5 Ways to Keep Kiddo Busy While You're Holiday Cooking (with Allie of No Time For Flash Cards)

kids in the kitchenLast week, my friends here at The Family Kitchen shared a host of invaluable tips for staying clean and organized during the holiday season, from preparing your pantry to organizing holiday meals, managing kitchen chaos to using old fashioned (and all-natural) cleaning techniques.

But what about the kids? What do you do with them while you’re cleaning and cooking, organizing and preparing? We all know that the best laid plans can be waylaid by children with nothing to do.

I decided to chat about it with Allie McDonald, founder and editor of No Time For Flash Cards, a fabulous (and be warned: addictive) resource of activities for young children that promote play, discovery and learning. I knew that with her passion for early childhood education and boundless imagination, she was the woman to ask for help.

Here are Allie’s 5 simple, brilliant ideas for keeping your kids happy and engaged while you’re busy in the kitchen this holiday season:

1. Swap real dough for play dough!
Allie says: I like baking with my son but, when I am making more complicated recipes that I only make once a year, his help can get frustrating. Instead I get cup cake liners, cookie cutters and pans I am not using and let him make his own play dough treats while I make real ones.

2. Practice the A, B, C’s!
Allie says: Recipes are great early literacy practice. Reading recipes are a great example of reading for information. After reading a recipe together, provide your child with a cookie sheet and magnetic letters. Call out words from the recipe that you are making—cups, spoon, mix—and have them practice spelling them out. For younger children, you can stick with the first letter of each word.

3. Remember: cooking is an art!
Allie says: Potato Mashers make great art tools, so do cookie cutters and even forks! Lay out some paper, put paint in a dish, dip a utensil and let your kiddo make prints. When they are done, you can cover them with contact paper to make place mats for the holiday table!

4. Nurture your budding food photographer!
Allie says: We love making edible gifts but, when little helping hand are not as helpful as you had hoped, put a camera in them. Have kiddo document making the glazed nuts, peppermint bark or cookies that you are giving away. Add the pictures to your gift with a note like this, for example: ” We had fun spending time together and making these for you. Happy Holidays!”

5. Put your Sous Chef to work!
Allie says: There are lots of tasks that involve kids with cooking that don’t involve hot pans or raw meat. When baking with nuts or dried fruit, or cooking with fresh fruits or vegetables, add extra measuring cups for your child to “inspect.” My son counts and removes “yucky ones.” He will even do it with frozen peas, although his fingers get cold after a while.

What are you favorite ways to keep your kids involved—but out of the way—while you’re busy with holiday kitchen tasks?

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No Time For Flash Cards was started as a way for Allie to share the wealth of knowledge she acquired while working with preschoolers and their parents for more than 10 years. The site was designed to: provide an accessible resource for parents and teachers filled with multi level, easy to follow and fun activities for young children; support these activities with books, songs and play; and promote the importance of early childhood education at home and at school. If you don’t already read it, bookmark this gem now!

Photo: iStockphoto.com/kzenon

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