Wondering how to keep your baby busy while cooking? Entertaining a baby while cooking is hard enough. Add to that the need to keep a toddler safe and we need some serious skills.
Have you ever wondered things like where to put the baby, or how to entertain a toddler while you cook, or may be you’ve considered buying a baby wrap or safety gate to keep them safe. I know!
These tips help me not just save time in the kitchen and food on to table but also to ensure my babies are safe!
Quick ideas to keep your babies and toddlers busy while cooking dinner
I love 30 minute meals and improvising to create meals that will literally cook while I sleep! But… I wasn’t always this efficient.
I have had four children in six years. It is not easy to live as an expat with little to no family around who can help you. If you are sick, pregnant or postpartum, you are just on your own. It doesn’t matter if your husband is helpful or not, because the truth is, how much can he do while juggling his office and less sleep with the new baby in the house… right?
In the past 14 years, I have had to teach myself through trial and error. Unfortunately, that is how most moms learn to become better mothers. We know where our shoe pinches and it is only we who can solve our own problems.
If you are a young mom with little children, you will relate that we often have to juggle sleep time with chores. We don’t get enough sleep. If we don’t get time to cook then there isn’t any food.
Sometimes, the baby or toddler will just not let us cook. Then again, even when they do, we may draw a blank as to what to cook in that half hour or less that we get. We may not have the required ingredients when we pick a menu too.
How to manage cooking with a baby and toddler
One of the most common problems mothers have when a new baby is added, or they have a toddler at home is understanding how to manage the little one with cooking. Here are a few tips I’d like to share but first let me stress the importance of having a routine for your baby or toddler. Click here to see a sample toddler routine.
1. Make sure your child has a good routine.
We all have a basic routine along which we accomplish our day to day to activities of eating, sleeping, cooking and more. But trouble happens when our routine clashes with our children’s routines.
If your baby wants to nap when you want to cook, or you have to cook while your child is hungry, then you’re both cranky.
A mistake most mothers make is that they try to tweak their own timings to their children’s timings. Now this is BIG trouble in the calling. Imagine this: your little baby, just a few months old, is still learning how the world works. They have no idea how grown ups live and work. Shouldn’t you be teaching your child what time they should eat and sleep, rather than feeding them when they are crying for sleep or food?
Putting your child on a planned routine will help you know what time you have to yourself. There are many routines available online that are scientific research based that help you follow your child’s natural sleep patterns. I highly recommend that you look into this.
Here is an example of some of my routines.
- Baby and toddler routine.
- Simple stay at home mom routine to get things done
- School aged children routine
- My complete resource on setting stable routines for children
2. Create a menu plan
The smartest way to minimize stress in the kitchen is to have a menu plan. Think about it: If you knew, even before you entered the kitchen, what you were cooking that day, wouldn’t it be easier for you to cook?
When you have to cook with a little toddler in tow, it definitely helps to have a plan.
I keep things super simple by writing a themed menu plan that I can use weak after week. You can click here to learn more about it but the idea is just that you create a theme for each day of the week. Saturday Pasta, Sunday One Pot, Monday Mexican and so on…
A theme for each day followed by weekly planning schedule in which I simply just write the name of the dish that I will be making. I plan not just lunch/dinner but also my breakfast and snacks since I have a bigger family.
3. Keep baby and toddler busy while cooking
Here are some ways to manage a baby while cooking:
- Invest in a good highchair for the baby. I cannot tell you how thankful I was to have a highchair that transitioned from baby to toddler. I have always believed in having my baby close to me so whenever they were awake, I would sit them in their high chair and make sure they ere consent watching me. Some finger foods or toys on the table in front of them plus my constant chatter always entertained them.
- Keep the conversation going. Talking to your child is the best way to let them know that you are near by. I see many mothers who don’t know how to talk to their children. Just describe everything you are doing to them. They may be small and not have much vocabulary but they are listening and learning. Also, your voice is so soothing to them. I loved my babies and toddlers at their age. I sang, danced and did funny stuff like banging and tapping nothings – basically put on a show. My kids loved to see mom cook. (I secretly feel thats why they enjoy cooking with me now!)
