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MC: Engaging Kids While You Prepare Dinner

I am part of an AWESOME mommy panel with Cassie from Two In Diapers and Julie from Naptime Review.
Each Saturday, we will bring you fresh new ideas and advice about motherhood.
If you enjoyed what you read, we encourage you to tweet about it!
Coming on February 23rd, we will discuss:
What are your tips and tricks for successful potty training?
Now on to this week's topic!
How do engage your children while you prepare meals?
Here is what Mom Connection shared:
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Welcome! I'm Julie over at Naptime Review. I am a mom of two wild, crazy and beautiful girls. My oldest just turned 4 and my baby is 16 months old. This is how I engage my children during meal preparation:
Dinnertime is the worst time a day for me! My mom tank is about empty and I am trying to prepare a meal with a fussy toddler climbing my leg. I am also guarding the cabinet from my 4-year-old who is “starving,” and can’t wait for dinner. All she wants to do is snack. I just keep telling myself this is a phase and it will get easier once the children get older. However, I have alleviated the stress and craziness when I am prepared and more organized.
Being prepared means, having some table activities ready for the children. Basically, easy to do arts and crafts, puzzles, handwriting practice sheets, or play dough make great table activities. I also found that life was SO MUCH easier when I was using my crock pot more. I would cook out of the crock pot 6 days a week. I even purchased the crock pot liners that made a clean up a breeze. I feel in love my My Family Meal Planner. It had a week worth of yummy crock pot meals as well as a grocery list. It really did make a difference at meal time. I didn't feel like I was throwing food to a pack of hungry wolves. Dinner was calmer and family focused.
So the best advice is to be organized and to get yourself a meal planner! It might not hurt to have a glass of wine either!
Hi! I'm Cassie from Two In Diapers, and I'm a mommy to three sweet babies, ages 4, 3, and 20 months. This is how I engage my children during meal preparation:
I would say that our situation is a bit abnormal in that I am away three nights per week from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m. at Tae Kwon Do, and the two children that I don't take with me are home with a sitter. How in the world do I provide dinner, you ask? Well, I hate to repeat what Julie up there said, but I am also a HUGE fan of My Family Meal Planner {you can read my heartfelt review here}, and I rely on her pre-planned crock pot meals on those days. This means that I am putting together our family's dinner in the peaceful hour of 1 p.m. when my littles are snoozing.
However, there are four other days in the week, and suicide hour is real.
I will start off by saying that I am very fortunate in that my kids play their little hearts out... play, play, play all day, and mostly with each other. But we definitely do have those days where they struggle, especially my littlest {20 months old}. On those days, I do exactly what this week's question asks - engage them. I always find that the best way to entertain a child in order to complete a task is to let them be involved in the task.
You may be shaking your head and thinking how unproductive this makes the process, but I think we forget that the tiniest, simplest of jobs can entertain a child and make them feel included. Often I will even prepare a sink full of soapy water and toss in the dirty {unbreakable and safe} dishes or silverware, and let them "wash" the dishes while I cook. My four-year-old is a pro at stirring anything {especially if I stir it first and then let her "finish"}, and they always love to set the table - even if this just means something safe like the napkins. When my three-year-old hangs on the pantry door begging for a snack, instead I encourage him help me taste-test the food before we serve it. My littlest is in charge of restocking the K-cup carousel, and my four-year-old makes a fabulous "clock-watcher".
Of course, these types of ideas don't always solve the days where everyone just needs mom and cannot be entertained elsewhere, but I do find that they make those tough days far enough in between that my patience level is high when those times do come. In the mean time, like all things motherhood, a lot of patience and a little creativity will usually suffice.
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My name is Alexa from No Holding Back. I am the mom of Nayner Bug (male, 5), Jelly Bean, (female, 3) and Tiny (female, 1). This is how I engage my children during meal preparation:
My kids love to help in the kitchen. I think it is important to allow them for two reasons. One, I want them (especially my son!) to grow up being able to actually cook. And two, I think that it makes them more willing to at least try the food if they help prepare it. I usually only give them simple tasks - stirring things, (which I usually have to stir after them!) cracking eggs, and their absolute favorite thing to do - flipping things with a spatula!
I am always very cautious about the stove and make sure they know it is very hot and dangerous. Kids love to have tasks to help, so take advantage of that and include them in the process!
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My name is Fotini! I blog over at Glamorous Affordable Life. I am the mom of (Isabella 21 months and Christian 6 years). This is how I engage my children during meal preparation:
Christian being the age he is, doesn't need much to keep him busy while I'm cooking. He knows the drill by now ;) He's pretty good at playing the Wii, playing on his tablet or with legos.
Isabella on the other hand IS difficult. Sometimes she's content coloring in her highchair near me, which makes things much easier for me! Most of the time, she's not! Lately she's been a clingy vine and insists on me holding her while I do EVERYTHING. Cooking included. It makes it really hard on me to maneuver around the kitchen with a baby on my hip, only using one hand. But, I find myself doing this more and more. My husband encourages me to stop picking her up and re-directing her attention to something positive. So that's what I've been doing. It's going to be a process and it's not going to happen over night, but I'm willing to be persistent and patient with her until she understands that Mommy just can't pay attention to her all of the time!
Here are some of the things I've been trying: We have a play kitchen in our formal dining room for the kids to play in, you can see that here, so I encourage Isabella to play with that and do the things she sees Mommy doing. That same little kitchen has a chalkboard on it, so I will start to draw a picture with her and slowly walk away to allow her to finish. I'll hand her a book and tell her to "read" to Mommy while I cook, she loves this! Occasionally I’ll rely on the T.V. I'll turn on her favorite channel, Sprout, or her favorite show, Bubble Guppies! This is just long enough for me to usually complete a dinner or at least have it well on it's way to being done!
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My name is Kristen from The Mrs. & The Momma. I'm the momma of three girls (ages 7, 5, & 3) and a little boy (18 months). This is how I engage my children during meal preparation:
Truth be told, if I wait until the 4:00-5:00 hour to prepare dinner, it's not very productive and usually ends up with a mediocre meal. Mainly because that's what I call the "witching hour"....when my little ones are whiny and clingy and my older two are busy with homework and just plain tired from their school day.
If and when I wind up in this situation, I usually do one of three things. I either sit them down at the kitchen table and give them an "appetizer", allow them to watch 20 minutes of T.V., (besides the usual morning viewing of Curious George, this is the only other time my kids watch T.V. so I'm okay with resorting to this on occasion), or send them outside if it's nice. I mean really, little ones my ages in the kitchen while you're cooking is dangerous and inefficient, not to mention a time drainer.
What I do on most days is begin to prepare dinner when my two oldest are still at school and my little ones are napping. I can get most everything done in that time and I don't have to worry about later rushing around getting dinner made, kids fed, the bedtime routine started. This saves me a lot of stress and time, not to mention mommy behavior I might not be proud of after the fact. (Can you tell evenings can be chaotic in my household?) Another benefit is that during that "witching hour" I mentioned, I can spend some quality time with my kids reading, playing, or helping with homework.
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Your Turn:

How do you engage your littles during meal preparation?
Leave us a comment; we love to read your tips and advice!
Need advice? Check out these previous Mom Connection topics:

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