Photo: Juicy Juice

I’m Meredith Sinclair, Juicy Juice Family Time Expert, and I’ve got you covered with easy tips to turn everyday to-dos into quality family time – starting with meal prep!

According to a Pew Research Center report, nearly half of all two-parent families work full time, a sharp increase from previous decades. What hasn’t changed is the stress parents feel raising children. More than half (56%) of all working parents say the balancing act is difficult. And working or not, most parents, including at least eight-in-ten mothers (86%) and fathers (81%), say they feel rushed at least sometimes.

However, it can be easier than you think to fit quality family time into your daily routine. Think about all the moments you spend getting the kids ready for school, or driving them around town and don’t forget cooking, as everyone needs to eat. Want to know the secret ingredients to my Family Time recipe? Here are five tips for turning meal prep into a bonding experience with your kiddos!

1.        Make a List

Get your kids involved with planning the meals for the week. Make the grocery list with your child, and ask him or her what they would like to eat. Let them pick the meal for one night. For multiple kids, they each get their one weekly pick. If it’s an unhealthy option such as chicken nuggets and French fries, think of ways you can make that dish at home so it’s a bit healthier. Check out the Tropical Chicken and Baked Sweet Potato Fries with Creamy Mango Dipping Sauce for inspiration.

2.        Turn the Kitchen into a Classroom

Turn meal prep into a math lesson! There’s not a tastier way to learn math than by cooking. From fractions to conversions, kids can learn simple and complex math equations all while measuring out ingredients and following a recipe. For example, young chefs can count and sort ingredients (“how many asparagus are in the bunch?”), while older chefs master estimation (“is 1 tablespoon bigger or smaller than 2 teaspoons”), fractions (“measure 1 ½ cups flour using the ½ cup measure”), and multiplication (“we need to double this recipe – how many people will it serve?”). You’ll be surprised by how much more fun it is (and how willing kids are to learn!) when it’s done together.

3.        Give Them a Job!

If you’re short on time, you can still get your child involved in mealtime prep. Ask him or her to get certain ingredients out from the fridge and line them up on the countertop so they are easily accessible. Have your child set the table, or start a fun game for him or her to sit in the kitchen with you. If you are prepping fruits or vegetables, focus on the five senses. Ask the kids questions to get the conversation going. Does the tomato feel ripe? Can you hear the stove sizzle? Doesn’t that smell amazing? Can you see the crispy edges? Can you describe the yummy taste and flavor?

4.        Kid-Approved Recipes

I’m all about finding recipes your family enjoys that don’t take a ton of time either. If the prep is quick and easy, your kids will be excited to help out – plus, it leaves you with more time to enjoy the evening together. One of my favorite easy-prep recipes that my kids love is the Baked Fish Tacos with Tropical Salsa and Sweet and Sour Slow Cooker Meatballs.

5.        Practice Table Manners

It’s important to teach kids the basics when it comes to table manners, and beyond saying please and thank, you can turn the standard dinner routine into a first-class dining experience. Have kids create name cards for the family and a menu for the table. One pre-dinner DIY craft to make the meal feel extra special is this spring yarn bouquet. For this bouquet, all you need is a ball of yarn, green pipe cleaners and a fork. It’s super easy and tons of fun. Plus, it’s a good way to teach patience and concentration. Start by wrapping the string around the fork and the pipe cleaner, just as you are rolling up a big piece of spaghetti. Once you have the flower as large as you want it, cut the middle and voilà – you have yarn petals!