Having dinner on the table in time to ward off the hunger grizzles at about 5:30pm is something I usually find quite stressful. Normally, I try to get as much done at midday when my youngest sleeps and my eldest is in her room for quiet time. Unfortunately, quiet time has not been going so well recently so I have been resorting to the TV to try to get this job done. I pre record an episode of Play School and allow Lucy to watch it whilst I prepare the evening meal and get a couple of other things done.
I have always tried to limit the amount of television the kids are exposed to, therefore, this habit is something I am not entirely comfortable with. So today I decided to try a new tact for getting the dinner done. It came on a whim actually as I saw the children were sharing a rare moment of cooperative reading in the corner as I was clearing the breakfast dishes. I had finished what I was doing and as I watched them play happily together I realised I had a little more time up my sleeves.
So I got all the ingredients out of the fridge to make a Bolognese sauce. That was as far as I got before my two and a half year old came bounding in with a ‘What you making?” At this point I had several options. I could have:
1. packed everything away and waited for the midday rest.
2. Set the girls up with a different task to keep them occupied whilst I hurriedly finished or,
3. Involved them in the process of making dinner. I have actually done this in the past but not usually with both children.
So I told Lucy what I was making and then asked if she would like to help. Of course she did so I set her a task of chopping the mushrooms which she did with great concentration.
Once she had done this, I charged her with peeling the onion. This is a great one for her as it involves removing (hence destroying) the skin and dumping it in a bowl.
At this point Penny (eighteen months) sauntered in. I had run out of child friendly jobs to do so I asked her to choose a saucepan out of the drawer and hand it to me. She did this eagerly and before long I had three saucepans lining the bench. I handed one back to her explaining that we only needed two. As she was taking it back to the drawer she set it down on the floor, lifted the lid and placed her apple in it. She was clearly imitating the cooking process so I handed her a wooden spoon so she could ‘work’ along side me.
Once Lucy had finished the onion peeling, she grabbed the bowl of discarded peel and climbed down to Penny, adding the peel to her saucepan. This began an all-consuming process for the two of them, creating their own dinner (a stew of sorts). They used all the scraps from my chopping as well as a few bits and pieces they had found on the floor (leftover toast scraps from breakfast – nice cleaning strategy haha!). They worked together contently, stirring, combining, putting the lid on and off.
Lucy even pinched some of my parsley and began chopping it into the pan.
They were so occupied by their cooking that I was able to complete the dinner and have it set aside for the evening’s meal long before they had finished with theirs. Once they were done they grabbed some of the empty bowls from the bench and proceeded to dish up the delicious meal and sit together to enjoy it.
Now, of course I don’t expect this to happen every day, but it has made me realise that getting the dinner done means picking the right time in the day in which to do it. The children are infinitely better in the mornings so I intend to see whether I can wait for a time when they are playing independently to begin the dinner process and then ensure I set aside the easier jobs for them when they inevitably come to help me. Hopefully this way I will break the habit of using the television to babysit them so I can get this job done.
Children love to be involved in the daily chores. I have learned that if I set aside plenty of time for them to be done (ie. limit the number and length of outings in the day and be somewhat organised), I can work patiently alongside my children as they learn life skills and gain satisfaction through diligent focus in the process.
For more reading on involving your children in your household chores you might like to visit these posts:
The Worried Cheese – Preparing Snacks at 21 Months ~ An Everyday Story