Sunday, October 9, 2011

Ways to Keep Young Kids Happy While You Work in the Kitchen

As a mother of two young children, one of the biggest challenges to cooking real food is keeping the kids happy while I work in the kitchen. Some ways I have found to keep the kids content are:
  • Find a good place for your children to watch. Kids, and especially babies, love to watch dinner preparations.  If you can, clear off a large space on the counter where the baby can sit to watch (obviously this will only work if you have a large work surface and keep a close eye to make sure no one gets near the edge of the counter).  My kids also love to stand on a step stool to watch food preparations.  You can even give them little snacks to eat while they watch.
  • Wear your baby or toddler on your back or hip. This is a lifesaver for moms of infants, or even toddlers on days that they are needing some extra mom time.  On some days when my son resists napping, wearing him while I work in the kitchen is great as he will finally relax enough to take a nap on my back.
  • Let the kids help in the kitchen.  Kids love to help out, even from a very young age.
    • Toddlers can:
      • Put scraps into the compost bucket.
      • Put chopped fruits and veggies into a pan.
      • Stir some ingredients together (beware of a mess if you let them stir dry ingredients like flour).
    • Preschoolers can:
      • Break eggs into a bowl.
      • Measure and stir ingredients.
      • Put away silverware.
      • Rinse off dirty dishes in the sink.
      • Peel carrots.
      • Slice eggs using an egg slicer.
      • Chop some vegetables with a child's knife.
      • Tear and wash lettuce.
      • Put together salads with already-prepped ingredients. 
      • Set the table.
  • Let them play! There are so many options for kids to play in the kitchen while you work. 
    • Clear out a space to allow kids to play inside a cabinet.
    • Get a stool and let them play in the measuring spoon/gadget drawer (remove sharp objects first, of course).
    • Let toddlers play with the salad spinner.
    • Let kids play with water at the kitchen sink; this can be a dribble of water from the faucet, leftover dishwater, or even a pot of water.  Add a few spoons and measuring cups to really make them happy.
    • Let them play kitchen using some pretend food along with real pots, pans, spoons, etc.
    • Set them up to color/scribble with crayons or colored pencils
    • Let them play with a couple pieces of robust produce (leeks and onions are some favorites in my house).
    • Put in a favorite kids' CD so everyone can sing and dance along while they work.
What are your favorite ways to keep the kids happy while you work in the kitchen?

This post is part of Fight Back Friday, Pennywise Platter, Real Food Wednesday, Fat Tuesday and Monday Mania! 


    Lauren said...

    My daughter pulls over my chair and hops up to watch/help. Thankfully she seems to finally have learned to *carry* the chair, rather than draaaaag it across the tiles.

    She's not quite 3 and can stir, pour from small pitchers, peel garlic (and tries to crush it with the side of a butter knife; cracks me up!), return runaway bits to the cutting board, set the table and get the dishwasher ready to run. She's also great at picking leaves off whole herb stems and choosing the right tomato - either from our plants or the fruit basket.
    We have a small kitchen so I have a no toys rule in there, but she also likes to sit up to the table and colour while I work.

    The only time I had trouble was when she was too small for back carrying (I'm not great at tying it) and I'd have to chop onions or fry something in fat. Then she had to go to her bouncy chair on the table. Otherwise, kitchen time has always been together time.

    chris said...

    My son (now 5-1/2) has helped in the kitchen since he was old enough to stand at the counter on a step stool. He loves to peel garlic, make mayonnaise and salsa verde in the food processor, and help me strain tomatoes using the strainer attachment on our KitchenAid--his job is to push the tomatoes down the tube into the grinder. Both he and his big sister are able to use small sharp knives for cutting cheese or vegetables.

    Danielle said...

    What great ideas! I love the classic kids-in-the-cabinet photo. :) I never would've thought of giving them an onion to play with, but it's a great idea! We do many of these, too, especially now that we have a bigger kitchen that we can all fit in. Stirring, silverware sorting, and egg-slicing are the hands-down favorites around here! I am still a bit nervous to allow independent egg-cracking though!

    Maryanne MA said...

    My son is 2, and loves to help stir ingredients in a bowl, throw trash in the garbage or recycle bin, sort chopped/prepped veggies in their bowls, and absolutely loves "helping" me wash the dishes. He helps press the buttons on the mixer or food processor. He can help start the dishwasher, or sort silverware. I also emptied out a drawer in the kitchen, and that's "Adam's Drawer." We keep harmless plastic kitchen tools in there, and he likes when he gets to use them - it also keeps him out of the rest of the drawers. For the times that I need him away from me, he plays with play dough on the table. Or, I like laying down a couple of bath towels on the floor, and filling various bowls with water. I give him some utensils and plastic cups, and he's good for an hour or so. I usually use the towel/water trick when I'm rushing to get us out of the house. It's a very easy mess to clean up - just dry the floor and empty the bowls, and hang the towels to dry.

    Barb @ A Life in Balance said...

    My four youngest kids have always spent time in the kitchen, some kids more than others. My oldest didn't, and I sometimes wonder if that's why he's less interested in preparing food.

    All your tips are spot on with my experience. Even if I'm not in the kitchen making stuff, my youngest will take out all the pots and utensils and pretend to cook.

    Jill said...

    Thanks for linking your great post to FAT TUESDAY. Hope to see you next week! Be sure to visit on Sunday for
    Sunday Snippets – your post from Fat Tuesday may be featured there!

    If you have grain-free recipes please visit my Grain-Free Linky Carnival in support of my 28 day grain-free challenge! It will be open until November 2.

    suzy+co said...

    Great idea. It will also help the kids try more foods if they have a hand in preparing them.

    Taryn Kae Wilson said...

    I love this post! Thank you for writing it!

    Unknown said...

    Very good! I think that you have done a great job! FANTASTIC!!!!
    Kitchen Equipment