Every year around the same time, mothers around the world begin to lose sleep at night, palpitate in the pumpkin pie section of the grocery store for no apparent reason and break into a cold sweat at the mere thought of the phrase “holiday dinners.” Extended family begins calling to confirm their arrival, a 20-pound turkey defrosts in the kitchen sink and a long list of holiday sides and cookies have been in the works for weeks.
The table must be decorated to the nines with newer and better “Winter Wonderland” themes. Every inch of the house must be decorated and cleaned somewhere between spit-shine and polish. Ten screaming children will soon be running in circles around every room. It can be enough to turn the most even-tempered person into a crazed Jolly Jekyll!
Holiday hosting can be the most stressful time of the year for some, needless to say, it doesn’t have to be that way. Your kitchen can become the family hub, reducing your own work load and building a peaceful communal atmosphere where everyone can participate. The quick answer; give up the control.
Give in to organized chaos and be the gracious host or hostess you were meant to be with the confidence that you can offer everyone a safe and welcoming environment. Providing a focused mealtime planning activity where everyone can contribute may provide the best experience and may even become your new holiday tradition.
The most important aspects of family-centred cooking are organization, safety, countertop care, and fun. Your kitchen will become the central focus point in all your holiday gatherings, so why not keep your countertops organized, kids entertained, and still deliver amazing tasting food?
It is possible to allow small children into the kitchen without fear of them juggling butcher knives when you’re not looking. Here are 10 ways to make your kitchen a family entertaining space for the holidays courtesy of the great designers at Caesarstone:
Designate a space just for the kiddos
Older kids can help with meal preparation and smaller bodies can play fun games related to cooking and the holidays - it keeps idle hands working and eliminates screaming circle-running.
Designate a place for planning (chalkboards, pin boards, recipes, etc.)
Designate a place for food prep. Prep stations work best on the counter space nearest to the sink, having a spacious island in the center of your kitchen can make a world of difference for holiday meal time prep season.
Make cooking a family event
If everyone has an age- and skills-appropriate job (from prep, to setup, to clean up), everything will run more smoothly and time spent in meal preparation will be reduced exponentially. Have fun charting everyone’s progress and don’t rule out contests for the cutthroat competitors in the family.
Clean with eco-friendly products (vinegar works wonders on dirt, bacteria and build up)
The dirtiest items found in a household are typically found in the kitchen. The items we use every day to clean are the very things that can make us sick. Avoid standard kitchen-born illnesses by cleaning every product that will come into contact with the food such as food preparation stations, including your countertop surface.
Designate a space for table settings
Divide the space into two factions: food service containers (i.e. gravy boats, side serving bowls, meat platters, etc.) and guest items (i.e. plates, napkins, silverware, glasses, etc.). One or two older kids can research how to set an appropriate table with the guest items and move food service products to the table as they are prepared closer to serving time.
Baby proof your kitchen
Standard baby and toddler proofing standards apply! Keep hot food items closer to the centre of the table or towards the inside of the countertop surface. And most importantly, keep sharp objects away from children.
Install outlet covers
As we know children are curious little things, simple things like having multiple outlets throughout your kitchen are very convenient for you but can be seriously dangerous for kids. Keep them safe by adding outlet covers to those easy to reach ones.
Add a segregated area blocked off from the rest of the kitchen
If you are one of those people that need their own space, it’s okay to block it off for yourself! Let your helpers know they can’t cross this line, and enforce it. Everyone will understand who’s the boss in that kitchen.
Have plenty of cutting boards or butcher blocks
If you are an avid cooker, you may already own one or two, but having extra can save you and your countertop surface. Extra hands in the kitchen is always great, but you need to be able to provide those helpers with cutting boards to keep your surfaces unscathed.
Create distractions for those little ones!
Set up a colouring station in your living room with plenty of paper and crayons to go around and don’t forget to get the washable crayons!
The best family memories are often centred around food. The dinner table is the perfect forum for connecting with those who are most important to you. The kitchen is slowly becoming the most important room in the house as society turns toward healthier lifestyles where everyone can collaborate and contribute all the way from preparation to clean up. Start this holiday season off right for a more peaceful, happier you!