Kids in the kitchen at Thanksgiving–sounds like a recipe for disaster, doesn’t it? Visions of eggs on the floor and stuffing on the ceiling make parents shy away from letting little ones cook. If you’re juggling dinner preparations and childcare, enlisting youngsters’ help is the perfect solution, though. It’s also the best way to keep them corralled. If you’re up to your elbows in cranberries and children, here are jobs kids can do successfully.
* Butter Maker: We’ve observed the time-honored tradition of making butter with our four kids since our first was born 24 years ago. The task has always been the prerogative of the youngest child. Lacking a churn and dash, we shake up a batch in a clean, sealed, quart-size glass jar. Add 1-2 cup cartons of whipping cream and close lid tightly. Shake vigorously until butter separates from whey (milky liquid). Mixture will get very thick before this step, but butter isn’t done until it floats. Butter may be rinsed and squeezed through cheesecloth but it’s not necessary. Just add a little salt and soften for an hour before serving so butter will spread. Butter-making is a great early Americana lesson plan for home school social studies lessons. When I homeschooled, I found a colonial American rhyme kids used to say when making butter: “Little Johnny at the gate, waiting for a butter cake. Come, butter, come.”
* Vegetable and fruit peeler: Children as young as two can be taught to safely use a vegetable peeler. Put the baby in her high chair so you can supervise. Give her a peeler with an enclosed blade. Kids can peel sweet potatoes and white potatoes. Celery should also be peeled. This removes the strings that can cause choking. Kids can peel apples for pie, too. My mom could peel an entire apple in one single piece. That was always my kids’ ambition–to peel apples like Grandma did.
* Potato masher. I despise mashing potatoes. I always feel like I’ve been mashed and beaten when I’m done. But kids love this job. In my family, they fight over the task. Got several kids to put to work? Separate potatoes in several bowls, distribute potato mashers and let them have at it. This is a great job for energetic toddlers. Never was a potato mashed so thoroughly.
When cooking with kids, be sure to call them by their official titles; it makes jobs seem like important functions, not just boring chores. With several kids out of the house, I miss my young assistants. We made some special Thanksgiving memories working together.