Cooking has been such a positive part of my life, to me it has always been an activity that brings to mind words like comfort, enjoyment and family. Sometimes, it is also how I cope with stress. Nothing works better than pounding on some bread dough when you’re feeling a little overwhelmed! Naturally, I can’t wait to share this joy with my daughter, Kristen. Except …. She’s 2.
I did some digging around, and found several articles that said toddlers can start to do little things in the kitchen that can actually help them in things like developing motor skills, by having them mix ingredients with a spoon in a circular motion. I found this interesting, so I started digging around some more.
The goal of bringing your toddler into the kitchen is to bring you together, have fun and learn. It can start by talking to them when you are in the supermarket buying groceries. Teach them about fruits and vegetables, talk to them about ingredients you’ll buy to make pancakes, for example.
For toddlers, the fun part is in the process of cooking, not so much the finished product itself. Give them small, safe tasks that they can do so they don’t become frustrated. Don’t force them if they don’t want to do something, or they aren’t comfortable. You can try again in a couple of weeks.
Some activities you can try:
- Mix pancake batter
- Pour ingredients from measuring cup to bigger bowl
- Peel bananas
- Wash and scrub fruit and vegetables
- Shake Ziploc bags with ingredients in them, to mix
- Cut out shapes in cookie dough with cookie cutter
- Sprinkle cheese on pizza
You can help them learn about the names of things, colors (what color is the apple?), shapes (what shape is the sandwich slice?), counting (how many carrots?), textures (how does this egg feel?), what’s cold (milk from the fridge), what’s warm (your warm -not hot!- coffee mug). It can even help them learn to tell time, when they are a little older. (Set the timer for 15 min when baking cookies, and tell them about it.)
I can’t stress the importance of supervision enough. I know you know, but I’ll tell you anyway:
- Supervise at all times. Gather all the ingredients you’ll need, plus equipment BEFORE you start the cooking process so you won’t have to turn away during it.
- Remind them of the dangers. Every time you cook together, let your toddler know, “Stoves are hot, don’t touch. Knives are sharp. Only Mommy uses the knife.”
- Keep dangerous things out of reach.
- Watch out for falls. Since your little one will probably be standing on a chair or stool, make sure they aren’t in danger of falling, or consider investing in a special stool that has a rail to keep kids on the right level, but still safe. http://bit.ly/d67tV4
Personally, I think I’ll keep Kristen sitting nice and safe in her high chair at first. I can pull it near the counter so she feels she’s right there with me. I gave her some measuring spoons, spatulas, a deep wooden bowl and about ¼ cup of flour. She was happily mixing, sprinkling, and passing flour from one bowl to the other for about 1 hour. She also “helps” me in the morning, by mixing eggs and milk. She sees the pan, how I put in butter and how the eggs cook (always from her hight chair). Her favorite part is eating them, of course.
I encourage you to try these activities at home, especially now that the Holidays are around the corner!
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