Matt and I have been canning for over 10 years and started well before we had kids. Canning is such an important skill to learn, especially when you have a garden. As we added kids to the mix though it became a bit more difficult. However, I knew that I wanted to include them in this experience as much as I could. For me, it didn’t change canning too much and it’s actually an enjoyable process with my two little ones. Without further ado, here are my awesome tips for canning with young kids.
Tip #1: Involve Your Kids Early
I think a good, early age for involving your kids in canning is between two and a half to three. This is mostly going to involve the prepping process. You can let them pull the produce, wash the produce, or run the press for apples or tomatoes if you have one. I’m sure they would love turning the press and seeing the fruits complete the first step in becoming a sauce. Plus, each of these steps are safe. Another thing we have our little ones do is let them wash the lids, jars, and rings.
Tip #2: Let Them Pretend They’re Canning
This one is a lot of fun. As you’re canning your produce set them up their own canning station. Complete with different colored playdough, jars, lids, measuring tape and a pot. Allow them to can their produce while you’re canning yours. Show them the process needed in order to can and then they can model it after you using their station. You can let them handle some of the soft fruit as well. Like picking cherries or cutting kiwi with a plastic knife.
Tip #3: Entertain Them Out of the Kitchen
My kids have a Kindle Fire that have educational games, like ABC Mouse, I’ll set them up with a movie or some quiet time activities. These are all good ideas if your little one(s) don’t nap. A baby swing, bumbo seat, or baby carrier are also good ways to can with a baby in tow. If you’re using a baby carrier make sure they’re on your back so you don’t risk them getting burned. And of course there’s always getting a babysitter for that time period. I always try to plan my mom coming over a day or two that week so I can get all my canning done and the girls can see their grandma.
If your kids are older then you can explain to them that they can play near and around the kitchen but that running through the kitchen is dangerous right now. Baby gates could work in your house as well, although those are a no go here.
Tip #4: Split the Process up
Utilize the time you have when your kids are sleeping or otherwise entertained. You can wash the produce, wash all your equipment, wash and prep the can and lids, and set everything up to be ready to go. You can even go ahead and fill the canner up with water and begin heating the water up. Then, once the water is boiling and ready to go it should be around nap or quiet time. Also, wrangle in your husband when you can. This is something that Matt and I do often as well. He’ll get home from work and take the girls and I’ll finish canning or vice versa and that works really well.
Wrapping it Up
Canning with kids is definitely a challenge but it’s not impossible. I believe letting your kids see you can, or do any work really, is so healthy. Teaching them the skills you grew up learning is important and, when they’re old enough, an awesome opportunity to bond over something you love.