I have always been a big fan of having the kids in the kitchen with me. From the time they can sit up (and I can trust them not to climb off the counter) I put them on the counter and let them "help". In the beginning it's just playing with whatever kitchen tools they can find. The next step has been them actively helping me pour and measure ingredients. When Elie and Isaac learned to read, they started to be responsible for gathering ingredients and reading me the recipe.
On Friday night Elie wanted to help me make Shabbat dinner. So, for the first time ever, I turned her loose in the kitchen! I told her the ingredients she needed to make a sauce, gave her the measuring utensils and talked her through making the sauce we needed for some cauliflower! She did marvelously. Isaac came in halfway through and helped with vegetable prep and other tasks, which he did all by himself. It was a revelation in the kitchen!
Now I can give them tasks and they will get done. I have mostly enjoyed having them help me in the kitchen, but it does add to the time it takes me to get whatever we're cooking finished. On Saturday night they peeled carrots and took care of all the cliantro. It actually made making dinner much, much easier.
Of course, they wanted to help on Friday night but when it came to Saturday's tasks, they were much less happy to help. After a brief discussion about how if they want to help do fun things, then they have to help do "un-fun" things as well. I suppose there *is* a lesson in everything.
But it's really fun to have them in the kitchen AND being helpful. I really didn't realize how much all the *helping* they were previously doing has prepared them for *actually* helping in the kitchen. I'm so excited to have my little chef-lets in the kitchen with me!