The witching hour - that time before dinner through to bed time. It’s a real thing. It’s even a thing without kids, the ‘hangry’ hits and you don’t know what to cook and it’s taking so long, and you grate your finger when you’re doing the cheese (every time!).
Now add a toddler or two. Kids who are also hangry and tired. You don’t want to feed them because it’s almost dinner time! And you don’t want them under your feet because sharp things, fire and small people are not a good recipe (see what I did there!?).
To make dinner prep easier for you, make it a fun time for the kids, here are some ideas to help keep your little ones busy during meal prep. Just like meal planning, some of these will take a little bit of planning, but the more you learn what works the less planning you will need.
Magnets on the fridge
Always a winner, ever since the first fridge. If your fridge isn’t magnetic, try bath toys or waytoplay roads. These just need a little bit of water to create a suction and will stick until they dry. Cars can drive around the road, or even have a race. Numbers, letters, cars or animals, it’s a whole new play space.
Fill ‘er up
Young kids love filling things and emptying things. Fill a large plastic container with corks, rice, balls or large buttons, then give the kids a spoon and get them to move the items from the large container into your muffin tin. As they get older get them to do it with tongs, like this beautiful Grapat bowls and marbles set.
Lucas always had a collection of cars out on the table, ready to race them around the house. When we (Mum) needed some quiet time it was time to match the colours of the cars. Can you find two cars that are the same colour? Two blue, two green, two orange. It doesn’t have to be cars, it can be toys in general. This is great for when the kids are older, they might have to hunt for the toys that they want to match up. We have a free printable colour carpark which has a car park for the different coloured cars.
When the kids are old enough to start counting it is a great activity to encourage. Make a task fun and the kids will stay engaged longer. The kids will have a great time counting things around the house. Make them up on the spot or make a list so you don’t have to think while you’re busy cooking. How many pairs of shoes are at the front door? How many pot plants in the lounge? How many pillows on the couch? Or take the easy option and check out the huge range of counting toys at Lucas Loves Cars.
Let me do what you do
When the kids get older they want to be with you and ‘help’ you. Let the kids ‘do what you do’ with their very own food toys. While you are chopping the veggies, let them chop their veggies. There are so many beautiful food and cooking toys, the kid will be happy to create their own little Masterchef meals.
Melt the peanuts
Not real peanuts, no monkeys here! This is a fun task involving the Lucas Loves Cars (or Natural Supply Co!) packing peanuts. Our packing fill is in the shape of peanuts and they are biodegradable, so they dissolve in water. All you need for this fun science project is an order from Lucas Loves Cars or Natural Supply Co, two bowls and a spoon.
Fill one bowl with peanuts, fill the other with water and get the kids to spoon the peanuts into the water and watch them simply disappear. They may need a swirl but it’s ok to use your hands as it is simply starch from potatoes or corn. The kids will be amazed by the magic.
This is a family trick that we have done with our kids and it works a treat. When your child is old enough for solids, sit them in the high chair and put some frozen peas on their tray. Frozen peas are a fun sweet snack, especially the baby peas. And they get the bonus of eating and learning to use that tricky pincer grip. Add a spinning toy that suctions to the table, and they will be completely absorbed.
Guest post from our friend Helle who owns Lucas Loves Cars, an online toy store filled with boys toys, for boys and girls. Working with toys since 2012, she has played with toys for a long time and is very picky about which toys make the list. Like a spoilt child, she will have a tantrum if the toy doesn't work and will play for hours if she finds it engaging and fun. Or until someone tells her it's time for food.