Perhaps you read the title of this post and thought, “Are you serious? Tiny terror toddlers in the kitchen? How could they be anything but trouble?” I’m here to tell you that you can definitely get your toddlers interested in helping out in the kitchen without pulling out your hair.
Get Your Toddlers Helping in the Kitchen
Getting kids involved in preparing meals is an excellent tool in your bag of tricks. By the time they head to university, you can arm them with the ability to prepare more than some microwave macaroni & cheese. Getting kids into the kitchen will also help get them interested in the meal. They are more likely to eat something they have helped to prepare. But you have to start somewhere and why not start with that inquisitive two-year-old who’s currently using crayons to colour everywhere except for the pages of the colouring book.
It’s all about attention span. Your toddlers can do much more than you might think. They just won’t do it for very long. Small tasks are ideal. Miss O is constantly offering to help me in the kitchen and I think that’s awesome. She is a bit of a picky eater but she is always willing to try a bite of a new food, especially one she has helped to prepare. She is also very proud, announcing to anyone who will listen that she helped make dinner. Her and I recently embarked on an endeavour to make chocolate bars which was a huge success. I try to involve her as much as I can in the kitchen. Here are some of the ways I have introduced her to the world of cooking.
Give Them Their Own Kitchen Tools
Toddlers love to feel important. Giving them their very own apron and chef hat in a kid size will make them feel like a prince or princess. Head to the dollar store and buy them some super-special wooden or large plastic spoons for stirring. Buy things in their favourite colour. Miss O’s favourite tool is my pink spatula. A stool is also helpful but more often than not, we either use a kitchen chair (with a lot of supervision) or she does things on the floor or her kid-size table that’s in the living room right next to the kitchen.
Start With Sweet Stuff
The easiest way to entice your toddler to help in the kitchen is with special treats that they really, really love. Think making chocolate bars like we did. Or maybe it’s making Rice Krispie Squares. Something as simple as helping to stir melted chocolate will get them interested. Pancakes or waffles are another toddler-approved food that is simple to stir.
Help With Veggies
Most kitchens have tile floors which are easy to clean. Don’t be afraid to let the kids make a bit of a mess. I have plunked Miss O on the floor with a large bowl with some water in it and some potatoes. I handed her a scrub brush and asked her to clean the potatoes. Sure, the water got all over the place but who cares? It’s just water. You can do the same with any root vegetable like carrots, parsnips, etc. Celery stalks another good one – they can simply wash them with their hands. If you need to make something with vegetables you cook before cutting, have them cut the veg with a butter knife. Even a freshly washed Play-Doh knife is a useful tool.
Soup is Simple
There are many ways kids can help prepare soups. Scrubbing veggies like mentioned above. They can help dump all of the veggies into the pot. Pouring in liquids is fun too. This is also a great opportunity to teach them about being safe around a hot stove. I usually enlist the help of my husband when Miss O wants to stir the soup on the stove – one parent to hold the child, the other to help with stirring and making sure they do not put a hand on the element or the hot pot.
Baking – Messy But Fun!
I love having Miss O help me with baking. There are usually a number of items involved in baking such as flour, eggs, sugar, salt, baking soda, etc. Separate all of the pre-measured ingredients into small bowls. Have your toddler help dump the small bowls into a large bowl. They can also help stir the mixture. This usually makes a mess, particularly the flour but they have lots of fun. Cracking eggs into a bowl can also be fun. To ensure you avoid shells in your batter, have them crack the eggs into a separate bowl first. In case you didn’t know, the secret to picking out shell pieces is to use a a large piece of shell – they are attracted to one another. This is a task best left up to mom or dad.
Buttons? Yes Please!
Toddlers love pushing buttons. Microwave, stove, stand mixer, blender, food processor, etc. These are full of awesome buttons. Using the microwave also helps teach them numbers. Asking them to push specific numbers is a great learning opportunity. Some kids may not like loud noises so things like the microwave or stove are best for them. Miss O is not a fan of the food processor due to its volume. She usually leaves the room when I use it. But there is little more satisfying to a toddler than pushing a Start button and seeing the fruits of their labour! Side note – this is also fun on the washing machine & dryer.
Take a Class
Miss O and I are members of Momstown Burlington. We have been since she was just over a year old. They offer two different programs each month centred around getting toddlers into the kitchen: Jr. Chefs and Baking Buddies. We try and get to both of them each month. Typically they are done in the community room at a local grocery store that is equipped with a kitchen. The perks of taking a class that shows kids the joys of food (aside from eating it) is that they can make a giant mess and you don’t have to clean it up! Bonus!
Patience is Key
Remember to be very patient with your toddler in the kitchen. Their small hands are still honing those fine motor skills and they are very likely to drop/spill/smash something. Placing each item into small plastic bowls will help reduce the messes. Berating them will have the opposite effect you’re hoping to achieve in the kitchen so bring them in with an open mind. Try to prepare everything ahead of time as a toddler will wait about 1.3 seconds for you to do something before they wander off to pull the cat’s tail.
What are some of your tricks for getting your toddler into the kitchen? I would love to hear your suggestions for new ways to involve Miss O in the kitchen!
Andrea can always be found with a new craft in front of her, a form of technology on her right and a coffee on her left. This is how she survives suburbia with her two crazy toddlers in tow.