5 things...to keep the kids safe but busy while you're in the kitchen

In our house, kids always nap when there's not much going on. As soon as you need to make lunch, or you've just started making that cake, or you need to send some emails, up they spring refreshed and ready to run. Well not so fast nippers, mum and dad have got things to do.

So I'm making some meals for the freezer, alright maybe it's homemade truffles for the fridge...but how do I keep the kids busy in the kitchen without agreeing to turn a blind eye while they mix flour and water, inches from my clean washing. Here's 5 ideas to get you started...

1. Teach them where their food comes from

Most kids don't really see where their food comes from. As far as they know it comes from a shop or someone delivers it. Seeing and learning about where food comes from is quite a novelty. There are lots of ways to do it, depending on how old your children are. My four year old likes watching a carrot transform into a carrot stick (and now peels the carrots), and has just started to ask more about hens eggs. I also sometimes try to sneak in some reading by getting him to help with the ingredient list, and that will lead to questions so embrace it, go with it. If you're worried it'll put them off meat, start with vegetables. Peas come in a pod (bit like a spaceship) and potatoes are muddy because they live underground. My own mother tells a story about my older brother learning the names of nearly 50 types of fish by heart because he used to talk through her old recipe books while she cooked. There are worse things to learn.

2. Plastic pots

Kids love to play with plastic pots (and pans too), banging it together, putting smaller pots inside big pots etc. If they're young add a few shapes to the mix and they can take it out and put it in until their hearts content. If they're older add in some dry cous cous, small pasta or rice and some action or animal figures and tell them they're on an adventure through the desert. Our transformers have won many battles in the harsh couscous desert. With a little attention from you in between chopping and mixing, those games can last all afternoon.

3. Chief measurer

Measuring the ingredients to help mum or dad in the kitchen has been keeping kids busy for generations but you'll be surprised what else they'll learn if you let them join in. Thinking about making the truffles, they learn that if you eat all the chocolate before it makes it into the bowl there wont be any truffles!....but also how cream and chocolate react, the danger of hot things, how to stir things that are hot so it doesn't slosh out of the pan (once old enough), how to shape things gently so you don't squash them, and the idea of decorating something to make it look pretty.

keeping the kids busy in the kitchen at hazelbou.com

4. Master artist

Lets say your freezer meals would be labelled, or your truffles would make great gifts. Get colouring pencils and crayons and ask them to make labels or gift tags for the food. It gets them drawing, but with a specific purpose in mind and in a way that they get to sit there with you and talk about what you're both doing as one activity. You're both making a gift together...that's right darling write on the label....to mummy, lots of love xxx ;)

5. Sweets fund

Saving pennies in a big old ketchup jar or money box is good for kids. Not only do they get the idea of saving, but you can also ask them to count it, they like the noise, the activity and they like seeing whether they have enough saved up for some sweets after dinner! They can do this on a small table in the kitchen (as long as they're old enough to know not to eat the pennies) and it'll keep them busy until a chief taste tester is required....but of course, that's daddy's job.

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