Meredith Sinclair, Juicy Juice Family Time Expert, shares easy tips and kid-friendly recipes to help families transform mealtime prep into 100% Family Time!
Families are the busiest they’ve ever been. According to a Pew Research Center report, nearly half of all two-parent families work full time, a sharp increase from previous decades. With jam-packed schedules often bursting at the seams between work, school, appointments and extracurricular activities, many parents (including 40% of full-time working moms), say that they spend too little time with their kids.
While it can feel nearly impossible to fit in frequent, uninterrupted family time, it’s all about making the most of your time together. Instead of having your kids watch from the sidelines or switch on the TV, turn your everyday to-dos – like mealtime prep – into a bonding experience filled with fun games, teachable moments, and most importantly, time to just connect during your busy day.
Here are a few of my favorite ways to get kids into the kitchen, giving you a helping hand during mealtime prep and even more quality time with your family!
Get your kids involved with planning the meals. Sit down together once a week to make the grocery list with your children – and let them have a say in what’s being served! Avoid any sibling squabbles by letting each child pick the meal for one night. Encourage your kids to make healthier choices by re-creating a homemade version of some of their favorite dishes with better-for-you ingredients. Two of my favorite recipes are Tropical Chicken and Baked Sweet Potato Fries with Creamy Mango Dipping Sauce for a new take on chicken nuggets and fries.
Give them a Job!
Make mealtime prep fun for everyone. For young helpers, maybe it’s stirring the sauce while singing their favorite song, setting the timer or gathering ingredients from the fridge or pantry and placing them on the countertop, ready to go when needed. Your older sous chefs can take on more responsibility in the kitchen, cutting veggies or measuring ingredients, and you can find ways to fit in mini math and reading lessons. Have him or her read the recipe aloud (and follow directions!) or master simple and complex equations on fractions (“measure 1 ½ cups flour using the ½ cup measure”), multiplication (“we need to double this recipe – how many people will it serve?”), and estimation (“is 1 tablespoon bigger or smaller than 2 teaspoons”).
I’m all about finding recipes for all three meals that don’t take a ton of time. If the prep is quick and easy, kids who are helping will stay focused, and it leaves you with more time to enjoy together. A few minimal-prep recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner that my boys enjoy are Overnight Oats (shown above), Apple Coleslaw and Sweet and Sour Slow Cooker Meatballs (watch the short how-to video below).
Turn Cleanup into Game Time
I’m a firm believer that everyone in the family should pitch in with cleanup, even from an early age. Instead of just assigning tasks (cue the eye rolls and groans!), make the most of this precious time by playing a game as you go – one of my family’s favorites is the “Either/Or” game (“Swings or Slides?”, “Ice Cream or Popsicles?”, “Chalk or Bubbles?”). It’s easy for everyone to play while washing dishes, wiping down the table or putting away leftovers, plus you can learn a lot about each other and spark some friendly debate. The best part? My kids have even told me they’ve learned so much about ME, just from this simple brain game!
For more 100% Family Time inspiration and kid-friendly recipes, visit www.juicyjuice.com/familytime.