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8 Reasons Why “Dinner Helper” Belongs on Every Chore Chart

My favorite “payable” of all time has got to be a job we’ve titled “dinner helper.” (Check out this blog post, or our book if the word “payable” is throwing you for a loop.) I’ve mentioned before that we consider some life skills to be payables–including (but not limited to) anything that goes down in the kitchen!

“Dinner helper” is the eventual catch-all chore for many, if not all of the skills that fall under the “Feed Myself” category on our “I Can” lists. When my kids choose the “dinner helper” payable as one of their chores for the month, it simply means they have one night each week in which they work side-by-side me in the kitchen prepping, cooking, and serving dinner.

If you’re already cooking with your kids, go you–here are eight reasons why you should keep up the good work. If you haven’t taken on this adventure yet, here are eight reasons why you might want to consider it. Ready, set go…

1. Kids get ample practice doing all kinds of kitchen skills listed on our “I Can” lists–chopping, stirring, dicing, peeling, adding ingredients, etc.–that they’ll one day have to know for themselves. Well, only if they plan on eating, that is. Practicing these important life skills may not make perfect, but it will make for some serious confidence gains.

2. They get comfy using all kinds of kitchen appliances–blender, oven, microwave, stove top–that again, they’ll one day have to know how to use for themselves. Do I need to mention again that self-assurance usually results from knowing how to do grown-up things and take care of oneself? No? Good. I’ll save my breath then.

3. They experience first-hand how much stinking work it is to get dinner on the table every night, so their appreciation grows for your usual “unseen” efforts to keep your family’s bellies full.

4. They’re much more willing to try foods they’ve spent time preparing. (I recently had my eight-year-old load up his plate with roasted cauliflower while exclaiming, “It’s gotta be good ’cause I made it!” Apparently it was much better than when I make it, because he ate every last bite. Stinker.)

5. Kids discover it hurts to work their tails off making dinner only to have someone turn their nose up at it. This kind of experience encourages empathy and they become far less likely to come to the table with defeated body language or groans of dread when, heaven forbid, you serve them something other than Lucky Charms for dinner.

6. When they get particularly confident wielding kitchen utensils and managing kitchen appliances, they can cook simple dinners for your family all by themselves. They, in turn, feel like “the bomb” for doing something so big and important–major confidence booster.

7. When your kids can do #6, you benefit by getting a night off of dinner-making. Glorious, isn’t it?

8. And finally, working side-by-side one child at a time in the kitchen gives you a few moments to educate them on healthy food choices, discuss safe meat-handling rules (so exciting, haha), or most importantly, talk about their day and spend some meaningful time together.

And a bonus just because I’m feeling it:  When you have a  “dinner helper,” you can totally blame them for over-cooked meat, burned rolls, or whatever other mishap occurs on your account! I’m kidding. Kind of.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are some nights when I realize I have a “dinner helper” (which can sometimes be a “dinner messer-upper”) and I have to force a smile. Yes, it takes a little longer to get dinner on the table. Yes, there are usually more spills and therefore bigger messes. And yes, there are even occasional broken dishes and ruined meals when they mistake a teaspoon of salt for a tablespoon. Yum. But I have to breathe deeply and remind myself that I’m not after the perfect meal. If I was, I would have ordered in! No, I’m after all the amazing things–growth of kitchen skills, confidence, empathy, and appreciation–that result from the process.

In short, I heartily recommend you do whatever you can to sway your children into wanting “dinner helper” on their chore list most, if not every month. Here’s to the “dinner helper” chore!

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