Cooking and group meals are perfect times to bolster social learning through planning, practicing, and prepping your child for a task or event.
Before getting to work in the kitchen, it’s helpful to talk about the hidden rules of cooking. For example, it’s important to wash hands and to keep hair away from the food. It’s fine to taste food as you cook, but it would be unexpected (and unwelcome) to re-use a spoon or fork that’s already been in your mouth. It’s also expected that you’ll follow the recipe rather than add or subtract ingredients without discussing it with the adult in charge.
If guests are coming for a meal or party, prepare your child by reviewing who will be coming and what will happen. A hidden rule to bring up about dinner parties is that there’s usually some time set aside for greeting and socializing before the meal is served. It would be considered rude to rush people into eating or to rush them from the main meal to dessert.
During the dinner or barbecue, give your child a role to play. He might be the person who greets each guest, hangs up coats, or refills water glasses. Perhaps he’ll also ask guests whether they’d like coffee or tea at the end of the meal. Ask your child to imagine ways that he could help guests feel more at ease while in your home.
Help your child get comfortable with a specific task by role playing the scenario in advance. She can build confidence by practicing tasks like greeting diners and filling water glasses during any family meal.
All of these tasks build social-emotional skills and give your child practice interacting with adults and/or other children. Assisting with meals and entertaining can help many kids feel more at ease in a wide variety of social situations.