Get Independent Play ideas for babies through preschoolers so that you can meal prep in peace. It really is possible!
One of the biggest questions we get asked? What is the best way to keep kids occupied while you jump into the slicing and dicing of food prep. The answer depends a bit on the age of your kids so we're sharing a few of our favorite ideas to keep little hands and minds busy so you can prep.
Independent Play Ideas:
Babies. The best idea is to prep during nap time. If that's not possible, alternate 3 stations: swing, activity mat and pack n play (or 3 stations you have that are in view).
Toddlers. This is by far the toughest age because.. ahem…they can move and put things in their mouth so keeping a close eye is a must! Here are a few ideas:
- Make a Kid Cabinet: Fill this cabinet with plastic containers, measuring cups, wooden spoons and throw in some cardboard boxes (the toddlers favorite toy)…basically anything toddler friendly. Let them play “kitchen” next to you or bang on the containers with the wooden spoon :-). If they seem like they're getting bored, keep adding new discoveries to the cabinet.
- Create a sensory bin: Set your kids up at the kitchen table with a large, shallow, plastic container and fill it with dry rice or elbow pasta. Add some measuring cups, funnels, cars, Dinos, My Little Ponies… you get the idea. You can also bury some treasures for them to find.
Preschool to Grade School. Life gets a bit easier to prep as kids get older and more adept at independent play. Still, at this age they can get bored and/or fight with their siblings. Here's our top ideas to keep them happy.
- Play dough table. Set up your kitchen table with play dough, molding tools and/or items around your house like buttons, rolling pins, cookie cutters, toothpicks (for older kids). Let them get busy with their creativity.
- Lego Competitions. So they don't get bored with their old legos, set them up with a competition. Write out 4 to 6 lego creations (i.e. car, boat, house, etc) on small scraps of paper, place them into a cup and have them blindly pull 1 idea at a time. Using the legos on hand, they can use their imagination and build from scratch.
- Directed drawing. Go to YouTube and find some of the directed drawing videos for kids. They show them step by step how to draw images of animals, characters, etc. This is especially great for kiddos who love art.
Last but not least…encourage them to help you! Let them stir, measure and blend. It's a great way to teach cooking skills at a young age. The added bonus? Kids who help in the kitchen are more likely to try new foods!
Looking for more great kid resources?
We are a company of moms and we've got you covered! Here are a few of my favorite resources for kids:
5 Simple Recipes to Make with Your Kids: No precise measurements of complicated instructions here! These recipes are simple enough for even little kids to help with.
Kid Favorite Recipes: Picky eaters are a top concern among our subscribers. We rounded up some of the most kid-friendly Prep Dish recipes to please even the pickiest eaters.
Family Dinner – How to Make it Work at Every Stage: Family dinner has certainly changed in my house as we've added kids to the mix, but we still make it happen! Get my best tips here.
25 Baby Led Weaning Foods: In this video I share 25 real foods I fed my son as a baby.
Kids Cook Real Food: If you want to get your kids cooking with you, this is an excellent place to start! They offer video lessons for kids of all ages to help teach practical kitchen skills. Prep Dish followers get a free knife skills class – so important!
What's your tip for keeping kids busy? Share below!
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