Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Making dinner with small children around - help!

I'm writing this post to get it out, because I'm struggling with something. All I want to do each evening is to prepare a healthy, nutritious evening meal that everyone will eat. But even setting aside the fact that all my children will eat for dinner is pasta, I find it so difficult and stressful to make the dinner with small children around.

I make dinner for 6pm so that we can all eat together when my husband comes home from work. Then we can put the children to bed straight after, and have a longer evening together. This means that all the food preparation and cooking has to be done while the children are around. I just can't work out how other people manage to make dinner with children around.

If Harry is at pre-school then Mia wants to be in the kitchen with me. She sees me taking out the cooking things and drags herself over a chair so that she can stand at the counter. If I try and involve her with the cooking she grabs everything and throws it about, or else she is on the floor, pulling at my leg and screaming. Of course if I'm stirring something hot on the hob then she needs to be kept well away. Anything that I give her to occupy herself with at the table, for example crayons or stickers, she becomes easily frustrated and screams when she can't do something. Because she has dropped her nap she's always pretty grumpy at this time anyway. I end up feeding her snacks to keep her occupied, meaning that she's not hungry when dinner finally makes it to the table.

If Harry is around too then it is slightly easier. I put the television on in the living room and they play together in there while I'm in the kitchen. Except that I can't see the living room from the kitchen, so I am constantly going back to stick my head around the door to check on them. This is necessary, because entertaining themselves involves activities like using the bin to climb on to the window sill to see out, or running along the back of the sofa. Even if they do happen to be sitting quietly watching television I'm still constantly on edge anticipating a meltdown when one of them sits on the other or they are both fighting over the same toy.

To be honest, it's mainly Mia that is the difficult one. Harry understands, and he will sit quietly in front of the television. I know that it's just a stage, and it won't be long before Mia is the same, and then I'll be able to concentrate. But it causes me so much frustration every day that I dread late afternoon!

Does anyone have any tips, or is it just another stage which I need to wait out?!

14 comments:

  1. We eat at the same time you do. Having the big kitchen/diner means I can put CBeebies on in there and keep an eye on the girls while I cook. Some days it works better than others (today I snapped at Emily more than I like to). Often I am praying for Mark to get home, which can be any time from 5:30 onwards. But I like to think that everything is a phase, because eventually they grow up and leave home.

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    1. Also today at school Laura learnt how to make jam sandwiches (seriously), so I reckon I can have her cooking dinner by the end of the year.

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    2. I get snappy too, I don't like it :( It is a phase, I know that Harry is so much better now, it's just hard getting through it!

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  2. How about putting her on a chair at the sink and giving her lots of things to play with and mix in water? Things to mix like flour and rice, and jugs and bowls and spoons. Might work once! At least you will be close and can interact a bit as you are cooking.

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    1. Oh she would love that! Although I can see it being very messy!

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  3. Bubba is a similar age to your little girl (I think). I sometimes struggle and now a lot of the time I use the slow cooker - put it on first thing in the morning and its dinner virtually done when needed. The other thing I do is give her veg to sort into different containers or identify for me (so I have bag of veg and ask her to get the carrots out or show me all the green veg) to keep her occupied. If she's in the other room then I take my prep stuff in there and keep an eye on her (its a faff but helps me not be like a headless chicken running back and forth).

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    1. I keep hearing about these slow cookers. I could probably find time during the day quite easily to chop up some veg. I do like the idea of taking the prep stuff into the living room too, that might work well.

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  4. It's that time of day when they're tired and, like you say, easily frustrated. Sounds like the sticker/colouring thing is close to working - but maybe find some alternative, really open-ended, absorbing activities for her to try in the kitchen. For example, play dough and shells, or a special basket of a few picture books, or my kids' favourite thing - a pestle and mortar plus a few things to crush like a handful of cornflakes,some herbs or some egg shells. Or if you're peeling carrots or apples, for example, hand over the peelings and safety scissors (if she's confident with them) or a tray and let her play with them. I'm writing about this kind of situation at the moment, so have been remembering what worked when my two children were at that tricky 'witching-hour' stage.

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    1. Some fantastic ideas, thank you, I will definitely remember those! I know that my older one would love these ideas too. I don't have a pestle and mortar but I'm sure I could get hold of one.

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  5. I'm now on No.5 and nothing changes!

    She is 3 but is a brilliant peeler...she used to get frustrated but now she can do it it's great. Let her chop a fruit salad with a plastic knife (banana, grapes, strawberries) and make a whip to go with it (mine likes the hand held electric blender!) Or earlier in the day make some biscuit dough that needs refrigerating ;) then when you need some peace get the rolling pin and cutters out so that she can make pudding! Washing up plastic stuff is also a good one!

    Love Julia's idea of the pestle and mortar...I must try that!

    Best wishes for more peaceful pre-meal moments! xx

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    1. More great ideas, I know that if I made up the biscuit dough though she would just stand at the counter and eat it! She would love to be able to wash up too, perhaps I could get her a little bowl to wash up in.

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  6. If anyone has any secrets to the dinner cooking/toddler watching fiasco, then I will bow at your feet. I have the same problem as you do and am seriously considering investing in one of those slow cookers. I hear so much about them, but don't actually know much!

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    1. Many people have recommended them to me as a way to make things easier. I might have a look at a cheap one and see how we get on!

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  7. Get a pampered chef safe cutter http://www.pamperedchef.co.uk/ordering/prod_details.tpc?prodId=10810&catId=4&viewAllOutlet= its brilliant, my kids use it to cut up things like cucumber but they can't cut themselves on it. Giving them a job really helps

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