Santa brought both kids knife sets this year.  They also each got cookbooks.  And since I had left the last week of their winter break largely unplanned, while I was menu planning at the start of the week, I suggested that the kids be in charge of dinner on Wednesday night. They thought this was the single BEST idea they had ever had and set to work choosing recipes they might make from their cookbooks.  Each armed with a fresh pad of post-it notes and a pencil, started to look through their books, and hour later, they had settled on what they wanted to cook.  The older one was to be the “chef” while the little one was to be the “pastry chef” – as in one would be in charge of the main course, and the other dessert.

Over the course of the first few days of the week, this little adventure turned into a full-on production with our house slowly being turned into a restaurant.  Menus were printed.  And re-printed.  Drawings of how each course is going to be plated were completed and hung on the fridge.  Designs of what the cake that was decided on for dessert should look like were similarly been completed.  And without asking permission, guests, in the form of my parents, were invited to eat at this very special eatery.

There was great excitement when we got to grocery shop for this dinner.  And even greater excitement when I announced that we would be baking the cake after lunch on Tuesday.

As I put the kids to bed the night before the dinner was to take place, I noted that they had even assembled the “fancy” clothes they planned to wear for the occasion.

They awoke the morning of the dinner to a level of excitement that almost rivalled that of Christmas morning.  While I was cleaning up from breakfast I heard them set up a “reservations desk” at the front door (a little Ikea table adorned with toy cash registers and phones) pretending to answer the phone and accept and turn down “reservations” for their restaurant.

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And then the preparations began in earnest.

The table was set, complete with flowers arranged by the little one.  The cake was frosted and decorated.  Everything that could be prepared ahead of time, was prepped.  So we took a break, had a quick visit to the ROM and a “treat” lunch out, and came back in time to finish up getting ready for the dinner.

The kids made excellent hosts, serving drinks, appetizers, dinner, and then dessert, clearing the plates between each course, and in true restaurant style, presented us each with a “bill” at the end of the meal (play money was used to settle our tabs!).  The food was fantastic (they did have some help from the Husband cooking the main dish which was pan-fried fish), and the entire experience, as a mom, was so wonderful to watch.

I hesitated to share this experience on the blog – this little anecdote is almost too much.  But in the end I opted to write about it because I wanted to share a story to show what kids are capable of when they’re given free time to pursue their interests.  Sure, I could have signed them up for camps, put them in activities, where they may or may not have had much fun or learned something.  But by letting them “hang out” at home, they were able to make a little dream they had a reality.  They got to work together.  And they go to produce something that they were both extremely proud of.  As summer camp registration season is almost here – as tempted as I may be to sign the kids up for any number of the multitude of camps that are available to us – this experience will serve as a stark reminder to give the kids lots of free time this summer – time to follow their interests, time to play alone, or with each other, and time to just be.  Maybe you can do the same???