Tips for Cooking with Toddlers
Toddlers learn through doing, touching and tasting. This makes cooking with toddlers a perfect activity to engage their hungry minds and curious hands.
Why, then, does the thought of cooking with a toddler strike fear into the heart of most parents? Could it be the mental image of a chaotic and messy culinary bomb site? Or the thought of a three-year-old running off down the corridor wielding a 12-inch knife?
Take a deep breath. Relax. The whole experience can actually be calm, controlled and fun. It just takes a little planning and a few practical tips.
Here are six top tips to get you going:
Turn Your Kitchen into a “Toddler Zone”
They’ll want to see what is happening and will need to safely reach things. To provide a safe and sturdy stool that won’t move around as they stand on it. If you have room, then a kid-size table and chair in the kitchen can provide an ideal toddler workstation.
Do a safety sweep and remove any knife-blocks or other hazards. Having drawer locks can also eliminate the temptation for little hands to open and grab things.
First off, you’ll want aprons for everyone; a damp rag at the ready; and your garbage/compost bins empty and nearby.
Next, prep the ingredients. This means setting everything out. If there are packs or tins to be opened, do it in advance. Will there be lots of chopping? If so, then do 80% of it beforehand. This will leave just enough for your little helper and means nobody will get bored.
Cooking with a toddler works fantastically when they are continuously occupied. Things go wrong if they have to wait around as you rummage for ingredients or spend 10 minutes hacking away at a butternut squash!
Choose an Appropriate Recipe
There are plenty of blogs that share recipes for kids. It’s important that your chosen dish has easy to perform cooking roles and that the process moves forward with momentum. There’s no point getting to the middle of the recipe only to learn that you need “to let it sit for 8 hours” or that it involves boiling oil spitting from a pan.
Read through the recipe beforehand and pick out several tasks for your toddler.
Remember, with toddler cooking: Organization = WIN.
Check Out Toddler Cooking Utensils
Food and eating are some of the first experiences children have. As they love to imitate, it’s no surprise that toddlers like toy food and cutlery. It can be a thrilling experience for a toddler when their play knives and chopping boards are replaced with real ones. Well, obviously not real, real ones but toddler version that they can actually use.
Investing in some quality toddler kitchen utensils means that they can be much more involved in the cooking process. This is satisfying for them and easier for you.
Fun But NO Funny Business
Be strict with rules. In the kitchen, boundaries need to be clear and firm. Follow instructions and no whining. In other life areas, things are more flexible, but in the kitchen, take a no-nonsense approach. Safety is paramount.
If someone can’t follow the rules, then they are out of the kitchen. It’s helpful to have a dad (or another grownup) about as a bouncer just in case any rogue cooks need escorting off the premises.
Stay strong and you’ll soon find that your kids respect cooking. And don’t forget that you’re being kind. In the long run, more cooking means more chocolate flapjacks.
Get kids to help clean up. It’s healthy for them to understand that things don’t magically clean themselves. Make sure that tasting only happens after everything is tidy. This’ll keep your little helpers eager to pitch in.
Cooking is a fantastic way for kids to learn about the world. It gives them a deeper appreciation of nature, their bodies and the principles of healthy eating. With a bit of practice and preparation, you’ll find that it needn’t be stressful or chaotic. Instead, it can be calm, controlled and a lot of fun for the whole family.