Hands-on mealtime prep for the whole family
Have you noticed that when you get your kids to ‘help’ you with something, most of the time they are doing the exact opposite? This is why I have trained my mind to think that instead of them helping me I am helping them to eventually learn an important skill. I still tell them they are helpers though, because it makes us all feel good and encourages their desire to be helpful throughout their lives.
My children like to lend their helpful little hands the most during mealtime prep. I used to absolutely dread dinnertime until I made a few little tweaks to get everyone involved and make everybody happy (for the most part).
These are the areas I modified to make mealtime prep child friendly:
Timing Meal Prep:
We all know that timing our meals is very important as a parent if we don’t want our children turning into screaming, hungry maniacs.
If I know I won’t have extra time to cater to my little chefs while making dinner, I'll prep for my prep. I try to get the bulk of the work done during nap… i.e. pre-cutting things for them to chop, or getting some of the non-kid-friendly tasks out of the way.
My go-to food items to keep their little hands busy are garlic and bell pepper. I HATE peeling garlic; luckily my kids view this as a challenge and will stand there meticulously pulling each tiny piece off. Bell pepper is fun and easy to cut, especially with nylon knives. BONUS: my kids love to eat it raw, so I sometimes have them cut it even when it is not part of our meal!
Bell peppers: Easy to cut, colorful and delicious!
Have the Right Tools:
As I have said before I LOVE to organize.
It's not just helpful for me, but it keeps the kids focused by having all their tools in one easily accessible place. I was stoked when Parker Baby Co came out with another stylish version of their diaper caddy. I always bust out my Rope Diaper Caddy with all the necessary kid-approved meal prep items to immediately get my kids engaged with the task at hand.
In our caddy I keep nylon knives, aprons, plastic measuring cups/spoons, and an assortment of fun utensils (mostly materials brought to you by… the dollar store!).
One more thing I can’t live without is my toddler kitchen helper stool made by our wonderful Papa Jim. I don’t know how I ever lived without.
Side note: ALWAYS HAVE ONE WHISK PER KID. Almost every child I have met prefers the whisk to any other utensil!
My kids take meal prep into their own hands by picking their tools for our caddy.
Distribute Duties for Meal Prep:
If you have multiple kids, it's important to divide up the tasks to keep everyone sane. The measuring cups are great for this. Fill them and ask your kids to pour them into the bowl. For example, I crack eggs into the measuring cup for pancakes and Millie puts them into the mix while Jonah gets to pour the milk in.
This also works for marinades or any other mixture you may need at mealtime! I also divvy up the veggies or other chopping items in the name of fairness and have one big bowl we all contribute to. My kids prefer the one for me and one for my homies method!
Eggs can be messy! Put them in a measuring cup for easy pouring.
Mealtime is different for every family. Since my husband’s job keeps him through most meals I strive to find more and more fun and creative ways to keep the kiddos busy and engaged during breakfast, lunch, and dinner prep. I always love to hear what works for other parents and mix and match ideas to fit my family’s lifestyle. I hope some of my tips and tricks can help provide a smooth and fun way to get healthy meals on your family’s table.
Books are a great way to get your kids interested in cooking with you. This is one of our favorites.