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When the kids get older, it can be hard to keep a sense of family in your home – especially with conflicting schedules and teenage angst. I find that being a parent of both a toddler and a teenager means that life really does get in the way of you spending quality time with the ones you love even though you live in the same house. But bringing the clan together could be easier than you think…
Here are five ways to use the busiest area in the home – the kitchen – to get the family socialising together, spending some quality time.
Food, glorious food
There could be no better place to start than with food; the true focal point of the kitchen. The promise of a big, family meal is the best catalyst for getting everyone in one room. There’s also something very satisfying about everyone eating the same meal, taken from big sharing bowls in the centre of the table.
When looking for some simple meal ideas that could provide to be tasty as well as worthy of a gathering, you can find inspiration from Jamie Oliver – including a yummy veggie chilli recipe – and a great selection from Netmums that keep to a strict budget. You don’t have to spend a lot to get a family meal together, and cooking in batch can provide a selection of meals for the next week or longer if you freeze.
Cosy vs open plan
If your home has a garden or yard off the kitchen, you have the option of creating a transitioning space. Bifold doors offer the option of keeping your kitchen as a cosy haven filled with warming foods – especially good in winter – or you can open up the doors to create an open plan space where your garden and kitchen become one large area. Wrap up warm and you could have a BBQ for the family or even enjoy a small fireworks display, with enough room for extended family and friends to join in on the fun.
The ability to change up your living space is a great way to ensure that kitchen is the go-to place for the family congregating. We have a balcony off our lounge that backs on to the kitchen window which means that in the warmer weather we can just pass dishes through the window and enjoy some alfresco dining.
Making the most of breakfast
They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so why not make this the consistent, steady meeting time for your brood? With so many after school/work activities going on throughout the year, having a family breakfast could be the easiest option for quality family time.
Going all out with pancakes or a full English could be a little ambitious, but simply having your dining table packed full of cereals, toast and jams will be enough to entice them out of their beds and into your kitchen to fuel for the morning ahead.
And remember, time is your friend so try to prepare as much as possible in advance, especially if you fancy mixing things up a bit. This article from Buzzfeed is great for some time-saving ideas and unusual breakfast ideas.
Gatherings to remember
It may seem as though this article is attempting to get you to bribe your children with food and fun to spend time with you, but these ideas are merely a starting point to getting everyone in one room communicating and enjoying themselves.
The fourth tip is to have regular gatherings that establish your home and your kitchen as a place to socialise and relax. You can mix it up with tea parties, garden parties, themed food nights – Mexican, French, Italian etc – or even drinks and nibbles for a cheap Saturday night in. Another great idea is to have a small buffet that leads to the main event: the dessert station. The idea of ‘make your own’ is so appealing to children and adults alike, and can be as simple as offering three or so desserts with a selection of accompaniments and toppings. A little glutinous, but definitely a crowd pleaser!
Whipping up a storm
Even though we’re back to food (it is the best use of a kitchen after all), cooking, baking or learning the ropes is a great excuse to get the family together. Teach the little ones how to make cakes, or work with the older children to try out brand new recipes that excite the whole family. An afternoon in the kitchen together will provide an opportunity to make lasting memories, whether they be of burnt cupcakes or casserole triumphs!
This activity will also provide your children with the cooking skills that everyone should have when they leave home and begin feeding themselves. A few key recipes can be the difference between healthy eating and a constant dependency on the local takeaway…