Do you want to get your toddler involved with you in the kitchen while you are baking or making dinner but are too afraid to try? Is your little one throwing a temper tantrum any time you try to make dinner or bake cookies? I know it can be overwhelming to have a toddler with you in the kitchen but it does not have to be. I want to lay out some tips and tricks that have worked well for us. Here are 7 tips to get little ones involved in the kitchen.
My son Caleb is now 21 months. I started getting him involved in the kitchen when he was old enough to sit on his own. I have a passion for baking and enjoy cooking my family meals as well. Getting him involved is a great way to teach him what goes into making our food but also allow him to create. He gets so excited to try what it is he made and make sure daddy tries it too. I know that it is easy to want to be productive in the kitchen and cooking with littles does slow things down, but I urge you to carve out the time and patience to get them involved!
1. Start Them with Their Own Supplies
Start them out with their own bowl/cooking supplies. When Caleb was too young and not ready to actually help, I would put him on the floor of the kitchen while I cooked and give him his own bowl and spatula. Sometimes I would hand him a spice jar to play with (plastic jar of parsley for example- never anything spicy or too granular). He would sit and play while mama cooked.
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2. Find Age-appropriate Tasks
Move them up to “age-appropriate” tasks to help. As early as I could I would involve him in the actual cooking/baking. Examples:
- punch down the pizza dough after it rose
- mama pre-chop the veggies and have your little toss them into the pot to saute
- have your little one hold a whisk and put your hand over theirs and stir
- teach them how to juice a lemon and watch them try to juice on their own
- have them dump the pre-measured ingredients into the mixing bowl
- let them stir the ingredients on their own (teach them the importance of keeping it in the bowl)
- teach them how to crack an egg — I know this sounds crazy but their coordination will improve and you can pick out any eggshells. (Don’t forget to wash their hands after. For more on egg safety check out this article from the FDA)
3. Let Them Taste
Let them try safe-to-eat ingredients. Part of the fun in the kitchen is tasting what it is you are using to make the meal. Let them try various components. This can be as simple as tasting the difference between sugar and salt (even though they look the same), tasting the blueberries or chocolate chips that are being put into the pancakes, or even trying that lemon that smells so tasty. This is part of exploring the senses and provided the ingredients are safe to consume raw. Why not taste and understand? If you want a tasty and kid-friendly blueberry muffin recipe to try, then check this one out (no sugar or butter!).
4. Build Curiosity
Show them what you are doing that they are not ready to help with yet. Little ones are curious. Show them what you are doing and explain why this is a mommy task and not a kid task. Pick them up and show them the mixer doing its job. Show them how you melt butter.
5. Teach Kitchen Safety
Teach them kitchen safety. Teach them the importance of the oven and stepping back if it is open. When Caleb was tiny every time I would open the oven I would announce, Mama is opening the oven, it’s time for Caleb to back up. Now every time I say ok it’s time to open the oven, Caleb says “back up”. This gives me peace of mind so I don’t have to worry about knowing where he is each time I am cooking and if he is going to reach inside. Also, if there are tools/utensils that you are using that are not safe for them to use, talk to them about it. Ex. “When mommy uses the knife you mustn’t touch or get near the cutting board. This is very sharp and could hurt you.”
6. Be a Cheerleader
Be your child’s cheerleader. Your little one loves to make you proud. When they master cracking an egg for the first time or keep the whisk in the bowl while stirring, cheer them on and tell them how proud you are. Their face will light up with joy and this will only further encourage them to continue to try new things in the kitchen. Also, be sure to tell your other family members that your little helped make today’s creation.
7. Embrace the Mess
Embrace the mess. Children are messy and still learning coordination. It can be so hard for me to have flour spilled on the floor or have chopped onions strewn about. That said, I think if you go into it with a mindset that it will be messy and that is part of the learning, it is easier to let it go.
I hope these 7 tips to get little ones involved in the kitchen will inspire you to try something new. What are your favorite ways to get your little ones involved in the kitchen?