You Might Have To Make A Mess To Make A Masterpiece

By: Abby Plambeck

Miss Toddler started helping me in the kitchen when she was 2. Sure, we made some grand messes, but the fun and resulting cookies far outweighed the cleanup afterward. When she turned 3, she asked if she could crack the eggs. My first reaction of “No!” turned into a shrug and a “Why not?” I got the paper towel ready and showed her how. She was a quick learner, and we only had to pick out a little bit of shell and wipe up a drip on the counter. Really? A 3 year old cracking eggs? Who knew?! 

When she turned 4, I left the kitchen for a couple minutes and came back to find her with the refrigerator egg tray on the kitchen table, calmly showing the 2-year-old twins how to crack eggs. My shriek turned into a “Wow.” No shell in the bowl, no drips on the table. Really? A 4 year old cracking eggs better than me? I had a little slice of humble pie.

That day marked the beginning of the twins’ interest in cooking, so I now line up three chairs along the kitchen counter and put everyone to work measuring, pouring, and stirring. The electric mixer is a highlight, though we tend to get more flour all over us than in the bowl when three children fight over who holds it. I feel more like a referree than a chef, helping them count and take turns. I’ve also learned that one mess-maker is cute, whereas three tend to make me hyperventilate!  But when I can remain calm enough to teach, I think the kitchen is a fabulous place to learn life skills. We use the measuring spoons and cups to learn about fractions, we can identify spices by their scent, we know that brown sugar is brown because it has molasses in it. We’re learning why water turns to steam when it’s boiled and what all the gadgets in the kitchen drawer are for. The kids see it as an opportunity to make a mess and sample chocolate chips, but I see math and science. Miss Big Sister  might not remember what a fraction is, but she knows that 1/2 cup  plus 1/2 cup = 1 cup, and that’s a start.

Have you noticed how easy it is to say “No” to our kids? That’s my first reaction when my kids ask to help with an “adult” job. But why? If it’s not dangerous, why not let them try? Knives and the stove are out of bounds in my kitchen, but if a mess is the only consequence, then I try to take a deep breath and let them have at it. Quite often, they surprise me. And I still get to eat cookies!

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