Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Teach Your Kids to Clean as They Cook: Eliminate Kid-Made-Messes FOREVER!

Who doesn't want more help from their kids in the kitchen--more cooking or baking help especially? But at the same time, who DOES want the mess they can leave behind after their culinary contributions? Today I'm sharing how to eliminate the kid-made-messes forever!

Kitchen work is a lot of fun if there's a routine to it, and a "clean as you go" routine is one kids should learn early on--it saves them time in the long run and makes what they're doing pleasant. AND, the clean and tidy kitchen they leave behind is ready for the guy (likely YOU) who needs to work in there next. Good cooks are considerate cooks...

Here are 6 things (the "clean-as-you-go") you want your kids to always do when cooking or baking:
1) Study the recipe. My friend, Shirley J executive chef, Brian Richter, says the most efficient, and less messy way to work is to read the recipe and lay out all needed equipment and ingredients (pre-measured) beforehand. (By the way, this is a good overall life-lesson we can teach our kids: study the professionals and model their methods--no matter what the job!)

2) Trap your trash. Have them tape a trash bag to the counter edge where they'll be working. This will save trips to the kitchen trash container (saving time and energy) and serves to keep the work surface tidy.

3) Spray for safety. Provide them with a plastic spray bottle of highly diluted bleach water and clean dish cloth, for frequent disinfecting of surfaces. Teach them that wiping as you work contributes to health safety, and makes the after-cleanup a breeze.

4) Wash while working. Have them fill the sink with HOT soapy water. As they proceed through their recipe, they should deposit all dirty items (measuring cups and spoons, beaters, bowls, pots and pans, etc.) into the sink. What a time-saver this is--stuff almost washes itself while the cook works. When the recipe is complete, they quickly wash, wipe and put things away. (Yes, they could fill the dishwasher with the dirty items, but doing it this way really is the smarter way to work in the long run. You'll appreciate having more dishwasher space for the after-meal cleanup.)

5) Tidy the tools. Incorporate this House Rule: All appliances/tools used during the work (mixers, stove top, microwave, fridge door, etc.) are to be wiped and shined before leaving the kitchen. This is working considerately (thinking of the next guy to follow in their wake--again, likely YOU) and working responsibly (equipment lasts longer when it's taken good care of). And it makes the next job inviting--who likes to cook or bake with dirty equipment? No one. 

6) Finally, Sweep and empty. The food is prepared, the kitchen is lookin' good--but be sure your kids know to sweep the floor and empty the trash before they exit stage left. Some moms have their kids do this last step after the meal is eaten--doesn't matter. Just be sure your kids know this is part of the "clean-as-you-go" routine.

As you and your children develop the above kitchen work habits (they need you to model the behavior expected of them), you'll save time and energy and cooking and baking will be much more fun. Are there kitchen cleaning tips YOU know of that our kids should learn? If so, please share--we're all in this together, remember. So until next time, here' to eliminating those kid-made-messes forever, and making family dinner hour possible!


  1. My mom tells me I'm the messiest cook she's ever seen! I should incorporate these tips!

  2. That was great! Thanks. I've been trying to do something like this myself, but learned a few more tricks. Another thing I like to do is clean everything up while the food is cooking. Then dishes are a lot easier.

  3. Fahrenheit 350: DO try and keep me posted on your progress!

    Elspeth: Comedienne Carol Burnett says she does the same thing--cleaning as things are cooking. She says that when dinner's over, there's next to nothing to clean up! My kind of meal management!