Kitchens are often the busiest place in a home. They are where we store, prepare and eat food as well as gather to talk about important matters, do homework and more. Toddlers know how meaningful kitchens are and they want to be part of the action. Why not pull them off the floor, get out a sturdy stool and start cooking with toddlers? Do expect a mess.
Cooking starts with finding the food. When in season, buying local is not only fun but helps kids connect food with farms and farmers, not only the grocery. Go blueberry picking. Peruse farmers markets. Visit the local dairy farm. Start a toddler garden. Encourage your tot to choose which fruit to buy, what variety of cheese or which bag of rice. Taking the time to include your little guy in procuring your food will give him more buy in throughout the process.
As a parent, you know how much little kids love water. Start the water in the sink and give your toddler some veggie spray and a colander to wash apples, grapes, cucumbers, carrots and whatever else you’re eating. Help and demonstrate but let her do the bulk of the work. Tots can also mix, dump and maybe even measure with some help. They can retrieve an item from the fridge or pantry and find your favorite mixing spoon in the drawer.
Chop – yes, chop
Although controversial, kids can cut up food too. We’re not talking about handing over the butcher knife to your two year old. Invest in a wooden or plastic knife and show your toddler how to use it. Then hold his hand in yours while you chop and finally let him try it himself. An egg slicer or crinkle cutter can also be used with supervision. Don’t let the little man cut up raw chicken or hard veggies but select softer and safe foods.
The physical act of cooking with toddlers is a trickier than all other steps. High heat and little people just don’t mix well. Youngsters can be more involved with cooking when you get creative with your slow cooker, dehydrator, microwave and even popcorn maker. However, kids should learn respect for the oven and stove. Teach your little lady to step away when the over door opens and heat pots on rear burners, handles facing back.
Cooking with toddlers will be messier than cooking with adults, yes. Involve those kids in the clean up too! Give her a sponge and let her get to work on the counter. Make him wipe up the expected water on the floor after washing veggies. Toddlers can also scrape food off their plates, return condiments from table to fridge and put away pots, bowls and the like.
Giving your toddler meaningful tasks in the kitchen will empower them and encourage a lifelong love of cooking and food.