Ramadan with young kids: How to cope
The exhaustion of caring for two kids on a normal day is hard enough, so to do it without caffeine and fuel makes me slightly nervous.
Ramadan shouldn't be a month of hardships and exhaustion, especially as kids pick up on stress, which can affect them, so here are some ways to make those long days of fasting, while raising young children, a little more manageable...
Prep meals in advance
Children throw a spanner in the works during Ramadan because they require breakfast and lunch, so not only do you have to prepare an iftar and suhur meal, you need to to make another two for the kids. That's FOUR meals a day!
Meal prepping for Ramadan is essential when you have young children. You could make the bulk of their meal the day before when preparing iftar to avoid cooking twice in a day (no one should be cooking more than once a day during Ramadan, unless they're a chef).
Also, if the weather is particularly warm you might notice that kids become more fussy about what they eat as their appetite decreases and their thirst sky rockets. Avoid spending ages trying to get them to finish their meals (or even start it) by preparing 'snacky lunches' that they can pick and eat themselves. Some healthy examples include: carrot and cucumber sticks, pasta salad, sandwiches, cheese on toast, grilled chicken pieces and lots of fruit.
Get them involved
This is a great time to get your kids involved in Ramadan. My eldest will nearly be three-years-old this year so I'm excited to be able to explain (in the simplest way possible) what Ramadan is all about. He'll also be more aware of our routine change and notice that his mummy and baba aren't eating during the day.
By teaching them about the importance of Ramadan from an early age, kids are instilled with a sense of pride and love for this month and may even want to 'join in' with the festivities. And when children feel a strong cultural connection to their religion it increases their self esteem and sense of belonging.
Get them involved from the onset by taking them to taraweeh prayers (if it's not too late), seeking their help in meal prepping and decorating the house.
Make it special
Yes I know you're hungry and tired, but if you turn Ramadan into a month of just resting at home and complaining about tiredness and hunger your children will automatically grow up having a negative association with fasting. It might not be possible to go on lots of fun outings during Ramadan but there are so many other, simple ways to make this month special for them.
This could include:
Letting them stay up a little later to join you for iftar and taraweeh prayers. Young children can make up for late bedtimes by having an extra nap in the day.
Setting the table with fancy plates and cutlery, even if your iftar food is very simple, a nicely decorated table will make family meals so much more appealing
Planning suhur midnight feasts – who didn't dream of having a midnight feast as a kid?! Even if your little ones can't stay up that late you could set up a little feast station while you pray taraweeh and eat with them intermittently.
Create a good deeds bucket list
As well as having your own goals this Ramadan, try to implement one for your children. This shouldn't be too strenuous on them. Something simple like a checklist hung on a wall will do. Fill it with charitable activities that they can do such as donate old toys, decorate some cookies for a relative, craft a gift for a neighbour, help clean out an area in the house, smile at the lady in the shop, etc.
Teach them about charity
What better month to learn about charity and giving than Ramadan? Toddlers are by nature quite egotistical and are usually used to having their own way so this is a great time to teach them about the value of sharing and giving. Encourage them to put money into a charity jar that they can donate at the Eid prayers.
Decorate your house
Decorations, balloons and lights – three things guaranteed to spark joy and glee into any child. And you don't need to spend a ton of money on eBay to achieve this, just spend an afternoon crafting with your kids.
Hang some twinkly lights in their room, and a banner in the living room, or create your own Ramadan advent calendar to countdown the days until Eid. I have to confess that I am not crafty at all, and so I outsource to Amazon, but if you're a whizz with a glue gun that's great.
Keep them occupied during iftar
If you kids have eaten but are still up and eyeing up mum and dad's iftar 'feast' then make them a snack box in advance that contains small bits of your iftar. Your child can even pick their own snacks and treats that they get to eat as you break your fast
If all else fails and you find yourself too tired and hungry to do different activities everyday don't worry – no one expects you to be supermum during Ramadan. Just try your best and spend as much quality time with them as you can, even if it is just reading a book or watching a film. Sometimes all children need is your undivided attention and love.
Sami Rahman is a freelance writer based in London.
Follow her on Twitter: @bysamirahman