On a recent visit, my mom brought me the apron she sewed for me when I was a little girl–white cotton with tiny, primary-colored whales swimming across it. When I saw it, happy memories of being in the kitchen with her came flooding back. But I felt my chest tighten: I’d never have a daughter of my own to wear it.
Then I nearly slapped myself upside the head.
Why couldn’t my sons wear the little apron too? Henry, who is six, loves to bake with me (and Sam, at just two, is perfecting the art of licking frosting off of spoons). I showed the apron to Henry, who jumped around with excitement and exclaimed, “I love whales!”
I also realized that while Henry has baked countless cupcakes with me, I’d never asked him to help cook dinner. That probably has something to do with the fact that evening meal prep is more of an Olympic event for me: keeping three pots going on the stove while pouring milk, refereeing dumptruck disputes, and prying fistfuls of cereal from my hungry toddler’s hands.
Not exactly a great time to teach knife skills to a first grader.
So I made a plan for the weekend, when my husband would be around to keep Sam occupied and away from the kitchen. The first weekend, we made shortcut chicken soup (using a good, store-bought chicken broth as the base). With supervision, Henry sliced carrots, measured out spices, cut up parsley with scissors, and stirred the soup at the stove. The next weekend, we made whole wheat lasagna (he mixed up the cheeses and assembled the layers) and Caesar salad (he chopped the romaine and tossed it).
He also devoured both meals and asked for seconds. Coincidence? Not likely. When kids have some kind of ownership of the meal—whether they help choose ingredients at the store or prepare the food—they’re more likely to actually eat it. We made a point to fuss over how helpful Henry was and how delicious the food tasted.
So now that I’ve successfully handed down my little apron, anyone think that my old dollhouse would make an excellent setting for a Star Wars Lego battle?