- Have a safety gate. If you have a toddler, you need a safety gate for them and you! It is the best way to ensure they’re near you and still not too near. (more about baby safety below)
- Buy engaging toys. One thing I find is that age appropriate toys for babies really do help in making our life easier. Of course, they will want something more than their toys, basically our stuff to play with but having toys is good too. Make sure you are rotating the toys.
- Make your kitchen baby proof. It is very important that all the things your child can touch are child proofed. Add knob protection, locks and shields to kitchen appliances but also remember to remove the harmful stuff from drawers at their level. Just put plastic or light weight child safe stuff in those low cabinets and drawers.
4. A note on baby proofing your kitchen.
One of the smartest thing you can do as soon as you have a baby is to make your kitchen safer for little children. Don’t wait till your baby is crawling or walking because by that time you may be too stressed. Baby proofing your kitchen and making it safer takes time and hind sight. You may look at things later on and realize what you did wasn’t as safe as you thought. So start as soon as you can, do some research to learn what are the best practices.
Some of the things I recommend are:
- Move your knives, sharp objects, oil and dangerous chemicals to a child safe area.
- Store child safe items in the drawers or cabinets that are accessible to baby.
- Install an oven guard to prevent child from turning knobs or touching the hot pots.
- Install a safety gate if your kitchen has a door.
- Attach snap locks on cabinets and drawers
Apart from this, practice some safety habits like double checking your oven and counters to see nothing is plugged on or left out.
FAQ on Cooking with Baby
Q. Is it a good idea to hold the baby while cooking?
A. Nope. I don’t recommend you do that. Babies and toddlers are very unpredictable. One sway or swipe, and you can both end up hurt!
I don’t recommend wearing your baby in a baby wrap while cooking either. What if something spills? What if something catches fire? What if you get caught in something? DON’T take that risk!
Place your baby away from the kitchen. In all these years, I have always placed my children outside the kitchen door. If you don’t have a confined kitchen, at least place the baby away from the cooking area.
I want you to remember if you let your baby and toddler into your kitchen by either holding them or letting them loose around you, one time is enough to create a habit. If you let them in once, they may always be after you toilet them in.
Instead, if you teach your child that kitchen is off limits for them and mommy doesn’t take them in the kitchen, they will learn that you just don’t. Of course, as they grow they will eventually stroll in to “shop”. 🙂
Q. How to entertain baby while cooking?
A. I am big believer in involving my children in my lifestyle because kids learn and adapt by watching us.The simplest thing you can do is to keep the conversation going.
Play peek-a-boo, sing, put on a show! Offer toys, simple snacks or place them in a playpen. Turn on the TV if you are really desperate but don’t hold the baby or bring them in the kitchen.
Q. What is the right time to cook?
A. I can’t tell you what is the right time to cook with your baby in your lifestyle but what I can tell you is to think outside the box.
I made a mistake in my early days thinking that I had to cook whenever it was meal time. If lunch was at 2pm, I’d start cooking close to that time. Also, I felt that I had to cook three times a day. You don’t HAVE to cook three times a day. You can just make lunch and dinner together!
Sometimes, when you have little babies, you may find that it is very hard to cook through the day. Make use of after bedtime. When you have babies, you have to improvise like that…
May be you are free to make dinner at 10am… Perfect! Do it. Don’t wait till the last minute. Quickly whip a one pot dish to steam in the rice cooker or bake in the oven while you do the dishes or may be even take a shower while the little on is sleeping.
8pm is when you are free to make lunch..? So be it. Make the next days lunch the night before, when your hubby is home to watch the kids. I have made breakfast and lunch for next day at 10 pm every night for years.
So now that you know how to manage your baby and toddler while cooking, here is what I want you do next.
Here is your next steps:
Want to simplify your meal planning and save time in the kitchen? Here is what you can do next.
- Click here to grab the Fridge and Freezer inventory list printable. I will send you a 5 day FREE course on meal planning.
- Download the printable and fill it in.
- Look out for my next email with instruction on how to create your sample Meal Plan customized for your family.