I mentioned that once a week over the summer, I'm having the kids cook dinner. I let them chose what we eat, they help with the shopping, and they cook it all themselves, to the best of their ability. Of course, I'm there to help-especially with heat and knives-but for the most part, the goal is for them to do it themselves (and the bigger goal is for them to be self-sufficient adults who can grocery shop and cook without batting an eye and won't be calling me from their dorm room asking how to microwave Spaghetti-O's).
So how to get started having your kids help out in the kitchen?
Start Young. Both of my kids have been helping in the kitchen since they could stand on a stool. Start with simple things like whisking, stirring, wiping the counters, and measuring ingredients. As they get older, give them new, more advanced skills. (Don't fret if your kids are already older, they too can learn, promise.) Which leads us to...
Don't Underestimate Them. Kids are capable. I personally find this set of skills pretty accurate, but of course, as with anything, consider your child's personal ability and maturity when making decisions about what kitchen skills are best for them. (But totally remind them to wash their hands because, they're kids and they are germ traps.)
Source: Williams Sonoma
Lay The Groundwork. Make sure they understand how to read over a recipe, make a grocery list of what they need, and plan out their meal. All these steps add up to successfully being able to make that meal!
Let Them Take the Lead and Let It Go. This is harder for some people (ahem, ME) then others. When you let kids cook, there will be mistakes and messes and you just need to hold your tongue and let them enjoy the process. But also...
Make Time For Clean Up. Clean up is part of cooking and make sure your kids know that and help. Maybe there will be less of a mess next time! (probably not, let's be real.)
Indulge Them A Bit. For their Thursday menus, I encourage my kids to chose foods they like and are healthy, but I let them chose a dessert of their choice too. Teaching them balance, even at a young age, is part of the life skills they'll need of a happy healthy life!