Breakfast is always a family favorite for us. Even though I work four days a week, I am always home for this first meal of the day. And on weekends, we typically spend at least one morning at our favorite diner, playing “Guess the Animal” and letting our kids run behind the counter (the waitresses love them – at least we think they do!).
So when I discovered The Family Breakfast Project–The Family Dinner Project’s partnership with Cheerios to make breakfast easier, more fun and more meaningful–I picked a few new, fun ideas from the program to try to make our mornings a little more exciting.
Day 1: Making Coffee — Together
Shuffling down the stairs on a Saturday morning, I said to my 3-year old daughter, “I have a project for you. I want you to help me make coffee.”
She looked at me with her big eyes, both shocked and excited. “I don’t drink coffee, Mommy.”
I explained that I wanted to teach her and she ran right to the fridge. She knew exactly where my bag of ground French roast was stored.
Then she took her stool and pulled it up to the coffee machine. I got out the illustrated instructions so we could loosely follow a script, and she could visualize each step.
“First,” I explained, “we need liners.”
“Why?” she asked.
“So it’s not messy,” I responded. That seemed to be enough info to move forward.
Then we moved on to the scoops. And while it pained me to watch her retrieve the smallest amount of grounds with each scoopful, I patiently just increased how many scoops we would be doing. Four turned into about ten. But that made my assistant even happier!
Next, we filled the carafe with water, and I explained that the water gets added to the coffee grounds and comes out as coffee. This level of science stunned my preschooler into silence. So, we poured the water into the machine.
The final step was the most fun for my sous chef: pushing the button. Once pushed, she heard the machine start working and the trickle of coffee starting to fill the pot. We were two happy campers.
Day 2: Breakfast Cookies
Who doesn’t want cookies for breakfast? With my assistants in tow, we combined the ingredients and licked the spoon. And with a floor hockey play date in the works while these baked, our protein-rich cookies made a great post-game snack – along with slices of watermelon – refueling them for another round.
We’ve also served them for breakfast a number of days this week. With a side of fruit and yogurt, I know my kids are getting a nicely balanced breakfast.
Day 3: New Concept: Drinking Meals
My kids love yogurt and fruit. So, I decided to mix it up for them one morning – literally. We added a frozen berry blend, Greek yogurt, orange juice – and spinach. And I let them hit the start button. They were thrilled to see everything turn into a gorgeous pink-purple juice. Served with a breakfast cookie, it was a delicious and nutritious start to the day!
Day 4: Personalized Placemats
Using the downloadable placemat template, I presented the idea of new placemats to the kids–ones they could color. But the best part is that we would write things we love about each other on them. My daughter said she loved when her older brother plays with her on the playground. My son responded that he loves when his sister plays with him and shares with him. Awww!
We made sure to add Mom’s and Dad’s feelings too – as well as our nanny’s – since she’s part of the family. Add a little color and packing tape, and these have been sentiments we read aloud each morning (often repeatedly, per request).
Day 5: Practical Joke
The perfect day for a morning joke? April Fools Day! I started the morning asking the kids what joke they wanted to play on their nanny. I explained to my 5 and 3 year old about the April 1st tradition, setting them up for what I had in store for them downstairs. I suggested we draw red dots on their arms and hands and tell their nanny they had Chicken Pox, but they weren’t up for that. Their idea? Squeezing juice from an orange on a Graham Cracker. That seemed to be hilarious. So that’s what we set out to do.
So when they sat down at the counter and I put frozen bowls of Cheerios in front of them, I was sure they’d realize my prank immediately. But instead, my 5 year old started hacking away at the ice-milk, putting the tiny chips of Cheerios he could break off into his mouth. And my 3-year old got really angry at her cereal bowl. Laughing until I was bent over, I yelled “April Fools!” and they looked at me like I was crazy. My son started laughing too – while my daughter gave me a total stink eye.
Day 6: New Fruit
My kids aren’t typically open to new foods, but introducing them to a new fruit was an idea from The Family Breakfast Project – so we went for it. Since green is their favorite color, I went with a kiwi. It was a bust. Just seeing something new on his plate, my son avoided his breakfast chair like the plague. And my daughter climbed up and promptly removed the fruit from her plate, adding distance to the problem.
“How do you know you won’t like it?” I asked.
“I just know.”
“But it’s green,” I pleaded.
“Will you at least try it?”
So, I gave up and moved on to our favorite breakfast fruit of the moment: blackberries. On the side? A breakfast cookie!
Day 7: Happy Face Toast
This idea from The Family Breakfast Project was adorable and a nice way to end our week of fun breakfast ideas. I created a smiley face entirely out of fruit, set on a piece of toast with peanut butter. And while they helped boost morning smiles, I think the kids found them hard to eat. My daughter picked each piece of fruit off and refused to eat the toast. And my son ate it like a piece of bread, letting strawberry pieces fall right off. But every kid is different and it was definitely worth a try!
Breakfast cookies, morning smoothies, loving placemats and coffee helpers will forever stay part of our morning routine. And, while we learned that my early birds are not ready for practical jokes or unfamiliar foods at this hour, we still had a lot of fun – and made some good memories. The best part: this project reminded me to slow down and enjoy these morning moments, instead of rushing around so much.
Katie Bugbee is the senior managing editor and resident parenting expert of Care.com. A busy working mother of two (soon to be three!), she’s an expert on many parenting dilemmas, from appeasing picky eaters to finding the perfect babysitter.