Need to keep kids occupied while preparing for a dinner party? Get them involved in the right kind of tasks.


It’s amazing what some zig-zag scissors and scrap paper can do to keep a small child occupied when they have a goal and feel important. My kids love to help me cook and especially bake. Our oldest daughter used to sit on the countertop near the knife block and study everything I did, only assisting when asked. My husband and I felt so proud of ourselves that we disciplined so consistently and confidently with great success. Then the second kid came along.

Our younger daughter was given to us to prove that it was innate personality and not our “style” that kept the eldest from wreaking havoc. When we bake, the little one eats handfuls of dry flour. She sprinkles spices into things like a hysterical mad scientist whenever I turn my back. And she has no fear of electrical appliances and their on-off switches. This is most dangerously coupled with a lack of respect for the usefulness of putting lids on blenders or making sure the KitchenAid beaters are lowered into the batter.

I couldn’t be happier that each of my little ladies enjoy spending time in the kitchen. But, there are occasions when I have the time and patience for their assistance and others when mini sous chefs cramp my style. When planning for a dinner party or making more complicated recipes, I find that the best way to shake them is to avert their focus while still keeping them involved.

For one dinner party, I put the girls in charge of place cards. I explained to them the importance of place cards and we discussed how guests would know where to sit if they didn’t see their names. The girls were interested in helping decide who would sit where and which guests would prefer to sit together. For quite a long time, they focused their attention on place cards and I had free reign in the culinary department! The project led to discussions about making conversations with people you don’t know and trying foods at parties whether you like them or not, just to be polite.

A few social lessons, free time in the kitchen and customized table decor – triple win!

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