How can you possibly get any holiday cooking done with a toddler in the kitchen? One minute she’s clinging to your legs and whining, then she’s splashing in the dog bowl, touching the hot oven, more clinging followed by some lovely layin’ out on the floor tantrums, then on to pulling out plastic lids and containers making it look like a Gladware monster threw up on your kitchen floor…
I have rounded up 7 fun tips to help you and your little one survive the holiday season and actually get some cooking done!
1. Clean and prep before you start. It seems kind of silly to clean the kitchen before you make a big mess of it all but I really think it’s worth it! Make sure the dishwasher and the dish drying rack are empty, fill the sink with hot soapy water and set out your trash can. Place some fresh dishtowels on the counter and get out all of your ingredients before you start measuring and prepping. When you set yourself up for success and have all of the clutter out of your way you will be able to wrangle your little one and continue to have fun interactions while you are busy cooking.
2. Let your toddler help. Older toddlers can help stir, dump, pour and tear foods into small pieces. Younger tots can “help” as much as they want and this might end up more as exploring ingredients and listening to you talking about the ingredients and steps you’re taking to make a dish. Keep it short and sweet and don’t force them to help if they aren’t interested. Baby Babe “helped” for about 2 minutes. I think that’s a pretty good amount of time for an 11 month old to focus!
3. Squeeze in a snack time. To avoid meltdowns offer snacks and tastes of the ingredients that you are cooking with. I notice that when Baby Babe is whining and nothing is making her happy, she usually needs a little snack.
4. Provide fun play spaces in the kitchen. Instead of banishing your kiddo from the kitchen, invite them to join you in areas that are safe. Allowing them to play with pots and pans or the favorite plasticware cabinet will create a positive attitude about being in the kitchen. Any parent knows that pots and pans are way more interesting than the toy box, so let them have at it! It will buy you a lot of time. Baby Babe loves her window clings on the back door and she will stand there looking outside. The window clings provide a lot of fun conversation starters and learning lessons like colors, shapes and counting.
5. Do a special highchair activity. When things get crazy, buckle them up! I usually try to allow as much exploration as possible, but there are times that the highchair can provide an opportunity to focus on a fun activity and give you a break from chasing and redirecting. While we made our Overnight Blueberry Strata Baby Babe tried some coloring with markers. She really enjoyed coloring!
6. Have a dance party while you cook. Music can lighten the mood and keep your toddler entertained while they play independently. I love Raffi’s Christmas Album! It would be perfect for this time of the year.
7. Keep your to-do’s achievable. Set small goals that you can accomplish easily, then if you can do more that’s great! I used to make a lot more of my food from scratch but this year for my holiday cooking I’ll be taking some short cuts. I would rather set small goals and feel like a rock star when I over accomplish rather than having a huge to do list that I’ll never complete.
Baby Babe has been helping me in the kitchen with some freezer cooking and yesterday we made Overnight Blueberry Strata. This special breakfast treat is perfect for Christmas morning because you can throw it together the night before and pop it in the oven in the morning. It is delish!
Overnight Blueberry Strata
- 1 loaf of French Bread, torn into bite sized cubes
- 1 package of cream cheese, cut into bite sized cubes
- 1 carton of blueberries (frozen will work)
- One dozen eggs, beaten
- 2 cups of unsweetened almond milk
- 1 TBSP cinnamon
- 1/4 c maple syrup
Directions: Layer half of the bread in a large baking dish. Sprinkle the blueberries and cubed cream cheese on top. Add remaining bread cubes. Mix eggs with almond milk, cinnamon, and maple syrup then pour over the bread. Cover with cling wrap and refrigerate overnight. The next morning bake at 350 for about an hour or until golden on top and set.Share it!