I don’t know about you, but attempting to entertain a preschooler while also making a healthy dinner really tests my patience as a mother. Especially on super busy days! Somehow it always ends up being 5 PM, the kids are starving and I haven’t had time all day to figure out what to make for dinner. Since I was having such a hard time making dinners with my young kids around, I have had to figure out some easy ways to hold my preschooler’s attention for extended periods of time.
In addition of having these activities to entertain a preschooler, they also will teach your kids about cooking, meal preparation, cleaning, learning new skills, fine and gross motor development, and responsibility to pets and siblings. Most importantly, they are all great bonding experiences for you and your preschooler to share! Here are some fun and educational ways to entertain a preschooler while making dinner:
- Let them help wash your veggies and put them in the pot to be steamed. Kids also love to help mixing, mashing, and stirring just about anything. Just always remember to use caution around the stove.
- Ask them to grab items you need out of the fridge and cupboards one at a time. This is great for memory and fine motor skill development.
- Have them mimic your awesome cooking skills with their own kitchen utensils – pots, pans, bowls, spatulas, spoons, whisks are all great fun for kids of all ages! Clanging pot lids together is generally a must, so if you can tolerate the ear-splitting noise involved then you can entertain a preschooler quite easily.
- Fill your sink 1/4 full and add bubbles. Let them wash non-breakable cups, spoons, forks, and bowls. Teach them how to rinse, dry and put away these things in lower cupboards and drawers. You may not be able to find anything in your kitchen tomorrow, but you will know how to entertain a preschooler!
- Give them a clean sponge and some warm water. Have your preschooler wipe down your cupboards, counters, table, fridge and floors. Once they get tired of that, hand them a towel for them to wipe dry! Warning: Keep an eye out so your socks don’t get soaked.
- When you empty the dishwasher, only put away the sharp and breakable items. Save the rest for your preschooler to remove during dinner prep!
- Get them a hand broom and dust pan, and show them to a particularly dirty area of the house (read: everywhere for us). Even if they can’t figure out how to get the dirt in the pan, they will spend a ton of time trying to figure it out!
- Same with dusters. Give your preschooler one and unleash him on your whole house! Just make sure to let them know what is out of bounds if there are breakable items. Our house has nothing of value out any more, but I’m sure some houses do!
- Save their favourite and most time consuming art activity for right before dinner and set them up nearby at the dinner table:
- Play Doh
- Reading/Picture books
- Practising letters and numbers
- Preschool workbooks
- Give them a snack to satiate their hunger until dinner, keep them busy and to prevent the plotting of your demise. Ever see those Snickers commercials? You don’t want your preschooler to turn into Betty White, do you?!
- Play Eye Spy and include different colours, shapes, and purposes of the things within your kitchen. I do this all the time on walks and in the car too.
- Give her a cup full of kibble and have her teach your dog or puppy: Give them easy commands to say such as sit, come, down, stay and fetch. Not only will this entertain both your preschooler and your dog, but it will also give your preschooler confidence, help teach your dog to listen to her, and give them time to bond. Have them do this in a room close by so you can keep an eye on their interaction and step in when necessary. Also, make sure they wash their hands before dinner!
- Give them jobs to do all over the house. This may sound something like, “go put your socks that are floor in the laundry room”, “go upstairs and get me a book for your brother”, and “find and bring me your backpack”. Added bonus of tiring them out.
- Play hide and seek, but always have them be the hiders so you can keep cooking (kids always want to be the hiders anyway!) Yes, you will eventually have to go find them, but you can often stretch this out long enough so that you can safely leave the stove for a short period.
- Time them to see how fast they can do simple tasks like finding a certain item or running to the other room and back. Have them try to beat their record.
- Make an obstacle course for them out of pillows, blankets and couch cushions before starting dinner. If they get bored of it, add jumps, somersaults and spins for them to do.
- Put some music on and have them dance with you in the kitchen. The more goofy, the better!
- If you have magnetic letters, have them bring them to you one by one and tell you what letter it is, the sound it makes and a word that starts with it.
- Ask them to teach their little brother or sister how to do something their sibling hasn’t mastered yet, like rolling over or sitting up. Also could have them show their younger sibling skills they are proud of like somersaults, log rolls, crab walks or frog jumps. Make sure they know not to pick up babies or help them sit up on their own.
- Have them try to learn a new skill like dribbling a ball, throwing a ball in the air and then catching it, hopping on one foot or whistling. This is sure to entertain a preschooler!
Hopefully with these tricks up your sleeve, you will entertain a preschooler, have a cleaner house, your dog will be fed, and your kids will be smarter and have new skills. If not, well, at least your dinner will hopefully be finished and not burnt to a crisp! And while television has its place in most homes, I find it kind of nice knowing that I don’t always have to rely on it to get things done around the house. So, there you are, 20+ ways to entertain a preschooler while making dinner! Bon appetit!
Would you find any of these ideas helpful in your home? What do you do to entertain a preschooler while making dinner?