How to Survive Cooking with Babies and Toddlers

Brohgan Dieker

Brohgan Dieker

Brohgan Dieker is dedicated to answering the "what's for dinner" question with healthy, quick recipes that can accommodate busy schedules. She is a devout Christian, a wife and mother, and a lover of words and books. She lives in the beautiful Flint Hills of Kansas and holds a degree in English from Kansas State University.
Brohgan Dieker

Latest posts by Brohgan Dieker (see all)

Moms, cooking with a baby or toddler is not easy. In fact, this is a chore that seems nearly impossible most days. Here are some tips that might help!

The core sounds simple: cooking dinner. But, the reality of the situation is that moms are trying to complete a task that requires a moderate amount of focus in a room FULL safety hazards. The hot pots, pans and knives are of course a concern, along with the chemicals under the sink, but with littles around there are countless minor accidents and injuries in the kitchen involving the hard non-cushioned flooring, the countless furniture corners at a toddler’s head level, and all the cabinet doors and drawers for pinching fingers.

(And each bump and scrape pulls you away from your cooking task.)

Since my son was born, I doubt I have spent any significant amount of time in a kitchen without something happening.  Whether it was him as an infant demanding a series of cluster feeds right in the middle of making dinner, him throwing toy after toy off the high chair tray at 9 months, or him now, at 15 months, trying to crawl into the dishwasher to retrieve a favorite cup, it’s always something.

Just as you start to find a strategy that works, a strategy that keeps those little hands busy and that little mind occupied, these kids grow up and change a little bit, just enough that yesterday’s perfectly formulated plan no longer applies.

Every day is different. Every. single. day.

And that’s awesome! Because when I think back to all of those daily kitchen moments over the course of the last 15 months, I realize that I was watching my son grow every day right before my eyes. It’s messy and stressful, but that’s so cool!

But it also makes the simple chore of cooking dinner DIFFICULT.

Cooking dinner is a chore that you can’t just skip, either. At least, not most nights. There is now an additional mouth to feed (and diaper and take to the doctor and put through college etc. etc.). Eating at home is a financial decision for most families, and getting take out every night is just not realistic.

Moms, cooking with a baby or toddler is not easy. In fact, this is a chore that seems nearly impossible most days. Here are some tips that might help!

Ask for help.

I don’t know why it was so difficult for me to ask for help with cooking.

When my son was first born, I would try to be the one who made dinner every night. I enjoy cooking. It’s a creative outlet and it’s stress relieving for me… normally… before I became a parent.

But, in those crazy early baby days, making dinner would ALWAYS seem to be timed with a feeding.

(And forget those lies that all the baby books say about nursing every 3 hours… my son was an every hour kid from the day he was born until he started eating solids.)

So, cooking became the thing that I did while someone tiny was grouchy with me. I was pretty hesitant to give up the only chore that I actually enjoy. I was brand spankin’ new to this food blog thing, and I was relishing every minute in the kitchen possible.

So, I had to ask my husband for help.

There were a few days that I would try and do the cooking while he attempted to pacify the unhappy bebe. Often we would switch half way through.

The point is that I often needed help. There were days when cooking dinner was something that required two people to accomplish, and I had to ask for help in some way every night.

Snacks are a game changer!

Hallelujah, there came a day when the baby grew up and SNACKS became my help. Do you know how long it takes an older baby to get one of those rice puffs off the high chair tray and into their mouth? Usually long enough to at least put something frozen into the oven.

Involve babies and toddlers in the shopping process.

This is going to sound easier than it is, but involving my son in the grocery shopping process early on and continuing through toddlerhood was a good decision for me.

First, it has built his food vocabulary. I remember holding up all the produce for my son to examine from his infant carrier (and feeling like a crazy woman while doing so). Now, when he sees a banana, he starts flailing around making the sign and just about jumps out of the cart.

I narrate the names and flavors and colors and anything else I could think of about every food we see. I remind him why we don’t buy cookies EVERY time (just most times… haha).  I tell him why I am buying it. “This green zucchini squash is going to be for dinner on Wednesday.”

Also, it makes new foods, or foods we don’t eat often, a tiny bit less foreign.

When Wednesday comes around, and we pull out the squash, it’s a tiny bit less foreign (even though it will, inevitably, be tossed onto the floor… all part of the learning process).

