I’ve had people tell me I’m crazy for trying to can with three young kids in the house. I’ve had people say it that I’ll have to give it up. And canning right after having a baby? Impossible!
I’m here to tell you that I cannot and will not give it up- not with three young kids, not with homeschooling, not with nursing a newborn. Maybe I’m slightly
neurotic, no, addicted, erm, passionate about my canning habit, but for some reason I just can’t bring myself to stop.
But, I must also tell you that I am not a canning super-whiz, and I don’t do it alone. Being flexible and having help are key to getting this thing done, even in the midst of such a busy season in life. Here are some of the ways I keep on canning with kids.
1) Enlist help. Have a friend come over for a play date. While the kids entertain themselves, you two can slice, dice, and pack. One of you can supervise the children while the other does the dangerously hot parts. In the end, thank her for her help with a jar or two of whatever you canned. (Or, if you’re spoiled rotten like me, you can tag team the whole deal in one fell swoop with your mom who’s canned more jars than you could ever hope to.)
2) Split the job into parts. This is my most common tactic. I sit and prepare the food for the canner in the morning. Then I stick it in the fridge until naptime or bedtime. Once the kids are asleep, I reheat the food and get my jars and canner ready to go. Then all I have to do is pack and process, and I don’t have to worry about the interruptions of children underfoot.
3) Involve your children. I’ve found that you can get a little more done when you give your kids a job to do. When my son was two, I would give him extra rings, tongs, and a pot so he could “can” his play food too. He loved it. When he was three, I taught him how to peel the skin off of my tomatoes (after they were boiled and plunged into ice water), and he got a kick out of standing at the counter to help mama. This year, he’s more interested in playing outside while I can, but I’ll come up with something for him to do. 😉
4) Set other tasks aside. When it’s canning day, I only focus on canning and save my other to-dos for another day. I just expect that I won’t run any errands that day and that my house won’t get cleaned. (But I do try to at least clean up the kitchen when I’m done.) I also skip official homeschool lessons on canning days- there’s plenty to learn as we work together. (Side note: This is one of the reasons year-round-homeschooling appeals to me- so you don’t have to worry about staying on schedule when you’ve got other time-sensitive chores.)
5) Don’t stress. I have to preach this one to myself. I let stress turn me grumpy way too easily. When I turn into a big cranky pants, then my kids and I butt heads all day, and I’m more likely to make a canning mistake because I’m frustrated and distracted. But if I can get myself to just relax when I’m interrupted, then both the day and the canning turn out more successful. What does it matter, really, if I have to turn off the stove to pause and nurse a baby, kiss a toddler’s boo-boo, or hug a tired little boy?
These are some of the ways I keep on canning with small children in the house. How do you accomplish chores when you’ve got little ones on the run?