This is Part 2 in a series exploring how you can bring your kids in to the kitchen and help them explore the wonderful sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of home cooking! Visit Part 1 to learn about how even infants can get their own little slice of kitchen magic.
Why Cook with Kids?
Introducing your kids to cooking at a young age helps to stimulate all their senses and build valuable life skills. Cooking with kids can:
- Encourage them to be more adventurous eaters by exposing them to new foods and allowing them to be part of the process of selecting and preparing meals.
- Build self-confidence by showing them they can help feed their family.
- Teach math (measuring and weighing), reading (reading a recipe and food labels), and science (cooking = chemical reactions!)
- Deepen your family bonds by teaching kids about your family’s traditions and history.
- Expose your kids to other cultures through their foods.
Your Toddler Chef
Toddlers make the perfect pint-sized sous chefs in your kitchen. They are naturally curious and love to help parents and other family members in the kitchen. Plus, they have other classic characteristics of some great chefs: they can be loud, stubborn, and throw temper tantrums!
Here are some ways your toddler can safely help in the kitchen:
Unfortunately, it may be a little too early to have your toddler start washing the dishes. But, they CAN help by washing raw fruits and veggies! A rinse and a scrub are great ways to keep those hands busy.
Build those fine motor skills by picking fresh herbs, like parsley, cilantro, or rosemary, right off the stem. If you have a garden, your toddler can also help pick things like tomatoes, strawberries, and string beans from the plant.
After a parent or caregiver cuts a lemon, lime, or orange in half, have your toddler SQUEEEEEZEEE all that juice out.
Get some toddler frustrations out by kneading dough, any kind will do! Pro tip: many supermarkets, and even some pizzerias, will sell refrigerated pizza dough. Just bring it home, let your toddler knead it until they collapse, shape into pizza and bake!
Your toddler will love trying to use a rolling pin to make cookies, pies, or pasta. They might not be so successful, but they will love to try!
Whisk & Stir
Being careful to avoid any hot ingredients, let your toddler try their hand at whisking and stirring when making a meal. They will soon be masters of making pancakes, scrambled eggs, and brownies!
Now, your toddler is probably already a master smasher, so let's put those skills to use in the kitchen! Your little one will love to use a fork or potato masher (or their hands!) to smash cooled potatoes, hard boiled eggs, avocado, or canned beans. Just avoid anything hot in case it splashes up!
Finish your meal with some flair by letting your toddler sprinkle on some garnishes, like fresh herbs, grated cheese, or ground pepper. Voila!