Independence is a big issue around here. My daughter is 4.5 going on 15 and she's starting to exercise her right to independence. From putting together her own outfits and balking at any input I offer, to instructing me to walk ahead of her on the sidewalk so she can do her own thing without me watching—she's trying to figure out how much she's capable of doing on her own.
"It's okay, it's okay Mommy," she'll say. "I can do it by myself. You don't have to help me."
(This is where I start to cry because *sob* my baby doesn't need me anymore.) Since I've already established that I'm not so comfortable in the world of free-range parenting, granting her this independence has been a challenge.
Here are 5 strategies I have been using.
Since she's mostly eager to do things on her own, I figure there must be something positive I can direct her energy toward. It's fine that she wants to run off at the park or walk ahead of me in the mall, but I think it's time we focus on really doing something grown up. I'm starting with an area that I could really use some help in—the kitchen.
Have you ever considered that meal preparation is actually the perfect activity to start developing a child's independence while also spending quality time together? It's also an amazing opportunity to solidify things they're already learning like counting, following instructions, and doing things systematically.
Talking about recipes, experimenting with different ingredients, and tasting different flavours helps nurture independence—and might actually turn your kid into a good cook (which I could certainly use!).
Despite my fear of my daughter growing up too fast, I do want to nurture her desire to spread her wings. The look on her face when she does something on her own and succeeds is priceless. I want her to take safe risks, to explore, and to know what it feels like to really help out and have responsibilities. The more I encourage her to do—the more she'll believe she's capable of doing.
Because cooking is such a valuable skill for kids to have, Minute Maid has partnered with the Canadian Living Test Kitchen to create a new line of easy-to-make recipes that allow kids to take on the role of head chef.
My daughter has been helping us in the kitchen for almost a year now, but I am guilty of all-too-often rushing through meal prep, not even offering her the chance to help out.
Safety Tip: Be sure to ALWAYS supervise your little ones while they are using appliances or sharp utensils!
There's nothing quite like cooking with a kid. I'm a bit of a control freak, but I know that letting my daughter have independence means sitting back and letting her learn how to do things on her own. This is a HUGE challenge for me. Obviously it's much easier to do everything for her—but that won't go far toward giving her the skills she needs to grow up in the kitchen. So, before you start cooking with your kids (or letting your kids gain independence in any area for that matter) consider the following tips:
1. Just breathe. Whatever mess they make, you can always clean it up.
2. Have some fun! The more you laugh, the better the experience will be for everyone, and the more your child will want to participate.
3. Let go of your need for control. If your kid makes a mistake, she'll learn from it. If she dumps in half the bottle of olive oil into the processor, you can quadruple the recipe and make a lifetime supply of hummus. Be there to oversee the project, but keep your hands behind your back as much as you possibly can.
4. Slow down. Let your kids participate in meal prep when you're not in a rush. Don't worry if he/she wants to take a juice break. Let your child go at his/her own pace and don't feel the need to rush them.
5. Finally, be an observer. As you cook together, really watch your child. You'll be amazed by what she's actually capable of—yum!
This summer while on vacation, my daughter and I took over my mother-in-law's kitchen to do some early morning cooking and mommy-daughter bonding. We chose Minute Maid's Apple Hummus recipe because it sounded delicious, healthy, and fairly impossible to mess up! Here's the recipe we used to help you get started.
** Allergen alert: sesame seeds **
1 can (540 mL) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2/3 cup Minute Maid Apple Juice
3 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
In food processor, combine chickpeas, Minute Maid Apple Juice, tahini, oil and salt
Purée until smooth.
Recipe Note: The next time I make this recipe, to switch thing up, I am going to try reducing the amount of tahini and adding a clove of garlic to suit my family's tastebuds!
Makes: 2 cups
Hands-on time: 15 minutes
Total time: 15 minutes
PER 2 TBSP, RECIPE MAKES 2 CUPS: about 74 calories, 2 grams protein, 3 grams total fat (trace saturated fat), 11 grams carbohydrates (2 grams dietary fibre, 5 grams sugar), 0 mg cholesterol, 110 mg sodium, 52 mg potassium. %RDI: 2% calcium, 4% iron, 2% vitamin A, 2% vitamin C, 8% folate.