When our kids are older, we let them help us in the kitchen. However, even toddlers can cook in the kitchen. If you can start young, you can help them to find a love of cooking that will become an enjoyable hobby as they grow older. My kids LOVE to cook, and now my 8, 10 & 12-year-olds will cook without my direct help because they had a foundation that set them up for independent cooking. :). It’s a way to use their time doing something they love (NOT gaming!)
Toddlers want to be in the middle of the action, especially when gadgets are involved. And they love to imitate those around them. To some parents, cooking and cleaning up represent mundane chores, but toddlers see them as exciting games. So why not take advantage of that enthusiasm and start teaching basic cooking and cleaning skills to toddlers?
Cooking Basics for Toddlers
Children flex their curiosity during the toddler years. Parents who cook and bake often do so with young children underfoot. While toddlers can’t slice and dice safely yet, they can perform many simple cooking tasks.
Here are some food preparation activities toddlers can help with under the close supervision of an adult:
* Wash and dry fruits and vegetables
* Pour canned items such as soup or fruit filling
* Pour pre-measured cold liquids such as water, oil, and milk
* Pour frozen vegetables from a bag
* Pour dry goods such as nuts, pasta, beans, rice, baking mixes, and seasonings
* Pour pre-measured dry ingredients such as cereal, salt, sugar, and flour
* Stir cold ingredients in mixing bowls, pots, and pans
* Place cup liners into muffin and cupcake pans
Simple Cooking and Baking Starters for Toddlers
Cooking is more than a fun way to spend time with Mom and Dad. Children also develop their excellent motor skills while they stir and pour. And some toddlers grow more willing to try new foods when they’re involved in the preparation process. Here are some natural starter foods parents can make with children new to the kitchen:
* Chex Mix
* Macaroni and Cheese
Cleaning Up the Kitchen With Kids
Parents who want to teach responsibility to young children can use the kitchen as a starting point. Toddlers love to help wipe up messes; those with developed motor skills can even wield a broom and dustpan with success. Parents can encourage toddlers to help clean up after cooking by giving one simple, short command at a time. Itís also an opportunity to practice saying ìpleaseî and ìthank youî to one another. The following list provides examples of simple tasks for toddlers as young as 12 months:
* Take clean dishes and utensils out of the dishwasher one at a time and hand them to a parent. (Pay close attention to the temperature of the dishwasher surfaces and the items inside it to prevent burns, and never let a child handle sharp or breakable objects.)
* Put dirty washrags, bibs, and clothes in the laundry basket
* Place lids in drawers
* Put trash in the wastebasket
* Hand a parent a dirty cup
* Take dirty spoons to the sink
* Wipe off the highchair tray
* Put leftover foods and napkins in the cabinet
Benefits of Learning Life Skills in the Kitchen
Patience is perhaps the most vital ingredient when parents work with toddlers in the kitchen. Expect mishaps. Dishes will likely break, ingredients will spill. When willing caregivers provide a safe environment for young children to learn their way around the kitchen, they spend quality time with their kids and teach responsibility. And toddlers love to earn their parent’s praise.
Cooking and cleaning up afterward fosters self-confidence and pride in youngsters and provides tangible results for them to show off to the rest of the family.
You’re teaching your kids to love a hobby that will benefit them forever (cooking), and you’re teaching them responsibility (cleaning up afterward). It’s a win-win!