When my wife cooks dinner our only son chooses that time to either stand next to or between her and the counters and cry. It's the "pay attention to me" cry. Everything is fine if I'm home and can interact with him. But if I'm not, which is most weeknights, she has a hard time calming him and keeping him out of the way for the "crescendo" (the ten minutes or so when the meal is coming together at a rapid pace) part of cooking.

The attention he gets from me when I'm home during cooking time isn't helping to solve the problem. It just masks it for that meal. If nothing else it would be great to find a way calm him during these times. He doesn't need to be out of the kitchen just not in the way.

Thanks for any advice.

asked 29 Mar '10, 03:20

GollyJer's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%

edited 29 Mar '10, 05:37


+1 Good question !

(29 Mar '10, 05:16) Emi

Yikes, ours prefers to be away from us when we're cooking because then there's nobody to stop him climbing on the fireguard, trying to reach the windowsill, or breaking the DVD player!

(30 Mar '10, 11:48) pete the pagan-gerbil

I can also recall bouts of crying like that, here are somethings we used to do, which might help you and your wife too.

  • Some days, I would try and prepare ingredients earlier on, so that cooking was easier.

  • I would make sure that we were not in the middle of an activity just before I had to prepare dinner.. this way my attention was not withdrawn in an abrupt manner. (in her eyes at least)

  • I would plan for dinner as a family but once I realized that she could be feeling tired and perhaps a bit "peckish" if not hungry, I would make sure to give her something small to snack on.

  • I would take her in my arms and tell her that I would be getting dinner ready, and that was a sign that Daddy was coming home... rubbing her tummy saying "are you hungry ?" and show her the food. I would ask her to play next to me while I prepared the dinner and she would be close playing on her mat.

  • I think it could be around this time that the tub of "Letter and Number magnets" were useful too, for sticking on and removing from the fridge!

In my opinion talking & explaining really can help, maybe not straight away but certainly after a couple of days.

Good luck!


answered 29 Mar '10, 08:26

Emi's gravatar image

accept rate: 19%


+1 Fridge magnets are a great thing.

(29 Mar '10, 11:36) Tammy ♦♦

Sounds like you need a "special" toy box on one of you kitchen shelves.

I had the same problem, so I put markers (those round, washable ones shaped like animals) and paper, some play food (ours is the kind that velcro's together) and dishes, an extra set of measuring spoons and cups and a plastic bowl (which I'd put a little bit of warm water in, yeah, she got a little wet, it's just water), and a pair of toy maracas and a toy harmonica in a box on the shelf. When my daughter just could not wait for me to be finished making supper, she got to play with something "special".

She only got to play with them in her high chair for the little while that I was just to busy to really pay attention to her (so they stayed novel), and unless she was really upset about something and not just looking for attention, it pretty much always worked.

And it's a great thing to do with those toys that they get that are going to drive you bonkers if they play with them all the time. (Like the maracas and harmonica!)

It also makes it easier to talk to them and explain what you're doing, which they like. They're calm and safe and busy and up closer to your level, and you can just chat while you finish up. Which is really nice.


answered 29 Mar '10, 09:04

Neen's gravatar image

accept rate: 30%

+1 nice idea to have special toy box !

(29 Mar '10, 11:04) Emi

+1 I like this idea too. I'm not sure my daughter would like being strapped in her chair during this time though.

(29 Mar '10, 11:35) Tammy ♦♦

I know Tammy, but if they only get to play with the "special" things while their in their high chair, it's usually okay. The toys do have to really be special and extra fun, though. I had to have her up out of my way, I'm a terrible clutz and was terrified that I'd drop a knife or spill a hot pot of pasta on her.

(29 Mar '10, 13:52) Neen

We are going through a similar stage. I agree with Emi's answer. I try to have dinner organised before she wakes up from her sleep. (Slowcooker great for that). Sometimes I put her in the high chair and sit her on the other aide of the bench where she can see me and give her some crayons or something else to play with. I have also cooked dinner with a 23 month old holding on to my legs. Another suggestion is to get them to help. We have step stool that allows them to stand up at the bench, although now we probably need two.