And yes, there are some trips to the store where I’m tired and grouchy and I don’t do this. And, those trips are usually quick and more difficult.

Just a note: after learning the hard way, I really prefer building vocabulary at the store vs. at the dinner table. We hit a rut where my son would only eat the foods he knew the words for and he was asking for, which was only fruit bars, apple sauce and bread. Now I just plop something in front of him and tell him it’s dinner without telling him any of the names for the foods. He’s much more willing to try “dinner” than 10 foods with new names all mixed together.

Hand out age appropriate tasks.

When it comes time to cook the squash on Wednesday, I usually try to involve everyone in the family in some way. My son can help me wash it in the sink. And, after I cut it, if I need the pieces transferred into a bowl, he could probably help with that.

When he was younger, I might have him hold one of the big spoons, or he would help get the pot out of the oven drawer.

When he was even younger than that, old enough to be alert, but not old enough that he was mobile, he would just watch from his bouncer on the floor while I talked to him.

There is always an age appropriate task. It takes patience and some creativitiy to think of it. It also takes some willingness to let go of the adult agenda and just have fun together.

Yes, handing out these tasks takes A LOT of time. I can wash a zucchini in 10 seconds, but with help it might take a minute, if all goes well.

Manage your expectations.

Every day is different, and every dinnertime is going to be different. You could cook frozen chicken nuggets every evening for a year, but it’s still going to be nearly impossible to do some days.

Here is how I manage my dinnertime expectations:

1. I always ALWAYS have a quick back up on hand. Usually, that back up is bread with peanut butter. I’ve said it before: peanut butter is the glue that holds this family together.

2. I limit myself to trying new recipes. If you subscribe to my newsletter and receive my weekly meal plan, you probably notice that I typically try a new recipe on Tuesday. I spend the rest of the week cooking things that are familiar staples, many of which I have written about here on the blog.

3. Some chores can be saved for tomorrow. There are some nights when dinner, bath, bed goes bang bang bang, and all of a sudden the house is quiet and I’m exhausted. Except, nobody remembered to scrub that one pan. THE PAN CAN WAIT UNTIL MORNING. I promise you, that one friend of yours with a spotless house will never know (if they knock on the door, just hide it under the sink). You’re a mom of littles, and that takes some serious energy. Allow yourself the time you need to take care of yourself while you are able.

Best of luck to you, friends! If you have an more tips that are working for you, would you please share with everyone in the comments section below?

Bible Stories for the Easter Basket

Brohgan Dieker

Brohgan Dieker

Brohgan Dieker is dedicated to answering the "what's for dinner" question with healthy, quick recipes that can accommodate busy schedules. She is a devout Christian, a wife and mother, and a lover of words and books. She lives in the beautiful Flint Hills of Kansas and holds a degree in English from Kansas State University.
Brohgan Dieker

Latest posts by Brohgan Dieker (see all)

It seems like there might be no escaping commercialized Easter. The chocolate bunnies and plastic eggs appeared February 15. They will remain on display looking completely yummy until Easter morning.

The marketing, which is targeted at children, has already caught the eye of my one year-old.

As a Christian parent, it makes me 100% uncomfortable.

How did celebrating Jesus turn into this tangled web of bunnies, eggs, and chocolate?

How did celebrating Jesus turn into this tangled web of bunnies, eggs, and chocolate?

I’m still new to this parenting thing, so this is really the first Easter for us. We are attempting to navigate this while still being intentional about celebrating Jesus is so confusing.

As much as I feel conflicted that an illogical egg laying magical rabbit might detract from the real meaning of Easter, if you take away the egg hunts and the gifts, you’re left with dressing uncomfortably, attending an especially crowded Easter service, and eating a side of my grandma’s asparagus and egg casserole with lunch. Nothing about that seems remotely exciting or kid friendly.

(Plus, egg hunts are fun!)

An Easter egg hunt is of course happening. But the Easter basket full of gifts? I’m not so sure about that.

Long before our son was born, we agreed on a gift giving motto for our family: one thing we want, one thing we need, one thing to wear, and one thing to read.

Books are our go to gift for each other.

We absolutely do not need any more toys or sweets at this house. So I got to thinking… what if the gift that was sitting out on Easter morning pointed back to the real reason we’re celebrating?

…what if the gift that was sitting out on Easter morning pointed back to the real reason we’re celebrating?

What about Bible stories?

