I love to experiment with food so it seemed only natural that I would include my children in the kitchen. I’ve found the only way I can find time to maintain my hobbies is if I include my kids. They get to have fun learning some new things and I get to share some of the things I love with them. Win-Win.
I’ve started cooking with all my kids when they were very young. Toddlers are old enough to really jump in and be part of the process and they love having a chance to mimic the things that mom does in the kitchen.
Keep Things Simple – You are introducing your toddler to the idea of cooking so keep things simple at first. Give your toddler easy tasks that he can have success with and work up from there. Toddlers love feeling like they accomplished something and each success will motivate them to keep trying.
Focus on the Process – Toddlers are creative and impulsive little things. If you have a very specific end result in mind in the kitchen you should probably save that task for naptime. If you want to have a little fun, let your toddler jump right in and let go of your expectations. You’ll enjoy the time you have together a lot more and you’ll get your child excited about the things that you are passionate about.
I once made cookies with my boys and gave them free reign over decorating. They ended up covered with raisins, sprinkles, and banana chips but my kids had a blast. There’s time for perfectly decorated cookies later. We were making memories.
Look for Toddler Friendly Kitchen Tools – You probably already have many things in your kitchen that your toddler can use to help out when you cook. Get a little creative with this. A simple egg slicer can be used instead of a knife to cut olives, eggs, strawberries and bananas. Use a plastic sandwich bag and let your toddler smash up bananas for banana bread or crush crackers into crumbs.
Give your Toddler a Safe Working Space – One of my favorite tools in a kid-friendly kitchen is my Learning Tower. It gives children as young as 18 months old a safe way to stand at the counter and it prevents them from tipping over like they can on a standard stool. If kids have a safe place to work they can focus on more important things, like practicing those small motor skills.
Cleanup is Part of the Fun – Cooking always requires a bit of cleanup afterwards and I like to set the expectation that my kids will clean up after themselves early. Toddlers don’t have any of the hang-ups that older kids have about cleaning so turn it into a game. Toddlers love washing a sink full of soapy dishes or sweeping with a kid-sized broom. It requires a bit more work to clean with your toddler but it will be well worth it when you have an older child who knows how to clean up after himself.
Recipes for Toddlers
What are your tips for cooking with toddlers?