When there are children around, the stress quotient while cooking seems to skyrocket for me. Between the whining, fighting and boredom complaints, it is by far my least favorite part of the day. There are days, however, when I strike brilliance and intentionally set the children up with an activity to engage them while I cook. Here are some favorites. I hope that you find one or two that strike a chord with you!
1. The RAINBOW Game – The basic premise of this game is you are sending the children off on a treasure hunt throughout the house to find colored objects in order of the rainbow. I usually instruct them individually, ‘Go find me something Red’. Then upon successful completion, ‘Go find me something Orange’, etc. For an older child, you might ask for more than one object of each color. Or ask them to color the cups of an empty egg carton to collect small objects that match the colors and see what color ‘wins’. I use this game a lot — good for those times when the kids need to be engaged, even when we’re not at home (playing it in nature is particularly interesting).
2. HELP COOK – Ok, so this one might be kind of obvious… but it can work quite well to try and involve the kids in the cooking. What are some age appropriate things they can do with you? Peeling carrots with our peeler is easy enough for even a toddler! Or how about peeling garlic? There’s shredding lettuce, snapping beans, setting the table, mixing…
If you take a step back and think about what you’re making, you might actually be able to involve them at certain points. Just budget a little extra time and potentially more clean up. 🙂
3. KITCHEN BAND – This one is an oldy, but goody! When my kids were really small, I always had a bottom drawer dedicated to items that they could sit and play with on the floor in the kitchen while I cooked. I periodically changed the items in the drawer to maintain their curiosity. They liked to play with kitchen things, just like mom. and bang on pots and pans with wooden spoons. And who says that’s just for babies?! I bet you there are some big kids that would be entertained for at least as long as you need to get dinner on the table if you asked them to pretend play with real kitchen things on their own. Try it out!
4. CRAFT – Prepare the materials for a Valentine’s Day Craft and haul it out when the timing is just right, so that you can escape to the kitchen to prep dinner. Make sure you choose an activity that needs little supervision or plan to be in and out of the kitchen… I rely strongly on The Artful Parent blog for craft ideas. See her list of 19 Valentine’s Day Arts & Crafts here.
5. ELECTRONICS – So, you could always turn on the TV! But you didn’t need me to tell you that… seriously, though, let’s think about electronics for a minute. If your kids are older and interacting proficiently with electronics, there may be an opportunity to use them creatively here. Could they make a music video for you of their favorite song? Or create an ebook to explain what they are learning in Science class (try using this clever app from educreations)? How about facetiming with long distance relatives?