My son LOVES books! We have many kids books at our house, and we regularly visit the children’s section local public library.

He and I probably read somewhere between 15-30 board books in any given day. I’m encouraging this as much as possible. Anytime he brings me a book, I drop what I’m doing for a few minutes and read that book with him. We both really enjoy this time together.

Not many books we have read share about the love of God in a way that my son understands. Our public library can’t really support us in this area. So, the Bible stories at our house were either gifts or books that I purposely sought out.

Easter is a good excuse to invest in a couple new reads about the most important story of all: the story of how much God loves us!

Easter is a good excuse to invest in a couple new reads about the most important story of all: the story of how much God loves us!

Board Books for Babies and Toddlers

Frankly, a lot of Bible based board books take on way too much. Why do so many of them attempt to summarize the entire Bible? In our house, we normally only get through a couple of pages before losing interest.

And, many books that focus on a single story are a struggle to get through. Why so wordy? At this age, we will talk about pictures for a couple of pages before moving on.

Even so, these are books that we have sincerely enjoyed.

The Lift the Flap Bible is so interactive! We really enjoy the Noah page and the Jonah page. It’s great for kids who love to manipulate books themselves! This is the only book in our current board book collection that even attempts to introduce very young readers to the Easter story.

This book does a pretty good job of gently introducing young kids to the Easter story, and it includes flaps for the empty tomb and has a page about Jesus appearing and making breakfast for his disciples.

Read the description: Tracey Moroney’s masterpiece Lift the Flap Bible, now with a refreshed cover, brings 14 beloved Bible stories to life with beautiful illustrations and 40 flaps. The perfect introduction to timeless stories from the old and new testaments the Lift-the-Flap Bible combines breathtaking illustrations with delightful text. With flaps to open on every page (and surprises to find underneath), children join in the thrill of discovery as they take part in each of the stories from the Old and New Testaments. Through the pages of this stunning Bible, the greatest story ever told is traced and the wonderful news that God loves us is brought home to the heart of every child. (via Amazon)

A free copy of The Shepherd and the Sheep was sent to me for free by the publishing company, and it was very well timed with my son’s new obsession with the “baa baa baa sheep” from his farm set! The simple flaps on the right side of the page are easy for him to navigate, and we always enjoy a giggle over the story.

Read the description: Part of a trio of interactive lift-the-flap books, The Shepherd and the Sheep tells a sweet story of the Great Shepherd searching for his one lost sheep. The reader searches for the sheep in several places―all related to stories in the Bible―by unfolding the flap to reveal a hidden image. (via Amazon)

The Little Golden Bible Storybook (Padded Board Book) makes me nostalgic for my own childhood. We currently pick and choose pages to read in this book, but I look forward to discussing them more in a couple of years. Each Bible story is short and sweet, and the pictures are very colorful. This book doesn’t talk much about Easter specifically, but it does have a page about the Last Supper and communion.

Read the description: The simple retellings and bright illustrations of these best-known Bible stories make sharing the Good Word a warm and enriching experience for parents and very young children. (via Amazon)

A new addition to our book collection, God Made You Nose to Toes, has been a big hit. It doesn’t talk specifically about the Easter story, but it does teach kids parts of the body using fun animals and talks about how we are made by God.

Read the description: Help little ones understand that God created each part of their bodies so they can enjoy life and everything in it. In this delightful padded cover board book by well-known author and family therapist Leslie Parrott, children can follow along with Toucan––with a great big nose––as he helps them learn God loves each one of them completely. (via Amazon)

A nod to our beloved “Brown Bear” book (illustrated by Eric Carle) and by the same author, Noah, Noah, What Do You See? is a cute telling of many famous Bible stories.

Read the description: From the bestselling authors of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and Chicka Chicka, 1, 2, 3 with colorful art from Melissa Iwai and the signature rhyming style of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, parents and children alike will love the classic storytelling of Bill Martin Jr. and Michael Sampson. (via Amazon)

Really Woolly Easter Blessings might just be my Easter basket purchase this year (because “baa baa baa” sheep!). It has excellent Amazon reviews.

Read the description: “Winter’s nap is over, and new life is all around! Flowers are blooming. Birds are chirping. And the Really Woolly characters are discovering God’s goodness all around them. Curl up with your little one, and join the fun while learning about the hope of Easter and springtime! Adorable rhymes, sweet Bible verses, and prayer starters will make reading time a special moment for you and your child—to connect with each other and with God.” (via Amazon)

My other Easter choice: Jesus Calling for Little Ones by Sara Young and Antonia Woodward.

