Boredom Buster Monday: Let them make cake!

Usually when my kids are bored, they also claim to be “hungry” and that there’s “nothing to eat.”  This happens….a  lot.  My standard answer to all claims of boredom is suggesting that they weed the eyesore garden in the front or eat an apple, so I’ve heard a lot of fervent whispering after someone mentions the “b” word.  Turns out that my suggestions aren’t popular.  Shocking.

This past week, my oldest M asked me out of the blue if he could bake something with the twins without my “help” (read:  “interference”).  You could have knocked me over with a feather.  I told him that the conditions were: 1) I needed to watch him put it in and take it out of the oven; 2) we had to have all the ingredients here (no going out to the store); and  3) they had to clean the kitchen up afterwards.

They plunged right in.  Since we’ve stored all those cookies away in the freezer, we’ve been pretty much dessert-less, except for strawberries (and oh my word, haven’t the strawberries been particularly delicious this year?).  The kids were hungry for something chocolatey.  They spent a lot of time looking at cookbooks, checking the fridge and pantry for available supplies, and discussing the relative merits of cupcakes v. muffins v. brownies v. cake.

In the end, Brownie Pudding Cake from the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook was the winner.  Delicious.

With such interest in all things culinary, I figured it’s time to involve the kids more in meal planning.  They have always made their own lunches during the summer and sometimes during the school year — but that’s lunch. For dinners, I normally ask everyone if there’s any meal that that they would like to eat during the week right before I head to the grocery store.  The answers are standard:  pizza, “brinner” (aka, breakfast for dinner), and “I don’t know.”

After their success of baking the cake, I told the kids that it’s time to look through the non-dessert recipes to find main course meals that they can prepare.  My plan is for them to plan one dinner menu with a main course and healthy side dishes per week.  They’ve really gotten into it.

This week at our Chez Kid, we’ll be eating:

  • chicken quesadillas (with leftover chicken grilled by S over the weekend) with salsa
  • freshly made guacamole (I’m going to show them that one– love that guac!)
  • cut-up bell peppers, carrots and celery.

I’m hoping that, by letting them invest some time this summer in cooking and menu planning, they will expand their palates (something besides chicken nuggets, please!) and knowledge of creating healthy meals.  We’ll see if it works.  If nothing else, it’ll help alleviate the “I’m bored” and “I’m hungry” complaints this summer!

How do you involve your kids in meal planning?

About thethingaboutjoan

Mom of three who knits a little, bakes a lot, crafts a bit and blogs about it all.
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13 Responses to Boredom Buster Monday: Let them make cake!

  1. Micha says:

    The brownie pudding cake sounds yummy! I love how your oldest wanted to make something with the twins by himself. Last summer I had the kids each choose one night a week to cook dinner. They chose their meal at the beginning of the week before I went shopping and then they prepared it on their night. My cookbooks still have all the little post-it notes sticking out of them. They really loved it and look forward to doing it again this summer. (During the school year it gets to be too much, especially since dinner takes so much longer to prepare with them doing it while I instruct and supervise! haha) They get so proud that they made the meal and like you said are more willing to try new things. It’s interesting to see who chooses what to cook. If my kids EVER get out of school, we will be starting it up again very soon! (We had another teacher’s strike – 2nd one of this year – and they have school until the 27th to make up for the lost days. Grrrr….I digress….) Enjoy the quesadillas and the bonding time in the kitchen!

    • I agree with you — summer is the best time to start the kids cooking because during the school year it’s a miracle if I can pull something off for dinner. And it was funny to hear the debate about which dessert merited cooking. I thought for a while chocolate chip muffins were going to make the cut, but no. Brownie pudding cake won out.

      Your kids aren’t out of school yet? Wow. That’s a really short summer for the kids. (I’d be upset too — how do you plan a get-away or vacation?). I’ll bet your “school’s out” countdown has been on for a while!

      • Micha says:

        Many parents had their kids signed up for camps because they work full time and didn’t want to lose their money, so the school let them turn in a vacation request and excused them. (Plus the ones who planned a vacay immediately following what was supposed to be the last day were also excused.) My daughter is just happy that their last day is on the 27th and not her birthday which is the 29th. (She said she didn’t want to go to school on her birthday, and I said she had to because it was the last day! haha)

      • What a logistical nightmare! And I don’t blame your daughter — who wants to go to school on their birthday? 🙂

  2. alenaslife says:

    So great Joan. My boys love to cook but sometimes it’s not worth the mess for me. The cleaning up part doesn’t seem to go so well. My oldest does make my grandmother’s guacamole recipe and they’ve gotten really good at both breakfast and lunch. I like the idea of them planning one meal a night. I wonder what they’ll choose.

    • The cleaning up part is the trickiest part (but isn’t that always true?!). I’m trying to view it along the lines of E’s creative spurts: I’m happy she’s creating things, and I’m trying not to cringe too hard at the mess. I’m not always good at keeping this perspective, mind you, but I’m trying. 🙂

      Do your kids like guacamole? My oldest likes it, but the twins can’t wrap their minds around eating a green dip on purpose. It cracks me up, because I just know they’re going to try it one day and tell me: “Mom, do you know what the best stuff on earth is? Guacamole!”

  3. Super fun activity and if it includes children tidying up the kitchen, how could you go wrong?!

    • It is fun and I’m glad they like it. But the cleaning up part needs a little practice! 🙂 It’s all good though. Trying to get into the zen of the mess…. My new mantra: “It will be clean, it will be clean, it will be clean…..someday.”

  4. Diane Hiller says:

    Well, my kids are a little older than yours, but I guess I never showed them how to cook! I noticed this when my twenty-five year old bought an old cook book at an estate sale and scoured the pages. After days of going through the “helpful hints” pages and through every page of recipes she decided to make apple dumplings. Five hours later and two extra pairs of helping hands (mine and my youngest daughter’s) she pulled six beautiful pastries out of the oven. They were delish! But she’s got a long way to go to get through that cook book! Start them when they are young!

    • Good advice! It’s a little hard for me to let go — I’m trying not to jump in and take over, but I know half the reason my kids enjoyed making the cake was that I wasn’t “helping.” I figure as long as they’re interested now, I’m going to take advantage and let them make whatever concoction they can.

  5. amyp22 says:

    I have had my boys prepare meals, each one meal a week. It started with a bang and it with one too. I couldn’t take anymore baked chicken wings or hot dogs.

    I too usually ask each week and get similar answers to yours.

    Good luck on your cooking adventure!

    • Thanks! I’m hoping it goes well, but in light of your experience, I may modify our little supper experiment. If we keep seeing hot dogs or nuggets on the menu, I may tell them that they need to find a “new” dish to make. We’ll see. Thanks for the tip.

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