How Books Can Help You Get Through the Dinnertime Craziness

by Melissa Taylor

Photo credit: Carey Kirkella, Taxi/Getty Images

For me, the witching hour is the one before dinnertime. I’m distracted trying to cook and my kids are … well, not distracted. They need something to do.

Books. They need books.

But how to best use books to get through the dinnertime routine depends on your child’s age and stage. Which is why I’ve broken out these book-and-cook ideas by age range.

  • Pre-K (3–5)

    Find a Picture
    Book blogger Erica Clark recommends giving your child a stack of picture books. Then, have him look for a specific thing — a cloud in the sky, a girl flying a kite, and so forth. (Hint: Glance though the books first so you to know what objects your kids can look for.)

    Read to a Sibling
    Help your child practice telling stories, even if they’re just reading the pictures and guessing at the words. Jennifer Fisher’s 5-year-old is just beginning to read and he loves reading to his 3-year-old brother while Jennifer prepares dinner. So sweet!

    Find a Letter (or Word)
    Books and words are everywhere in your house. Have your child search for letters, if that’s what she’s practicing, or words, if she’s ready. When she finds something, ask if she can put the letter or word on the fridge with letter magnets.

  • Growing Reader (6­–8)

    Read to Mom or Dad
    Have your growing reader read aloud to you while you cook, like MaryAnne Ko’s daughter does. This sounds like all sorts of fun.

    Read on the Computer
    Some schools, like ours, require online reading practice. My first grade daughter used the website Raz-Kids to practice her reading skills at home. Although she didn’t love it, it did help her practice reading and stay occupied.

    Read a Cookbook
    “I often give each of my kids a cookbook to read. The cookie and cake books are very entertaining!” shares Evelyne Nemcsok. She adds that her kids pick out recipes to make together. It’s helpful if you give your children sticky notes so they can mark their favorites.

    Read the Recipe
    Have your child read the ingredients and directions for the recipe you’re making to help you measure and prepare. This helps you stay on track (if the recipe is read correctly) and gives your kids a different kind of reading practice.

    Make a Kitchen/Office
    I love Jodie Rodriguez’s little kitchen/office setup for her kids. While she makes dinner, her kids make books and write recipes. Talk about incorporating literacy into the dinnertime routine!

  • Tween (9–12)

    Make a Recipe Together
    I want my kids to be making me dinner soon. Or at least to be independently cooking when they leave for college. So each month I teach them how to cook something new. So does engineer mom Natalie Figge. She calls it cooking class with mom.

    Read Trivia Questions to Each Other
    Renae Eddy pulls out a favorite trivia game while she makes dinner. Her kids take turns reading each other trivia questions. It gets everyone into the fun!

    Listen to Audiobooks
    Audiobooks are perfect for my daughter who can’t sit still for long. She plays an audiobook while she wanders around, draws, or plays with the dog. It’s a lovely way to get hooked on a story.