Description from Amazon: “From bestselling author Sarah Young, Jesus Calling for Little Ones reassures toddlers and preschoolers of Jesus’ never-ending love. Devotions are written as if Jesus is speaking directly to your child’s heart—showing that Jesus knows us from our head to our toes and is always taking care of us. Along with adorable illustrations and a durable format, this is sure to be a treasure for your precious little ones.”

Books for Elementary Aged Children

The Beginner’s Bible for Toddlers has more than 160 pages, so it’s really more appropriate for older pre-schoolers. But that little handle and the flap that comes on the hardback version? ABSOLUTELY PRECIOUS. Kids take a book so much more seriously when it comes with a little velcro lock. Obviously this book is special.

Read the description: The Beginner’s Bible®, the bestselling Bible storybook of our time, now in a special edition just for toddlers. Toddlers will love this special edition of The Beginner’s Bible® created especially for tiny hands to carry with them wherever they go. The toddlers edition features a smaller size, a go-anywhere handle, and an easy Velcro closure. Toddlers will come to know and love the key stories and characters of the Bible with this best-loved Bible storybook. Now updated with vibrant new art, text, and over 25 stories, The Beginner’s Bible® is the perfect starting point for children. Toddlers will enjoy the fun illustrations of Noah helping the elephant onto the ark, Jonah praying inside the fish, and more, as they discover The Beginner’s Bible® for Toddlers just like millions of children before! (via Amazon)

Now the makers of the Beginner’s Bible also made smaller paperback books that focus in on individual stories. The Beginner’s Bible The Very First Easter is an affordable choice for an Easter basket with familiar drawings that kids will love!

Read the description: The Very First Easter introduces preschoolers to one of the most wonderful stories of all time, the death and resurrection of Jesus. Using the popular and vibrant artwork from The Beginner’s Bible, children will learn the events leading up to Jesus’ death and his miraculous resurrection. By the end of the story, children will understand why we celebrate this special day and what Jesus did for them. This low-cost picture book is great for outreach events and distributing at Easter celebrations. (via Amazon)

Aw, there’s nothing more precious than Little Golden Books, am I right? Up until recently, my grandma had a full collection of Little Golden Books displayed in her living room for little visitors, but she handed them all out to family. I was fortunate enough to receive a few Bible stories in her gift to me (pictured above).

The Story of Jesus (Little Golden Book) is not in my personal collection, but I remember reading it at my grandma’s when I was younger! It also has excellent reviews on Amazon. If you’re looking for an Easter story on a limited budget, this is a great choice!

Read the description: A gentle look at Jesus’ birth, childhood, teachings, crucifixion, and resurrection. Written in a simple, warm style that will captivate and inspire, and colorfully illustrated with seven new pages of artwork, it’s a perfect introduction to Jesus for very young children. (via Amazon)

As you can see from my photo above, we own several Arch Books including Daniel and the Lions and Get Up, Lazarus! – Arch Books in English and Spanish. I really like them, and I’m glad to see that they offer several books dedicated to telling the Easter story. Firstly, The Week That Led to Easter – Arch Books.

Read the description: This book retells the events of Palm Sunday through Easter day (Matthew 21:1-28:10; Mark 11:1-16-8; Luke 19:29-24:12; John 12:12-20:10). The Arch(R) Book series tells popular Bible stories through fun-to-read rhymes and bright illustrations. This well-loved series captures the attention of children, telling scripturally sound stories that are enjoyable and easy to remember. This product is part of the Accelerated Reader(TM) program and carries a point value of .5. (via Amazon)

He’s Risen! He’s Alive – Arch Books description from Amazon: This book retells the story of Christs Resurrection (Matthew 27:32-28:10). The Arch(R) Book series tells popular Bible stories through fun-to-read rhymes and bright illustrations. This well-loved series captures the attention of children, telling scripturally sound stories that are enjoyable and easy to remember. This product is part of the Accelerated Reader(TM) program and carries a point value of .5.

According to reviewers, the images in The Day Jesus Died are not scary, but they are big and bold, and the book includes more details than most picture books about Easter. Buyers indicate that this book is hard to find in stores, so Amazon might be your best option. It has very good reviews!

