How do you cook at home with a toddler?
The other day I was asked this question by a frustrated parent who has a daughter the same age as my daughter Ridha (2.5 years). She and I were talking about cooking meals at home in a rush, and she finally just threw her hands up in the air and said “I cannot cook at home, I don’t know how to do it with a toddler. How do you cook at home with a toddler?” And I smiled and thought, the correct question in my case is How do I cook at home with TWO toddlers?
I am not the first and most definitely not the last mother who cooks meals for my family. I am no Masterchef home cook. I don’t prepare elaborate meals. I just need to make it edible enough for my family, especially the littles. And it’s not always easy, in fact anything in motherhood is rarely easy. But I will share with you how I am able to sanely cook in my kitchen.
Oh, to finish up the story, I said to the mother who asked me that question, “I literally have one of them on each leg while I’m cooking.” And we both laughed. It’s so wonderful how parents have an unspoken understanding among each other. Almost as if we are all in the same laughable dilemma, not looking for a real solution, rather just trying to find ways to survive it.
Five tips on how to cook with two toddlers:
Television.Some activity while the TV is playing in the background. I would love it if my kids sat long enough in front of the TV while I cooked. But because of their age and attention span, it sometimes doesn’t work out. It doesn’t take them long to lose interest in whatever is playing, and wander over to find me in the kitchen. So I have to back it up with some other activity. Some examples: coloring with markers, peeling off stickers, playing with stamps, rearranging all the DVD’s, taking out all contents of the toy box, basically anything that is making a complete mess of the living room.
- Giving into endless snacks. My littlest one is a crawler and it terrifies me when she is crawling around the kitchen and I have a pressure cooker on the stove. So I usually confine her to the highchair while I am cooking. I can’t do this without plenty of incentives. So I’ll give her all the goodies and treats for that 20-30 minutes that she’s in the highchair, and my 2.5 year old will get the same treats as she sits on the sofa or table.
- Letting them explore. My kids love to explore and remove all contents of cabinets, drawers, fridge, etc. So while I cook, sometimes I will let them explore the locked up cabinet filled with pots/pans, or I’ll open up the fridge and let them stand and point out the items. I’ll open the dishwasher and give them a few plastic utensils and bowls to arrange in it. Their absolute favorite is emptying out the tupperware cabinet all over the floor.
- Giving them the laundry basket. Not sure what it is about laundry baskets filled with clothes, but it keeps my kids busy. On rare occasions, I will allow the girls to empty out the basket filled with freshly washed clothes and “fold” them.
- Cooking While Napping. There’s nothing like cooking without the presence of toddlers at your toes. It’s so peaceful!!
- Simplified Meals. Lastly, choosing what to cook is probably even more difficult than the fact that I am cooking with children. At this stage, I just look for recipes that contain ingredients I always have on hand and simple steps that don’t involve too much prep. Half an hour is just enough for an elementary meal. And i’m okay with that.
I realize that all of these tips equal a mess that I will eventually have to clean up. But we have to make some sacrifices for the greater good. Truth is my kids do not leave me alone for even a minute. So I have had to resort to unconventional, and somewhat unsafe methods to keep them busy. We’re far from perfect, but it works for us.
What are some tips you can share about how to cook with babies/toddlers?