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How to get the cooking done when you have toddler or preschooler trying to help

Meal preparation time can be a busy time for you. Make it fun and keep your little one occupied as you work.

1. Good time to set your child up on the counter and let them practice cracking eggs. Gotta let 'em learn some time if you want help in the kitchen!

2. If you're making anything with dough, like biscuits, give them their own little wad to work with.

3. Let them add ingredients to stews and casseroles -- dumping cans, adding veggies.

4. Ask them to set the table while you're working. Lay out the silverware, napkins, plastic cups and plates for them. At least it will get to the table.

5. They can cut up a raw potato if you give them a table knife and a cutting board on the floor.

6. Let them sprinkle herbs and spices into the mix.

7. Stirring is always fun. Give them a portion of the dough, stew, etc. in a small bowl and let them stir their own, then add it to the mix.

8. Fill the sink halfway with water and soap and let them wash some dishes while you work.

9. Let them monitor the progress of corn bread or casserole in the oven using the light switch.

10. Let your child set the timer for various aspects of the cooking experience.

11. Teach math skills as you measure and pour -- this is "twice" that or "half" that.

12. Adding a teaspoon or a tablespoon of some liquid is a great way to practice fine-motor skills.

13. Dressing for the occasion sets the tone. You can get a child's monogrammed apron here: www.initial-impressions .net.

14. Put dance music on the kitchen radio and dance while you work.

15. Tearing up lettuce for the salad into a big bowl can occupy some time!

16. Send your child to the pantry or refrigerator to fetch certain items for you -- learning experience and energy expenditure.

17. Ask your child to ask Dad and siblings what they want to drink with dinner and report back to you. Sometimes let them add food coloring to the liquid of choice.

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