Thanks all for the advice and tips, very handy indeed. rreow haha! Yes about the downtime :P and I have previously tried both cheese sauce and risotto with DS1 around - bad idea!! Last two nights we've eaten together and it has been just great. Done fairly easy meals, aim to eat 6pm. DH looking after DS1 or DS1 watching telly, with DS2 in bouncy seat or doorway bouncer. Did take a little co-ordination at dishing up time.. and at some points DS1 was wanting to help, but I gave him little jobs like putting all the potatoes in the saucepan and let him play with the whole potatoes. DS1 loved eating with us and wolfed down all his food - definitely a social eater!
Also going to try Slocooker at some point and if more complicated, will do during DS1 nap.
I have DS 18m. I work from home and finish at 6pm, which is also when childcare finishes. Most of the time DH will look after DS while I cook, but sometimes I have him in the kitchen with me. We eat at 7pm (DS goes to bed at 8).
I pretty much let him get on with whatever he wants apart from a few big 'no's (touching the stove/dials/oven, going in cupboard under the sink). So when he opens the drawers/cupboards and starts taking everything out I tend to just let him get on with it and entertain himself. Or ask him to put things back (just to keep him occupied). Alternatively I give him some stuff to play with (pans & lids, colander, whisk etc).
It's helpful to cook meals that require short bursts of attention rather than constant care (e.g. don't try and make cheese sauce or a fancy risotto with a toddler in the same room! Too hard), and then give DC attention in between.
It works for us but it is definitely a lot easier when DH takes DS for 30 minutes while I cook dinner (and I get to check Mumsnet/Facebook during the downtime haha).
Slocooker put on in the morning! Most of the time we have breakfast and I have lunch with the DCs but we only do supper together about twice a week - usually at the weekend. Otherwise it's just not possible for toddlers to eat at a time that suits their digestion (they need to eat between 5 and 5.30 if they're to go to bed at a sensible time) and cook on a weeknight. Mine are 2 and 3. It'll be a couple of years before they shift to later.
Late afternoon walk in the dark with double buggy to ensure the baby naps at the end of the day. One parent does toddler bath while the other cooks. Toddler (who has short hair) eats in PJs with huge bib. Baby wakes halfway through and Mum eats half of the meal one handed with baby on breast.
When on my own in the evening, I cooked the meal during toddler nap or we had main meal in middle of the day.
DD and DS have tea anywhere between 5pm and 6pm. DH tends to arrive home in the middle of teatime. DD watches TV while I prepare, DS sits in the high chair whilst I cook. Sometimes DD comes and sits at the kitchen table when I am cooking. Sometimes we all eat together, sometimes DH and I eat later. Even if we eat later, we sit at the table with the DC when they're eating.
Can DS1 have a saucepan of water and a spoon to stir it with, sit him at the kitchen table? We have a stairgate on the kitchen door so if DD is being a PITA then I can put her on the other side of it but she can still chat/watch.
I am keen that we start having our evening meals together to encourage good eating habits and family chat, particularly for DS1 who is 2.3. We also have DS2 who is 4 months. Currently DS1 eats around 5pm, but I think he could go a bit longer if he gets a little snack, so current thought is aim for 6pm. But I am wondering, how do others who eat together find time to prepare dinner so that you can all eat together? DS1 is a very curious little guy and climbs on chairs so that he can see what I am doing when busy in the kitchen and I find it rather hard to prepare when he is trying to help!! TV is an option. DH could also potentially play with DS1 until dinner ready (but then need to consider feeding and bath of DS2...) At the moment, DH does bath time after DS1's dinner while I prepare our own dinner and then we eat once the boys are in bed. Interested to hear what others do. Thanks