Toddlers seem to have a sixth sense of knowing when their parents need to get something done. And it’s always then that your wee one decides to get clingy, or worse, have a meltdown.

If you’re a mom with little kids, you know that when it comes to preparing dinner, before you even think about how much chopped onion goes in your recipe, you’ve got to make sure you don’t trip over the screaming three-year-old who is permanently attached to your ankles. The moms in our #Momforce by Chatbooks Facebook Group have been brainstorming lately about ways to ease this dinnertime dilemma.

Make dinner in an Instant (Pot). Instant Pot was a very popular suggestion in the group.  These amazing new devices let you prep dinner, set the timer, and walk away, leaving you time to feed and/or play with the babies. When the timer goes off (sometimes just minutes later), dinner is done! The Instant Pot can be a lifesaver when mom minutes matter most.

Nobody preps better than Mom. Several moms recommend meal prepping when the baby is sleeping, or even better, when someone is around to babysit for a while. There are also many great tutorials on Pinterest with inventive ideas for meal prepping that you can manage while kids are napping or watching Frozen for the thousandth time.

Enlist some in-house help. If your child is old enough, you can always pull up a chair and get some free “help” with dinner. Kids love stirring or adding things to the pot. Of course, this will typically last just a few minutes, and then they’ll grow interested in something else and leave the kitchen—but even that’s a win in most moms’ books. 😉

Empower them with independent play time. We realize this is easier said than done, but there are a few options to try. Save a special toy that you only take out during meal preps so your child will look forward to that time playing. Or you can alternate different baby gear such as the high chair, a jumpy seat, a walker, or a beloved activity they can do at the kitchen table alongside you. Pack and Play is always a great backup!

Babies love books. What do kids love more than looking at themselves? Take out their favorite Chatbooks, filled with pictures of them in all their happiest moments, and make meal prep their time for photo books. It can create a calmer workspace for mama while they look through their very own personal storybook.

We hope some of these tips help the kids let off steam while you get to cookin’. And if all else fails, there’s always the ultimate mom hack: Happy Meals. You got this, mama!

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The #Momforce by Chatbooks Facebook group is a community and support group for women hosted by Chatbooks. Join us here for tips, tricks, and mom relief efforts.