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Old 04-04-2012, 07:59 AM   #1
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What do you do with your kids when you are cooking?

My 21 month old gets picked up from daycare around 3pm. He has typically just woken up from a nap. We come home, he gets a small snack, and we usually play outside until 4. At that point, I have to start dinner (we eat really early, usually between 4:45 and 5:30pm). DS doesn't get home until 4:15 most days, 5:15 at least once a week.

Okay, when I can I try to do really quick meals, or have the prep done, or use a crockpot, but it isn't feasible every single day. Some days I have to do it all on my own. Sometimes I try to get DS to help with cooking, but he's at the age where he is into everything, ESPECIALLY climbing, so the kitchen is a pretty dangerous place.

Right now my very poor attempts at keeping him busy include: opening the door to outside and allowing him to play outside alone as long as I can see him (we do have a fenced in yard, and windows that pretty much span the back of our house). If he goes out of sight, I go out and check on him and redirect him closer to the house. The problem is, he often heads straight for our playset, which involves a lot of climbing, and he still needs someone there to make sure he doesn't fall, as it is 6 ft off the ground at it's highest point. If it isn't that, he wants to play in his water table which is OK, but he can pull himself up on it and likes to stick his face in the water which is of course NOT safe when I'm not right there next to him. Of course, I can empty the water out of that.

I also try putting on cartoons, which he will watch for a grand total of 15 seconds, generally, before he is trying to scale the stairs (our stairs aren't built to where a gate at the bottom will work very well), or he's climbing the furniture or getting into who knows what else because he can climb almost any baby gate, playpens aren't an option he could get out of those at 14 months, coloring keeps him occuppied about 2 seconds.

Any thoughts? The obvious answer is to wait until daddy gets home. I have tried this as an "experiment" and I'll be honest.... what ends up happening is that I either have two toddlers in the kitchen saying they are hungry or DH stands around in the kitchen reading the mail and generally getting in my way while DS is still doing the same stuff he would be doing if it were just me--and I'm still trying to keep up with him. I've asked DH to take DS outside, but he gets mad and says they want to "hang out with me" good grief. I WORK with DH, so it's not like I don't see him ALL DAY LONG.

Anyway, this turned into a semi-vent but what I really want are some safe suggestions for keeping DS entertained for the 15-20 minutes it takes me to prep dinner and get it in the oven. Oh, have I mentioned that 90% of the time about 5 minutes into dinner prep is when ds will have a massive diaper blowout Oh the joys...

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Old 04-04-2012, 08:20 AM   #2
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Re: What do you do with your kids when you are cooking?

Make a low cabinet that has pots/pans, plastic bowls, wooden/plastic spoons and let him play with them.

Put him in a high chair with things to play with.

Make a container that has rice(dry) in it and give him cups to fill/pour within the container.
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Old 04-04-2012, 08:25 AM   #3
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Re: What do you do with your kids when you are cooking?

The tupperware drawer/pot and pan drawer with wooden spoons are great for that age.
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Old 04-04-2012, 08:37 AM   #4
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Re: What do you do with your kids when you are cooking?

My older two both LOVED movies at that age...DS went through a Harry Potter stage (the first one), DD really loved Princess & the Frog...so movies went on most days. The tupperware/spoon/measuring cup drawer always went over well too.
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Old 04-04-2012, 08:40 AM   #5
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Re: What do you do with your kids when you are cooking?

I'm about ready to duct tape mine to the sofa. This has been a constant struggle for us for years. They aren't interested in playing, they want ME. I come home and shower them with affection and attention for 15/20 minutes hoping it will help, but it actually makes it worse.Then one wants to help but the other is too little and I can't supervise both of them AND the food at once. My DH is an azzhat and sits and watches the news while I try not to spill boiling water on the ankle biters. I have no idea how a perfectly good father in every other way just can't see his way through this one.
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Old 04-04-2012, 08:41 AM   #6
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Re: What do you do with your kids when you are cooking?

Playdough while strapped into the highchair or standing on a learning tower
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Old 04-04-2012, 08:50 AM   #7
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Re: What do you do with your kids when you are cooking?

Every bottom cabinet in my kitchen has non-breakable stuff. They play in the cabinets- make a huge mess with stuff all over the floor for me to trip on, but they are happy. They also have access to the pantry so they take out food and pretend to cook. If i am chopping something that can be eaten raw I will give them little pieces every now and then. And lately 18 month old DS is interested in setting the table. So I hand him what ever I can that he can't break and he puts it on the table. Usually comes to a halt when i hand him the forks- he starts drumming them together and forgets all about everything else.
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Old 04-04-2012, 09:59 AM   #8
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Re: What do you do with your kids when you are cooking?

Subbing! DD is only 14 mos but I totally have the same issue and DH doesn't get home until after bedtime several nights/week.
I either DEMAND that DH remove DD from the kitchen or make dinner himself which generally backfires to me standing in the kitchen, holding DD, saying okay, now add the broth. Sigh.
Now that warmer weather's here I have been trying to use the grill more. I get her interested in something else (anything!), and slab a couple chicken breasts on the grill. We play outside til they're done. Of course, this may not work next week as DD has been spotted turning the burner knobs and pushing the igniter button on the grill.
If all else fails I put her in the mei tai (back carry) for a few mins.
I love the idea of high chair + play dough and will be trying that with edible pb clay this weekend!
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Old 04-04-2012, 10:19 AM   #9
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Re: What do you do with your kids when you are cooking?

Usually my kids just do what they always do...play together somewhere in the house. Sometimes though they'll be hungry and whiny and man there isn't much that is more annoying and 2 kids crying and pulling at your legs while you are trying to cook! DS isn't so bad about it but DD is gets psychotic when she knows I'm making food and she isn't getting any fast enough so I usually stick her in her crib with some toys if she gets that way. If the weather is nice I'll send them outside (I can see them from the kitchen) or I'll try to send them up to DS's room with some toys or books. Oh and a lot of times I'll put DD in the highchair with some cheerios.
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Old 04-04-2012, 10:30 AM   #10
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Re: What do you do with your kids when you are cooking?

Well, he outgrew playing in the cabinets months ago, so that doesn't work for us anymore. he has had access to those cabinets for ever, and for a while playing in the cabinets worked pretty well, but honestly he is not into that sort of thing so much now. He's into cars and airplanes and climbing and water and all those sorts of active things. Ocassionally he'll play with his play kitchen while I'm cooking & will bring me "food" to "eat".

I like the playdoh suggestion. Sometimes that sort of thing just ends up being more work for me, though. By that I mean, imagine this (common in my home) scenario:

Explain activity. Put DS in highchair (no momma! no chair! NO chair!), calm DS down. Strap highchair (Momma! Outside! NO eat! No Chair! Outside! I like CLIMB! Daddy!). Hand DS playdoh. Walk to cabinet to get out dinner fixings. Turn around to find DS eating playdoh (We don't eat playdoh, we squish it.... "Momma! Momma squish! Momma SIT! Momma playdoh!".... Mommy is cooking right now.... "ME cook! ME CLIMB! ME Water! OUtside!") Begin cooking. (Me Dirty Diaper! All done! ALL DONE! WAAAAAAAHHHHHHH)

Meanwhile, in the grand total of 10 minutes that have lapsed, I've had to break open a beer because my blood pressure is through the roof, there's playdoh on the chair, the table, the floor, and the kid; the dogs are eating the playdoh, the stove is boiling over, wait....is that something burning?? Then...of course...DS sticks his hand down his pants, out come "poopy hands" (momma! POOOOOP!! Me POOP! )

At which point I'm pretty tempted to order pizza.
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