Yes, kids can help in the kitchen

Toddlers want to help. Often they can only use plastic toys as my Pennsylvania toddler did. She filled her arms with leaves to place in her plastic wheelbarrow to carry to her dad’s leaf pile.

Last week, Katie, 2, begged, “Can I help?” Her mom handed her a cutting board, a paring knife, and a sliced apple, then took her picture for Facebook.

“We start them out early,” I commented.

“She was VERY eager to try this out. She did a great job! She cut up a whole apple into bite-sized pieces. No blood. No cuts, Just one proud little girl!” her mom responded.

Katie began helping last year. I snapped a picture of her carefully emptying a can of green beans into a glass dish before going to play. My daughter blames me for her cavalier attitude.

Guilty as charged. Years ago the father of seven and I were talking in the kitchen while I cut up food. His toddler joined us and wanted to help. I gave her a knife and food. She chopped confidently. Her momma came to the kitchen, saw her daughter, did a double take and gasped. The child blithely kept slicing food as Daddy watched.

I blame it on the caption under a picture caption of an Alaskan native child using a knife explaining that the culture believes reincarnation means children are born knowing how to handle a knife.

So of course, Katie chopped up an apple.

Actually, for centuries children have done more, much more. My brothers and cousins learned to drive a tractor long before the law allowed them to drive a car. The day they passed their written test, they drove home. I read books or fixed meals during hay season and skipped tractor driving. My dad did not realize it until I passed my written test and he motioned me to take the wheel, “Let’s go home.”

I looked at the clutch, the brake, the accelerator and the manual transmission. I looked at him. “What do I do first?”

He drove home. I learned to drive a manual transmission on steep farm hills before I drove back to town. I still would rather read than drive.

I missed early driving lessons, but I began sewing at 4. Mom gave me a large threaded needled, a handkerchief and said, “sew around the edge.”

I bent over my work and made looping stitches the along the edge until I ran out of thread. So, of course, I frequently offer a threaded needle, fabric and buttons to children, grandchildren and church kids. I know they will be okay, and their stitching skills will improve with practice.

I have only shocked a few adults with my blatant assumption – as my daughter did when she posted her picture of Katie earnestly bending over the knife. So young! Sharon shrugged it off, “She wanted to try when she saw her big sisters and brother (12, 9, 7) helping.”

Sharon will expect her to help prepare other meals. Just as I did when her friends visited. I did not realize they did not even know how to make Ramen noodles. They did after they met me.

I insisted all my children help when we lived too far away to join family for Thanksgiving. I assigned a dish to each child, “You make pumpkin pie. You have nut bread. You fix a salad. And, you stuff the bird.” My son is now boss of the bird.

From toddler to adult, every new skill gained increases their self-confidence and it begins when we find a way to let them help.

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