Inspired by the recent reality TV culture is the idea of the challenge. How in Heck can you take this and make it a family event? Well, here’s what we did for one menu. The kids absolutely hated going shopping for food. Why? It’s boring. So, to take the boring ingredient out, and substitute something interesting, I came up with a challenge for them. A nearby grocery store, let’s call it “Ston Pro” for giggles, was subjected to the challenge of two kids being given grocery lists and told that the winner would get a big prize. The suspense of not knowing what the prize was, was itself priceless. There were, of course, conditions. After all, it’s a public place.

  1. Absolutely no running.
  2. There was a time limit of fifteen minutes to get all five ingredients on each of their lists.
  3. They could ask any store person for help, but had to be polite.
  4. Bonus points were added for ingredients that felt inspiring to one of the dishes we were making that night.

There were a few little twists I had to add to make it fair for two kids of different ages. It wasn’t easy, especially considering the prize was twenty minutes of game time on the video game system we have at home.

Twist #1
The first one to get all ingredients didn’t necessarily win. It was the person closest to the fifteen minutes did. Points were deducted for each minute either way.
Twist #2
Points were given for every ingredient obtained or found. There were obviously going to be items that the kids couldn’t reach, so just telling me where the ingredient was, did count.
Twist #3
The lists were stacked so that they were within the understanding of each child. I couldn’t ask a nine year old to pick out balsamic vinegar, when he wasn’t tall enough to even see the bottles.

After a tie, the most important lesson of this challenge was revealed. It wasn’t really about getting the ingredients at all, although Joseph found some golden kiwi fruit that were a delightful garnish to my chocolate soufflé. What the challenge taught them was time management. Rhys, who only got three ingredients to Joseph’s four plus a bonus, managed to get to me within one minute of the deadline. Joseph spent more time and did a more complete job. In a kitchen, doing a complete job is, of course, essential – they learned that later on – but being aware of your timing is critical to getting the meal on the table. Rhys also learned how to ask for help and found an agreeable clerk who located wasabi for us.

A hint: it helps to be really familiar with the store or market before attempting this. Knowing where your kids are likely to be helps a whole lot when you hear the faint call of “Help, I’m lost”. Also, pointing out where to meet if they do get lost, gives the kids confidence to go around the store and not worry. Standing by the exit makes sure that they can’t leave willingly, unwittingly, or unwillingly.

More challenges to come… if you have any family friendly suggestions, please leave a comment.

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