Some foster parents would rather not have their foster kids in the kitchen for any reason. Some foster parents point out that the kids have poor hygiene or lack of proper cooking etiquette, but sometimes it may be just plain control issues on the foster parent's part. I want children that enter my foster home to learn the basics. If a foster child is 10 and older, I teach them how to do their own laundry and how to make basic meals. I do this so if my foster child is returned home and her parents begin to struggle again, she doesn't have to be the "smelly kid" in the class or go hungry.
Here are a few pointers or reasons I think having foster kids in the kitchen with you is a great idea:
- Take the time to teach foster children basic food safety. It surprises me when children don't know that certain foods have to be refrigerated or kept cold in order to remain safe to eat - milk, mayonnaise, meat, eggs, to name a few.
- Teach your foster kids to be sanitary while preparing food - wash hands before cooking and after handling raw meat and again before eating. Remind them to keep their hands off of their faces and hair and to not stop to pet the dog or cat while preparing a meal.
- Time in the kitchen is also time to work on manners. Think about the number of times you may say - 'please pass, thank you, or excuse me' while working together in the kitchen.
- Kitchen time with kids may also be a great way to work on math skills. The use of measuring cups and spoons, counting eggs, and setting a timer on a cake are great opportunities for learning. Reading and understanding recipes may also help to increase reading skills.
- Kitchen time is also a time to have conversations - perhaps conversations that are difficult to have face-to-face, but side by side while cooking - not as intimidating.
- Cooking with your foster children may also be therapeutic for those children with food issues as they can see that there is enough food for everyone in the family and they are a part in preparing and serving that food.
- Kitchen time with your foster kids is about working as a team and that every job in preparing that meal is an important job, from washing vegetables, to chopping vegetables, to tossing the salad. Other older foster children may be browning hamburger meat or boiling noodles. Younger foster kids may be a part of the clean-up crew or the ever popular, setting the table gang.
- The final pay off, of course, is sitting down at the table to enjoy the work that everyone put into the meal and to enjoy conversation as a family.