To keep your child busy while you throw a meal together, put him to work. He'll feel like a grownup and you'll be able to accomplish something more involved than just crisping up some frozen chicken nuggets. A few jobs he'll get a real kick out of doing for you:
- Hand him your grungy spice jars (be sure the lids are screwed on tightly) along with a toothbrush, a bowl of water, and a dish towel. Encourage him to scrub each one clean, then dry it.
- Give him a sponge, a spray bottle filled with water, and a towel. Point out the dirty cabinet knobs within his reach and ask him to wipe them down.
- Have him help you measure some ingredients. Set out a measuring cup, a spoon, and a bowl of, say, rice, and show him how to transfer it spoonful by spoonful into the cup.
- Scan your recipes for other tasks he could tackle, such as brushing melted butter on bread, rubbing an oil-dampened paper towel on a baking sheet, or spooning grated cheese onto a pizza.
- Turn him into a food or table stylist. Ask him to arrange slices of fruit into circles or squares, or let him sprinkle chopped-up chives or parsley onto each plate. He can also color paper napkins with washable markers to decorate the table.