Getting a meal on the table is sometimes hard enough—it can be even harder when your kids want to pitch in. But for me, the drawbacks of a slower prep time and messier cleanup take second place compared to the incredible benefit. 

By Melanie Mannarino
June 14, 2018
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“Mom, I think we need some more Mommy-Connor cooking time,” my 9-year-old son tells me as he brushes his teeth one night. Hearing those words is better than hearing him say "I love you.” I love cooking and baking, and am so happy that it’s rubbed off—even a bit—on my son. 

It’s not that I think he’s going to be a chef (he’s still far more interested in playing computer games or jumping on the trampoline than getting in the kitchen), or even that I could use an extra set of hands (tbh, I prefer to work alone). It’s that every time he offers to stir, slice, or mix something I’m making, he is that much more likely to eat it once it’s ready. 

Cooking in the kitchen gets my son interested in trying new foods and flavors, in a way that nothing else does. 

Baking snickers cake (an original recipe by demand). 🍰

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He’s a pasta-and-marinara kid, but when I pull out the spiralizer to make zoodles, he starts working the crank and suddenly wants to know what the zucchini spirals taste like raw. Sure, I’ve got to clean the floor when he’s done (zucchini scraps everywhere!), but the kid willingly taste-tested the vegetable before and after cooking—something I’d never get him to do if I set it down in front of him and demanded it. 

He claims to hate granola, but when I whip up a homemade batch, he asks to measure out the vanilla—and then can’t wait for it to come out of the oven for a taste. And when it turns out he doesn’t like my recipe (though I love it!), we browse the internet for one that appeals to us both. 

As I dip a measuring spoon into a jar of capers for a Mediterranean shrimp bake, he peers into the jar and asks what they are. As I explain where they come from and what they bring to a dish, I let him try a few—and, liking the way they taste, he is eager to try the finished result at the table later on. 

And then there are the times his cooking creativity kicks in—those Mommy-Connor cooking times he enjoys. Once he wanted to make a Snickers cake, describing it to me in great detail. Layers, filling, topping—he had it all planned out in his head, and it was unlike any existing recipe I could find. So I listened closely, then helped him make his vision a reality. This time around, he wants to make “egg bread”—no, not French Toast, he explained, but a piece of bread fully surrounded by a fluffy scrambled egg. Experience tells me this might be a tough one to bring to life, but with my son at my side, interested and engaged, I’m sure as heck going to try.