This past school year we started giving our daughters (5th and 7th grade, at the time) a weekly allowance and decided to include “cooking dinner” as one of their chores. They already helped with things like emptying the dishwasher and putting away laundry, and I really didn’t want to make those basic requirements paying jobs. Those tasks are simply part of their contribution to the family (and getting to live here)!
So, when our girls started asking for a paid allowance, we knew we had to come up with some chores that were above and beyond the norm. That’s when we decided to reinstate dinner duty (among other things), except with a little more consistency this time around. We dabbled in having them cook dinner a few years before (3rd/4th grade time frame), but now they’re old enough to really handle the task almost all on their own.
Cooking Dinner as Part of an Allowance
Once a week each daughter, on her assigned night without conflicting sports or activities, picks a recipe and makes it from start to finish. The week before they have to tell me what they want to make (my rule is that it has to be a “complete” meal, not just burgers or a main dish), and I’ll provide the groceries. The other daughter is then on dinner clean up duty that particular evening…also part of their allowance (and my brilliant plan to give my husband and me a break, LOL)!
I think it’s so important to teach kids life skills, such as cooking, so it’s not such a shock to them when they grow up and move out! And also so they know how to take care of themselves and stay healthy. Plus, I love how kids are often not as scared of failure as some adults, so they’ll sometimes be rather ambitious with their recipe choices. So far my kids have chosen to make everything from miso soup to veal chops (things I don’t even cook myself!) to more regular standards such as quiche and lasagna. I’m always super impressed when they tell me they want to make something challenging and do my best to keep a straight face as not to discourage them!
So far the recipe “fails” have been few and far between, which in my opinion, is a lesson in and of itself. I often learn just as much from failures as successes so it’s all in good fun!
Never Too Late To Start!
With kids off from school for the summer, I think this is a great time to give your middle (or high) schooler some serious empowerment and start having them make dinners for your family. If they’re new to the kitchen they’ll likely need some guidance in the beginning, but just think where this could take you by the end of summer! :)
Our friends over at Kitchen Stewardship created an online video eCourse that teaches kids of all ages to be confident in the kitchen. Created by a former teacher and mom of four, the eCourse offers a curriculum that can be done at any time (hello summer or even winter break!) at their own pace. They’ll learn 30 basic cooking skills, build self-esteem and (bonus!!) be able to help out in the kitchen! Take a look at their program, which we are fans of and highly recommend.
You never know what surprises might be in store with someone else in charge of dinner. To get you off on the right foot, here are 10 easy dinners kids can make.
10 Easy Dinners Kids Can Make
- Easy Tamale Pie
- Weeknight Chicken Curry Bowls
- Slow Cooker Green Salsa Chicken
- Ricotta and Kale Quiche
- Greek Chicken Lemonato
- Shortcut Chicken Pot Pie
- Pesto Salmon Sheet Pan Dinner
- Semi-Homemade Spaghetti Sauce (+ a salad)
- Swedish Meatballs
- Fish and Potato Chowder
Does your middle (or high) schooler already cook dinner for you and have some go-to favorite recipes? If so, please share in the comments! I’d love to hear. :)