Between the fact that my husband and I both seem to need to eat EVERY SINGLE DAY and the fact that I really enjoy cooking and baking, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. And having a toddler means she spends a lot of time in there with me.
Happily, she seems to really enjoy cooking, and if I suggest that we make something, she’s usually very enthusiastic. Of course, she wants to be as involved as possible and I’ve been surprised how able she really is.
Here are some of the things I’ve learned about having a very small helper in the kitchen.
- Put them somewhere where they can see. Whether that’s on a stool, sitting on the counter, doing most of your prep at the kitchen table, or with their highchair pushed up to the workspace, most children are going to be happiest the closer they are to the action.
- Buttons are the best. Ella loves to push the buttons on the blender, turn the KitchenAid on and off, or set a timer.
- Letting them help where they can makes most children more willing to let you do the adult things. I measure things, Ella pours them into the bowl. She washes things, I cut things. She knows from experience that I’ll let her have a turn doing things, so she doesn’t put up too much of a fuss about the things I don’t let her do yet.
- Little kids tend to enjoy repetitive (aka tedious) tasks. Pitting cherries is not something I enjoy because it’s messy and it takes forever. But Ella thought this was the best job in the entire world. Win-win (except for the white shorts, which had a bit of a lose in this scenario).
- Having them involved in the kitchen helps them learn to be safe. Because she’s in the kitchen so much and we talk about it EVERY time, Ella is well aware that the oven is very hot, that knives are sharp and not for children, and that we never touch the stove burners.
- Let them try new skills. A couple of weeks ago, Ella asked to crack an egg into the bowl. I was a little nervous that we’d have a gigantic mess, but I demonstrated how to do it and she very carefully imitated me. A bit of eggshell may have ended up in the bowl, but every time since, she’s become a little more adept.
- Remind yourself that most things aren’t a big deal. A little eggshell in the bottom of the bowl? You can fish it out.
- Let them taste stuff. Ella loves to have a little taste of flour (I know. . .weird), and a tiny bit of biscuit dough makes her lose her mind with happiness. My husband taught me that tasting is the best part of cooking – I’m not a taster, so I had no idea!
- The oven light is the most kid-friendly thing in your kitchen. Ella loves it when I turn on the oven light so that she can watch things cooking in the oven. It’s just at her eye level and she gets a huge kick out of seeing whatever we made in there.
- A tiny-size portion of whatever you’re making is way more appealing than a full size one. A mini muffin, a tiny biscuit, a miniscule portion of a main dish are all a perfect recipe for getting your child to eat whatever you’ve just made.
How do you involve your child in the kitchen?