Part of the trouble with dinner prep time is that it seems to be the only time of day that the kids want /need/cannot live without your undivided attention. There’s a reason they call it the witching hour! So how can we make it easier? My top parenting tip is that you can make dinner time easier with kitchen chores for kids that really help you out. The great thing about it is you are also teaching your kids some very important life skills as well as helping them to be more independent. Give one of these ideas a try tonight and see how you go.
Choosing the menu
This is particularly helpful if you have picky kids as getting involved in planning the meals is a great way to open your child up to new possibilities. They are more likely to eat the things they get to choose. It’s a great task for Sunday nights or whenever you are planning your weekly menu. Give the kids the option to choose a meal each and what night they would like it.This chore brings a feeling of responsibility and also helps them to feel included in the meal planning process. On the night of their meal, the child who chose it gets to be in charge of getting the meal ready.
There are probably some things about getting dinner ready that you just don’t love. The first one for me is peeling veggies! So what do I do? I outsource it. There are awesome kid safe peelers on the market that allow your kids to help out by peeling veggies in the kitchen (try the Kiddie’s Food Cutter). The great news is, the kids actually enjoy doing this chore!That’s a win-win.
If peeling veggies isn’t enough to get them distracted, then chopping them is also fun, just be sure to use a kid-safe knife like these ones and don’t forget to pop a damp towel under the chopping board. It helps it to stay in place so it doesn’t slip all over the bench top while the kids are trying to cut the veggies. You may have to let dinner perfection slide a little if the kids are chopping, as they tend to chop big and small (uniform size is so uncreative when you’re a kid), but if you can deal with your carrot slices ranging from 1mm through to 10mm, then it’s all good.
Dressing and arranging salad
I find that my kids love to mix things, so once they have chopped up all the salad elements, I get them to mix them together. It’s fun for them and it also saves me time. I also have them make the salad dressing and pour it either on the salad or in a little jug. Salad dressing are normally fairly simple and any slip of the hand (eg. too much olive oil) can be fixed by adding more of the other ingredients. They can either shake, or whisk to combine it, so even that aspect is quite enticing for little kids.
Setting the table
Not only is setting the table essential (unless, like my daughter, you believe everything can be eaten with your fingers), it also helps kids learn how to follow instructions and take responsibility for catering for everyone, not just themselves. For the younger kids, there are placemats which show an outline of a table setting, so the kids fit the cutlery on top like puzzle pieces.
Filling water cups
Helping out with filling water cups or putting water into a jug and putting cups on the table is also a kitchen chore that the smallest kids can do. With younger kids use plastic cups and a plastic jug, but older ones (like my 6 year old) are fine with carrying and setting up glasses.
Unpacking the table
If they can set it…they can unset it! Get the kids to empty scraps into the bin or compost, then put their own plates, cutlery and cups in the dishwasher. They might need some instruction the first time, but from then on it’s an exercise in memory. They can also help with emptying the dishwasher and putting away things before/after dinner prep.
Wiping the table and benchtops
Once the dishes have been cleared away, it’s time to wipe down the tables and kitchen benchtops. Dilute some low-tox kitchen surface spray into a spray bottle for the kids to use. They will love getting to use the spray and will probably get your table extra squeaky-clean as a result. Show them how to rinse clean the dishcloth and put it away to dry.
Sweeping under the table
No matter what we serve for dinner, there are always crumbs, so it’s good to get everyone in the habit of sweeping up under the table with a dustpan and broom. Not only is it a fun task for kids (crazy, right?) but it also means that come breakfast time, the floor under the table is clean!
The key to making dinner time easier: if there’s any chance the kids can do a task, or learn to do it, then get them started! Sharing the load benefits the whole family, but it also teaches kids some key life skills and sets them on the road to independence. As they become more competent, add extra tasks like turning the sausages, using the oven, even making a recipe from scratch.
How are you getting your kids to help out tonight?