Meal prep. We all want to do it. We all wish our dinners looked like what we see from meal prep gurus on Instagram. We’ve all heard that it’s good for our health and helps us be more efficient. We know we should do it. But making the time for it? That’s where things start to get tricky. Throw kids and a family into the mix and all bets are really off.

Instead of planning time for meal prep around your children, have you ever considered making them active participants in the process? Meredith Sinclair, author of Well Played: The Ultimate Guide to Awakening Your Family’s Playful Spirit and Juicy Juice’s Family Time expert, shared six tips that can help you make meal prep an all-inclusive family activity. Keep these tips in mind, and you’ll never again have to choose between spending time with your children and prepping your meals for the week!

1. Give the kids a job. Most children are known for their short attention span, but giving them a task will keep their hands and eyes occupied so you can finish your prep — and they may even prove themselves helpful! Sinclair suggests letting your kids stir while singing a favorite song, grab items from the refrigerator, or organize ingredients on the counter. If they’re old enough to use a knife, you can also ask them to chop up veggies and practice counting the pieces.

2. Turn dinner into a first-class restaurant. Kids will be all the more excited to be part of meal prep if it feels like a special occasion, and setting up your kitchen as an upscale eatery offers additional opportunities to get them involved. Ask your little ones to draw a menu, set the table, or make a DIY centerpiece. A dash of pageantry will be fun for the whole family!

3. Make a list. “Each week, make the grocery list with your child, and ask him or her what they would like to eat for dinner,” Sinclair says. “Let your child pick the meal for one night — and for multiple kids, they each get their one weekly pick.” Get creative by putting a healthy spin on their less-than-healthy request. Your children may be happier to participate in meal prep if they know you’re cooking up something special they’ve asked for.

4. Turn the kitchen into a classroom. There are tons of math lessons to be found right in the kitchen, so once you’ve brought your children into the cooking process, there’s no reason not to engage them with a teachable moment. “From fractions to conversions, kids can learn simple and complex math equations all while measuring out ingredients and following a recipe,” Sinclair says. “Work side-by-side to help kids understand the math and science behind baking and cooking.”

5. Don’t forget the cleanup. In case you haven’t noticed the pattern so far, the key to involving little ones in meal prep is finding ways to actively include them in every step, and cleanup should be no exception! Asking them to help you put ingredients away or wipe down your countertop is a great way to reinforce lifelong cleaning habits. Sinclair recommends turning the process into a game by making up a story together line-by-line with each dish stacked in the dishwasher or every swipe of the sponge.

6. Use a kid-friendly recipe. When it comes to cooking with children, half the battle is finding an easy-to-follow recipe. Sinclair suggests making these sweet and sour slow cooker meatballs. Your kids will love them and they can be easily packaged into multiple meals for the week. If meat isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other healthy, kid-approved recipes to add to your weekly rotation. Bon appétit!

How do you get your kids involved with meal prep? Tweet us @BritandCo!

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