Kids in the Kitchen
What do you want mealtime to look like in your home? Less stressful? Maybe a little more fun? Do you have dreams of your kids being involved and it not being complete chaos? No promises on that last one, but here are a few tips to get mealtime running a little more smoothly for the family.
Find a time once each week to look ahead at your family schedule. In our home, we write our activities and appointments for the week ahead on a Sunday-Saturday whiteboard. This helps us figure out which nights we’ll need to plan on leftovers or take-out, and which nights we have time to cook. It looks something like this…
Sunday- No plans, Italian Veggie Bake
Monday- After work Physical Therapy, Leftover Italian Veggie Bake
Tuesday - Baby Boot Camp @6:15pm, 30 minute Spinach and Tortellini Soup
Wednesday - After work meeting, Leftover Soup
Thursday - After work appointment, Freezer leftovers
Friday - No plans, Homemade Veggie Pizza
Saturday - Date night! WOOT WOOT!
Every Friday night we write out our schedule, find recipes, write a grocery list cross-referencing what we already have in stock, then do our grocery shopping on Saturday. (Shout out to my husband who shops for us while I’m at Baby Boot Camp! xoxo) We typically double the recipe to ensure we have enough for leftovers. This means we only need to cook every other day. We also rarely throw away food. Instead, we freeze it to enjoy at a later (and busier) day!
Making homemade granola bars has become routine and something our 3 year-old loves to do with us. It might have something to do with the chocolate chips and licking the peanut-buttery spatula! It’s important to us because we love having a healthy snack to pack on-the-go (see recipe below). Hard boiling eggs in the instant pot is easy because you don’t have to watch the pot. We keep the eggs on-hand in the fridge for lunch salads and snacks. Prepping 3 cups of overnight oats at a time makes breakfast quick and convenient. Making individual smoothie freezer packs 5-10 at a time not only cuts back on the number of times you need to get the ingredients out, but also keeps fresh food from going bad...AND makes your smoothies extra cold! These things do take time. But like most things, this prep gets easier with practice.
In the long run it’s less stress and much healthier.
GET THE KIDS INVOLVED
In my experience, embracing the presence of your kids in the kitchen is easier than trying to cook alone. Depending on the age, they can be present, involved and it can be fun and educational!
- Infants: Baby-wearing is a game changer! Using your favorite baby carrier, like the Mountain Buggy Juno and wearing them in front or back keeps the baby calm and keeps parents’ hands free. You can talk to them about what you are doing to keep them entertained. In a nearby highchair, infants can touch and smell ingredients to gain exposure. Put dry beans or rice in a Tupperware container for them to shake and observe. Under your close eye, let them touch large pieces of food like whole carrots, potatoes, and celery. Talk about colors and textures.
- Toddlers: Use your favorite stool or learning tower to get your toddler at counter height. Let them touch, taste, and cut the food with kid-friendly utensils. Allowing them to dump ingredients together and stir can be messy but valuable in the overall development. Exposure to ingredients gets them used to different smells and textures. Talk about where our food comes from and how it grows. They might even be more likely to eat their meal since they’re involved in the making of it! It’s also fun to set up a playful activity alongside your dinner prep. Using dry noodles of all shapes (alphabet noodles for the win) to stick into play-doh. Dry spaghetti noodles can be stuck inside an upside down strainer (Warning: they can also broken into 100 pieces!)
- School-age: If you start young, by this age your children have seen you move through the kitchen and hve practiced some basic skill-building of their own. The goal is to build confidence not just in them but in yourself! Older children can read recipes out loud, find the correct measuring cup/spoons, read spice labels, and can get more involved in the hard stuff like hot pot stirring. Who knows, they might even want to cook something for you one day! Wouldn’t that be a dream?!
If this seems like a far cry from your current mealtime scenario, I urge you to try just one of these tips. We would love to know what you think!
Homemade Granola Bars
5 Cups dry oats
1 Cup peanut butter
½ Cup honey
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp vanilla
2 Tbsp ground flaxseed (flaxseed meal)
1 Cup milk
Pre-heat oven to 350
Combine all ingredients except milk and mix well with a spatula
Add-in milk last and mix until absorbed
Press into greased 9x13 pan
Press-in any add-ins (nuts, dried berries, chocolate chips)
Bake 18 minutes
Cool 20 minutes
Cut into 16 bars
Wrap individually and freeze up to 3 weeks
Thaw at room temp or unwrap and microwave 10 seconds
Jessica Karr is a K-6 Art teacher from Ohio, but she’s most proud of her job titles as wife (to Sam) and mom (to 3-year-old Luke). With her Master in Art Education degree, she advocates to bring creativity into all aspects of life. Jessica enjoys cooking healthy treats with her family while balancing it out with the latest Jeni’s Ice Cream flavors. She has been a member of Baby Boot Camp Columbus since it opened in June 2016 and is a 2020 Baby Boot Camp Ambassador.