Read the description: “The Story of the Empty Tomb” tells the well-known Bible story through easy-to-read rhymes and bright illustrations. Children, ages five to nine, will enjoy these spiritually sound stories that are easy to remember. (via Amazon)

One reviewer says: The Resurrection, written by Cynda Strong, is the story of Jesus from the time he was an adult up to the resurrection. It includes his triumphant entrance into Jerusalem, Judas’ betrayal, the Last Supper, his “trial” before Pilate, and the Crucifixion. There’s no mention of his praying in the Garden of Gethsemane or of Peter’s denial of Christ. Bible verses from both the books of Isaiah and Matthew are given as reference for the text. The illustrations, by Helen Cann, are true-to-life and expressive. (via Amazon)

The Action Bible is a big hit with the pre-teen and teenage crowd in the middle school youth group I volunteer with. This book would be most appropriate for older kids. Or kids at heart, because if I woke up on Easter and found this in my basket, I would not be upset!

Read the description: Here’s the most complete picture Bible ever! And it features a captivating, up-to-date artwork style—making it the perfect Bible for today’s visually focused culture. The Action Bible presents 215 fast-paced narratives in chronological order, making it easier to follow the Bible’s historical flow—and reinforcing the build-up to its thrilling climax. The stories in The Action Bible communicate clearly and forcefully to contemporary readers. This compelling blend of clear writing plus dramatic images offers an appeal that crosses all age boundaries. Brazilian artist Sergio Cariello has created attention-holding illustrations marked by rich coloring, dramatic shading and lighting, bold and energetic designs, and emotionally charged figures. Let this epic rendition draw you into all the excitement of the world’s most awesome story. (via Amazon)

Family Devotional Books

There is no better time than the present to start talking daily about Jesus with your kids! Why not use this Easter as an excuse to invest in some family devotional books that your kids will love?

This was given to us as a part of our baby shower over a year ago, and I so excited that we’re finally ready to start reading this together every day! The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name

Read the description: The Moonbeam Award Gold Medal Winner in the religion category, The Jesus Storybook Bible tells the Story beneath all the stories in the Bible. At the center of the Story is a baby, the child upon whom everything will depend. Every story whispers his name. From Noah to Moses to the great King David—every story points to him. He is like the missing piece in a puzzle—the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together. From the Old Testament through the New Testament, as the Story unfolds, children will pick up the clues and piece together the puzzle. A Bible like no other, The Jesus Storybook Bible invites children to join in the greatest of all adventures, to discover for themselves that Jesus is at the center of God’s great story of salvation—and at the center of their Story too. (via Amazon)

As someone who believes in the importance of doing life around the table as a family, this devotion book caught my eye a long time ago. It isn’t yet age appropriate for us, but I’m looking forward to going through it together someday! One Year of Dinner Table Devotions and Discussion Starters: 365 Opportunities to Grow Closer to God as a Family

Read the description: Getting the kids to turn off the TV and video games is challenge enough―let alone gathering as a family to read and discuss the Bible! One Year of Dinner Table Devotions & Discussion Starters helps families start where they are already gathered together on a daily basis―around the dinner table. As the meal comes to a close, family members can take turns turning to the dinner-table devotion for that day, designed to be done together as a family in 10 to 15 minutes. The result is a meaningful daily discussion in which every family member can participate, drawing the whole family closer to God . . . and each other. (via Amazon)

For any fans of the Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence devotion book, you will enjoy sharing Jesus Calling: 365 Devotions For Kids with your family.

Read the description: “Devotions written as if Jesus is speaking directly to a child’s heart. Based on her original Jesus Calling, this version has been adapted in a language and fashion that kids and tweens can relate to their everyday lives. After many years of writing in her prayer journal, missionary Sarah Young decided to listen to God with pen in hand, writing down what she believed He was saying to her through Scripture. Others were blessed as she shared her writings, until people all over the world were using her devotionals.  They are written from Jesus’ point of view, thus the title Jesus Calling.  It is Sarah’s fervent prayer that our Savior may bless readers, and now young readers, with His presence and His peace in ever deeper measure.” (via Amazon)

We absolutely do not need any more toys or sweets at this house. So I got to thinking… what if the gift that was sitting out on Easter morning pointed back to the real reason we’re celebrating? Why not Bible stories?
Do you have any Bible story books that are popular at your house? Tell me in the comments below!hh