Raising Independent Kids In The Kitchen

Today’s post is a follow up to yesterday’s on meal planning.

As I grocery shop each week, I try to pick things for lunch that Theo can either make himself, or help with a little assistance from me. It’s important to me to have my kids help in the kitchen with both cooking and baking. It usually slows things down a bit and makes things a lot messier, but it’s worth it.

I want to raise independent kids in all aspects of life, including the kitchen. This means:

-I teach them how to follow instructions. Ask Theo and he will tell you, the number one rule in the kitchen is “wait for instructions.”
-I include the kids in the scooping, measuring, stirring, etc.
-I give the boys some freedom to pick foods out that they want to eat, then let them get those things themselves. In the top photo, Theo told me what he wanted for a snack, including the tea, and I told him I’d make the tea if he got the snacks out.
-The kids are responsible to help with clean up.

For lunch, Theo can make PB&J sandwiches, dish out yogurt, pour snacks in bowels, put together english muffin pizzas, and spread frozen fries or nuggets on a tray. He is also able to help me stir any veggies I might be heating up. I take care of anything in the oven.

Theo also is responsible for putting lunch on the plates, getting his and Oliver’s water bottles from the fridge, and carrying everything over to the table. I ask that he serve his brother first, to foster a giving spirit and an attitude of kindness in general, but especially towards his brother, Heaven help us.

I ask that both the boys take their plates to the counter and throw away any trash.

Although I’m encouraging a lot of independence, the boys’ freedom is certainly within boundaries. For example, I have a fairly hard and fast rule about eating at the table. The kids are just too messy to eat anywhere else. On special occasions we let them eat popcorn with a movie, but by in large they know to keep their food at either our breakfast nook in the kitchen or at the dining room table. Why do I mention this? Because while it’s important to give kids the space to be independent, it’s equally as important to give them healthy boundaries. The boundaries are what keep everything (and everyone!) safe, healthy, and secure. Independence without boundaries is simply chaos. 


Cleaning up after a spill. (I have a lot of photos like this one 😉 )


Typical hot lunch: chicken nuggets, beets, and hot green beans.


Helping me assemble a veggie lasagna.


Theo enjoys washing the dishes, so I try to capitalize on that excitement to help. I usually have to go back and re-wash everything, but I think it’s worth it.


I love having my kids in the kitchen with me. I love that I’m sharing my passion for cooking and good food with them, all while teaching them some vital life skills. I love instilling in them a sense of capability and accomplishment as they help me cook. And I really love giving them some space (and some grace!) to be independent.

How do you include your kids in the kitchen? Do you give them specific tasks to help with around the house? Write me a comment and let me know!

2 thoughts on “Raising Independent Kids In The Kitchen

  1. Love this. My kids love to help in the kitchen and the garden, which makes for better eaters. They’re more apt to try new things. Although it does make for more messes. Everyone helps around the house, because I teach them that’s what families do.

    1. You make an excellent point that I’ve noticed as well: when my kids help make their own meals, they are more likely to eat! I like that you include your kids in the garden – sounds fun :-).

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