs.
Now, I realize there will probably not be Easy Mac after a few weeks if things get bad, or even a microwave for cooking it, though it is possible to cook things like Easy Mac and Cup O Noodles without a microwave. But, my kids know more about cooking than many kids their ages.
For some reason, sheltering kids from learning to cook (and really, to take care of themselves) seems to be a mainstream way of life.
I mean, I know teenagers who can’t do much more cooking than my 6 year old. They’ve never been in the kitchen to do more than eat. And that’s sad.
Instill a Family Culture of Teamwork and Self-Help
I regularly talk to people who complain to me that they want to get their families, particularly their kids into prepping, but every time they bring it up to them the conversation just sort of fizzles out.
They aren’t interested, they are detached, their minds are elsewhere, you know the drill. The problem seems insurmountable, I can tell they are frustrated, but this story usually plays out the same way every time.
I will ask this prepping parent about what’s going on in their life and their kids’ lives, particularly the interactions with them.
Rarely without fail they tell me about the dozens or hundreds of things they have to do daily for and because of their children to make their lives go.
In short, the parents are living as glorified butlers and fixers for their kids while the kids luxuriate away in cyberspace or involved in trivialities.
No wonder you can’t get your kids interested in prepping or a lifestyle of readiness! It sounds a lot like work to their ears, and it is, but it really isn’t the kids fault.
It is the parents fault for not inculcating a solid family culture of teamwork, and the individual values of self-help and self-reliance.
Sometimes this arises because parents truly, genuinely want their kids to be happy and want to help them.
Other times it arises out of a sense of fear that the children, particularly when they are young, cannot do something right or safely.
Whatever the root cause, it results in utterly dependent, spoiled children who are going to be total liabilities during a crisis, and will be helpless in their own lives later on.
It is in every Prepper’s best interest to avoid this unhappy outcome. So how do we do it?
Your Kids are More Capable than You Think
This boils down to giving your kids objectives. Setting standards. Letting them learn and, when necessary letting them struggle.
I know this sounds like bad medicine to some parents reading in the audience, but the results are undeniable! If you want kids that are able to do things you have to let kids do things on their own!
The best, safest and most productive way to do this is by allowing them to help out around the house.
Like the kitchen story I told to you above, kids want to replicate what they see in adults, particularly their parents whose approval they fervently crave.
They also want to self-actualize and the earlier that they realize they are capable of doing things for themselves, they’ll want to do more.
Use this as a teaching opportunity, telling the children that the family unit is more important than anything else on Earth.
To that purpose, everyone works together, helping each other out but also helping themselves so that other members of the family can focus on important things. This is highly rewarding and easy for children to understand.
For your efforts, you’ll be rewarded with happy, healthy and productive children who are more than willing and able to help take care of themselves and other things around the house according to their age.
Chores and Tasks Suitable for Children
Now, where the rubber meets the road is determining and what your child can actually accomplish, what they can attempt to tackle safely and what you can tolerate when it comes to them messing up!
For the smallest of children, attempting to dress themselves or put their toys away is probably the only chore that they can even try.
But children grow more and more capable by the day, and some of them can surprise you. As they get a little bit older, you might be surprised to learn that they can help with the dishes, gather ingredients, set the table or any number of other kitchen related causes.
Elsewhere in the house they might be able to dust, tidy up, feed and water pets and other similar tasks.
In my opinion, once children reach the age of 9 or 10 most will be ready to tackle full-blown chores, including the cleaning of windows, doing dishes on their own, sweeping, mopping and so forth. Standards should be set and enforced.
As children get older, entering their preteen and teenage years the complexity and intricacy of the tasks can increase.
At no point should adults be whipping up snacks or other meals for the children except at pre-planned family meal times. It is not out of the question to expect teenagers to prepare dinner for the family periodically.
This is also a good age to get them well and truly involved in prepping and personal readiness fundamentals.
They can help with inventory and rotating goods, going over checklists, stockpiling gear and other supplies and taking care of all the other ceaseless chores that are attendant with the lifestyle.
Consider the following lists as a guideline for starting your kids off helping in the kitchen and around the house:
Youngest Children, 3-6 years:
- Set the Table
- Fill glasses
- Clear the Table
- Fetch Glasses
- Tidy up spills
- Wash and Clean fruits/veggies
- Pickup and Put away Toys
- Make simple dishes
- Fetch/prep ingredients
- Carry in groceries, put them away
- Wash dishes
- Take out garbage
- Sort laundry
- Clean fixtures
Pre-teens and Teens
- Sweep and mop
- Clean out appliances
- Make dinner for family
- Clean windows
- Most other things adults can do!
As Always, it is Up to the Parent to Make the Call
Now, as I always like to say one size fits all advice rarely does. But in this case I stand by it! However, it is imperative that any good parent know, really know, their child, and what they are capable of as well as their limitations.
You don’t want them to outrun their headlights, and you shouldn’t let them do anything truly dangerous when they are unable to follow your instructions to the letter or comprehend what is really at stake.
That being said, a little bit of danger is good for children, and something as simple as frying an egg over low heat is a high value, high reward proposition with minimal risk.
On the other hand, anything where they might have to deal with dangerous chemicals or implements or could potentially set someone else in the family up for failure if they make a mistake should be supervised.
At least, it should be supervised until you are well and truly sure that the child is competent.
Also, while it is good to set expectations and indeed put a little bit of pressure on your kids so they can perform, if a task is delicate or time sensitive you might not want to risk it!
Better to do it yourself and ensure that it is done on time, allowing your kids to stretch their legs a little bit when the timetable is not in jeopardy of being compromised.
Helping in the Kitchen will Help Prepare Your Kids for Life
So, get your kids in the kitchen. With the holidays rapidly approaching, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to get your kids familiar with measuring cups and mixing bowls.
Let them taste the difference between sugar and flour.
My kids are looking forward to making their contribution to Thanksgiving Dinner: turkeys made from cookies, Rice Krispie treats, and candy corn. My son is awaiting the day I tell him it’s time to make Christmas cookies.
My daughter will probably count more eggs and lick more bowls than I will this year. And that’s the way I like it.