This post is sponsored by Uncle Ben’s. Growing up, my parents made sure I had plenty of opportunities to learn new skills. I took swimming lessons and gymnastics, dances classes and soccer. But one thing I never have lessons in: meal prep. It’s not that my mom did’t cook. I think it just wasn’t on her radar to take the time to explain what she was doing to request us to help. And I get it . . . when you are busy trying to get a meal on the table, the last thing you want to do is have a bunch of extra hands that need your supervision and attention. It’s easier to just get the meal done by yourself. But I’ve been trying to push past that and enlist my kids to help in the kitchen, for a couple of reasons. First, I want them to be grateful for the meals put before them, and the best way to ensure that is to make them cognizant of the work that goes into it. I also want them to be proficient in the kitchen when they leave my house. I want them skilled enough to make real, whole foods. (Not the box of mac-and-cheese I relied on in my 20’s.) To this end, I have my kids help a lot, and I really think they know more at this stage than I did when I got married. One of our go-to meals is chicken and rice. It’s easy and healthy, and perfect for the gluten-free members of our bunch. And bonus: all of the kids will eat it. Last week we made a simple dinner with Uncle Ben’s long grain and wild rice, sautéed asparagus, and grilled chicken. We at Uncle Ben’s a ton when I was a kid and this rice still makes me nostalgic. When I want to make no-frills grilled chicken on the quick, I sprinkle it with cumin, garlic, and sea salt. And by me, I mean the kids. They are proficient with this recipe. I will usually divide tasks, having one kid season and another kid tend to the browning and stirring. And the finished product? A meal my kids will eat. (With minimal whining about the green things.) Uncle Ben’s is hosting the Fourth Annual Ben’s Beginners™ Cooking Contest which seeks to encourage parents and kids to cook together. The contest provides a platform for parents with kids in grades K-8 to connect with their children one meal at a time by going to unclebens.com and submitting a three-minute home video of their family preparing a rice-based dish while discussing their experience cooking together. Five winners will win $15,000 each for their family and a $30,000 cafeteria makeover for their child’s school. As part of the campaign, Uncle Ben’s put together an interesting video project called Homework Direct, illustrating what would happen if parents tried to outsource their kids’ homework. As you can imagine, it’s a divisive topic and had some parents not too happy. But it drives home an interesting point . . . many parents don’t realize the parallel in equipping a child with valuable skills by teaching them to cook. By providing meals without inviting kids into the kitchen, many parents are forgetting to teach their kids another life skill just as essential as reading and writing.