If all else fails I either wait until Daddy gets home (the highlight of the day for everyone) or turn TV on, or feed the kids early and then Mummy and Daddy eat after the kids are in bed.

Having been through it a couple of years ago with my son I know it doesn't last forever.

In answer to your original question I think that kids do need to learn there is time that when they have to play by themselves while Mummmy or Daddy are doing things.


answered 29 Mar '10, 09:15

K%20D's gravatar image

accept rate: 13%

edited 29 Mar '10, 12:23

Rich%20Seller's gravatar image

Rich Seller

I personally disagree with the TV part. Just sayin'.

(29 Mar '10, 09:32) brandstaetter

+1 for quite a few good ideas!and using t.v as a last resort!

(29 Mar '10, 11:03) Emi

It would be rare for my 23 month old to sit and watch TV. It is definitely a last resort.

(29 Mar '10, 23:00) K D

+1 for having them help with the meal and getting them involved

(30 Mar '10, 17:49) nikjoyce

We have also gone through this with our almost 19 month old. It appears to wax and wane, sometimes she's happy playing with her toys in the next room and sometimes she wants to be at my feet and held.

My first response is always distraction (as others have described) with toys, the tupperware cabinet, fridge magnets etc... Most of the time that works.

Sometimes she is more clingy (could be that I haven't been able to spend as much time playing with her, or she's overtired, not feeling well, teething), in these instances I try to tend to her needs as much as possible and if all else fails carry her around as much as I can when cooking with one hand.

Sometimes as Emi said she may be hungry/thirsty and so simply sitting her down with her milk and/or a snack will help.

She also really likes to be helpful at this stage so sometimes I can give her tasks to occupy/distract her. Such as pick up her blocks, help unload the dishwasher (she likes to try to put the silverware away), feed the dog, put something I give her in the recycling or garbage. She doesn't do most of these things perfectly but she tries, enjoys them and can't hurt herself while doing them. This is especially useful when we are at the "crescendo" as you call it. If I have to get something out of the oven and she is hovering, I will give her some sort of errand, for instance find something and say "can you help mommy by bringing this to your room", or "can you put this in the recyling for mommy", or "find mommy the phone". This takes just enough time to get her out of any danger and she is happy that she can do something to help.


answered 29 Mar '10, 14:09

Tammy's gravatar image

Tammy ♦♦
accept rate: 18%

edited 29 Mar '10, 14:34

+1 I totally agree with the interactive approach and getting them involved!

(29 Mar '10, 14:15) Emi

One thing we've done with some success is to move the highchair into the kitchen and let him snack while cooking. Talking about what we are doing, and letting him have a clear (but safe) view of what we are doing helps, as does turning around and letting him test some of the foods while they are being prepared. It turns it into a fun experience, and the little food they get during that time may reduce some of the hunger they are feeling before dinner.

Admittedly, it's not infrequently that we simply carry him to another room with toys, walk away while he's screaming, and let him come back at his own pace. Gives a little break, and pretty often he'll stop and play with something else that catches his eye on the way. We'll also put the older children in charge of keeping him happy in the playroom until dinner's done.


answered 29 Mar '10, 14:37

Adam%20Davis's gravatar image

Adam Davis
accept rate: 31%


+1 Older kids are a useful distraction

(29 Mar '10, 23:04) K D

Yup, that was my daughters option too. She could play in her high chair and keep me company (and snack, how did I forget about the snacking?), or go back in the living room with her big brothers. He little brother was 3 months old and nursing full time, and I was cooking supper for 8 people every night. Really, I was just too busy and tired to have her underfoot and it was only a matter of time before somebody got hurt (and it probably would have been me getting badly hurt avoiding her getting hurt at all).

(30 Mar '10, 06:54) Neen
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Asked: 29 Mar '10, 03:20

Seen: 3,036 times

Last updated: 29 Mar '10, 14:37