How to cook with young children

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    We all know that a great way to save money is to cook and bake from scratch. Not only does it (usually) cost less to make your own snacks and baked goods, but they tend to be better for you as they are free of preservatives and other less than fantastic ingredients.

    But how do you find time to cook and bake with young children? This was a question someone asked me recently and I wanted to share my best tips that I have used over the years – and that I use again now that we have young children in our home again!

    1. Let your children help.

    I know it’s a lot more work when a toddler helps you. It’s messy and takes 4 times as long. Go to cooking with children with the mindset that this is an adventure and that it will look and be very different than when you cook yourself.

    Expect it to get messy; that is part of the learning process! And assume it will take a lot longer. It will … but that can also be part of the experience!

    Our perspective and attitude make a huge difference! If you step into it and expect it to be quick and easy and messy, prepare for frustration. Instead, think of it as an activity that you do together to learn, have fun, and spend time together.

    And guess what? While it will be messy and take a lot more time to start with, if you stick with it your kids will soon be old enough to read recipes and prepare their own food. It will pay off in huge dividends – if you stick with it!

    2. Cook / bake when you eat.

    While your toddler is eating breakfast in the high chair, whip up a quick bath with muffins, cut fruit for dinner or stick a roast in the crockpot.

    I find that an early dinner plan is a present that I give myself later in the day. So why not make it a breakfast habit to simply prep your toddler with their food and then quickly spend 10-15 minutes preparing things for dinner?

    3. Turn on a show.

    I’m a big fan of using shows on purpose. Kierstyn loves to watch Rachel and the Treeschoolers on YouTube right now, so I try to see her at a certain time of the day if I can maximize the amount of time she sits quietly watching her show.

    4. Use quiet time.

    Daily rest or naps can be a great time to cook something. While I think mothers need some time off too, if you dedicate the first 15-20 minutes of nap / rest to cooking, set the timer, and work fast, you can get a lot done in a short amount of time!

    By the way, as your little ones grow out of their afternoon nap, I encourage you to continue to consider taking a daily rest period. It’s a gift to everyone – because I believe we all need some rest in our day and it’s a good rest for the rest of the day!

    5. Have special activities.

    Create special tubs of activities that you pull out only once a day so your kids can play while cooking or baking. This gives them something to look forward to and it can feel like they are getting brand new toys / activities!

    When our older three were little, we had weekday tubs with special activities and they were only allowed to take out those for that day during rest periods. You can also do this for a cooking time – special containers or tubs that they can only play with while cooking. (By the way, you can see a picture of what these look like here. Unfortunately none of the links to this post work anymore. I think I’ll have to write a new post soon when we implement it again!)

    What are your best tips and strategies for finding time to cook / bake with young children?

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