Sunday, January 29, 2012

Caution: Grandchildren at Work

When my daughter-in-law brought my grandchildren to visit Nana and Papa yesterday, I asked her what they should have for dinner thinking pizza or kid's meals at McDonald's. My six-year old granddaughter pipes up that she has been "hankering" for split pea soup. I knew I had all of the ingredients so I decided I would have the kids help me make it. She said my three-year-old grandson liked the carrots and would eat it. So that was settled. I had planned to make toasted garlic bread and sprinkle parm on top because they like that. My charming little lady also said she liked to dip it in olive oil so I put it on the dinner table and she enjoyed dipping the bread like grownups. She has been learning some very healthy eating habits at home. They do interesting presentations of food to keep the kids eating healthy stuff even though they sometimes get chicken nuggets and pizza. A sandwich cut into shapes tastes so much better.


I set two step stools in front of the stove while it was turned off. I had both children putting stuff into the big pot to make the split pea soup. I chopped the veggies and put peas, celery, carrots, onions, ham and water in measuring cups so they could pour the ingredients into the pot. They took turns stirring it before I turned on the stove. I let them shake salt and pepper into it and that was a big hit. They argued over whose turn it was to stir and we managed to share that without too much conflict. I like to break a task into manageable steps so that the little ones can feel successful.The little guy would stir with the big spoon and pull it up to find that a split pea had stuck to it. I told him not to touch it with his hands while cooking, but to bang the spoon handle on the pot side to dislodge the pea back into the soup. That was appealing, so he would stir and pound the spoon on the side of the pot. It was hysterical to watch a three-year-old "cooking". 

Papa was filming this on his camera so we have a 9 minute video of the whole process. When they poured the ingredients from  the measuring cup into the pot, pieces of carrots, or celery would not fall out, so I showed them how to turn the cup upside down and bang the side with their fist to dislodge the pieces into the soup. They liked that method more than using a spoon to pull out remaining pieces.  I like to make sure they wash their hands before cooking, but I also like to show them the sanitary routines necessary to handle food. Of course, they were more willing to eat the soup because they had made it. It takes a bunch of patience to teach little kids to cook, but they can do the task and love trying. While the soup was cooking, I would go back to it at times to keep it stirred, but I don't let them near the hot stove.


To pass the time, My granddaughter and I sat at the dining room table with some sheets I had printed from NickJr before she arrived. She colored pictures of the sun, moon, and stars with either crayons or markers. She carefully cut them out with scissors and punched a little hole in each with my heart-shaped hole punch. I would push a string through the hole, and tape it to the back. Then she would put colorful stickers over the back. We cut the strings into different lengths, and tied them to two straws that I had taped into an X shape. We made a mobile from the pictures and hung the structure on the bottom of a clear coat hanger.  We put it over a door to hang on the top of the door frame. They got such a kick out of looking at the mobile we had made. It took most of the afternoon for the process while the soup cooked. We had never tried to make a mobile before. The process seemed to be an interesting possibility as I was printing the coloring sheets for her so I decided to see if we could pull it off. She was very enthusiastic and proud about it, and took it home with her.


Meanwhile, my grandson was running about collecting anything he could find that he wanted to play with in kitchen drawers, and in cabinets. My kitchen drawers aren't junk drawers, they are treasure drawers filled with interesting gadgets to appeal to a three-year-old imagination. He found piles of keys attached to various key mechanisms which he managed to connect together. He did this by himself and wound up with a big pile of keys that looked like those that a building supervisor would need.  He found a way to attach all of the key chains to each other and it was a really clever structure. He carried it around for the rest of the day.

The little guy pulled out a bunch of pots and pans which happened to have net baskets or other structures inside for various cooking purposes and he found things to put in them. He especially liked my broccoli/asparagus steamer with the big basket that lifts out and hooks on the side of the pot halfway up. Who needs toys? 

Needless to say, the house is only half recovered from the day, and so are we. I was wondering earlier in the week what we were going to do with them for such a long time. Their imaginations  kept them very busy during the entire visit.We spent most of the time at the dining room table with activities, so the rug has pieces of paper that I will need to  vacuum. My granddaughter picked up most of the big pieces and has become very proficient at organizing and cleaning up things. She tells me my kitchen desk should be organized--"It's messy," she says.

I treasure the hours spent watching the grandchildren explore and learn. Viewing their discoveries through the eyes of age and experience makes me feel young again. I need to get busy looking for something new to amuse them on their next visit.


  1. I laughed out loud to hear the little one "hankering" for soup. What a great day they had! You are all very fortunate to have each other, and I suspect they will be jumping for joy the next time they are going to stay at your place.

    I hope for your sake that you have a bit of time in between visits. Thank you so much for sharing all this heartwarming time together. :-)

  2. My daughter always lets Julia (4 yrs) and Rylan (almost 2 yrs) stand on a chair next to the stove while she cooks. So far no accidents when they stir the food. It's always fun with kids.

  3. I love this! My kids love to help cook-the 4 yr old because it's fun and the almost 2 yr old because his sister does it. You're right, though, they are much more likely to eat what they helped fix.

    What an ingenious craft project! You're a good woman to let your grandson ransack your kitchen. It is true that they really don't need toys. I'm glad you all had fun and hope you get a little time to recover.

  4. it sure sounds like fun times at your house! some of my favorite times are when my 4 year old grandgirl and i bake and cook together. being a grandmother is the best!

  5. You are such a fantastic grandma! I can see why the grandchildren love to be with you. I'll have to take lessons from you because our granddaughter will be coming for a visit in May. I can't wait! I love it that our granddaughter hankers for split pea soup. My granddaughter won't touch anything green. Sigh...

  6. How sweet. I love that your granddaughter wanted split pea soup!