You may have seen that recently on our Facebook page we posted an article discussing how to teach kids about math, reading, and other school subjects by cooking together. That got me thinking about all the times I've cooked with my one-year-old, and how much fun we've had. At first I thought she was still too young to cook with me at only one year old, but with a little creativity I discovered some great jobs for her! All it takes are some basic gross motor skills on her part, and a little creativity on yours, and you can get your young toddler into the kitchen to learn, have some fun, and have some special time together!
The Salad Spinner
What young toddler doesn't love pushing buttons? Well, if you have an OXO Salad Spinner or similar model, your toddler is probably already a pro at drying off the lettuce for your dinner salad. She'll also love tearing the lettuce into bite-sized pieces with her hands, and being responsible for the very important job of transporting greens from the cutting board to the spinner, and from the spinner to the serving dish.
Maybe she's not quite coordinated enough to pour things on her own, but just getting her hands on a bottle of sauce or a cup of sugar to help you pour will be exciting.
If your young toddler can hold a spoon, she can stir! Put anything that needs stirring into a non-breakable dish for her to work with. You may also want to hold the dish, place the dish on the floor, or simply have a set of backup ingredients in case the contents of the dish end up on the floor. Heavy bowls with non-skid placemats underneath also do a great job of helping things stay in place. Sure, you'll probably have to finish the job, but your toddler will love it while it lasts!
Instant pudding is a great recipe to make with young toddlers. It's quick, simple, and doesn't require any cooking. And, your toddler can help with every step of the process. It's great to "cook" as a special dessert for a family member, or to celebrate one of your toddler's achievements.
You can show your young toddler you value her thoughts and opinions by having her taste-test the ingredients in the dinner. Let her taste the various ingredients you'll be putting into the food, both raw (when safe) and cooked. This is a sneaky way to get your young toddler to try some new foods she probably wouldn't touch if presented at the dinner table!
Most toddlers love cleaning up. Give them a wipe to clean up spills, or put them at the sink with a brush to wash veggies such as potatoes and carrots. (Sure, you'll probably have to wash them again, but it's worth the thrill.) Check out this toddler-sized veggie brush, perfect for small hands.
Yes, your young toddler can actually help you slice! For example, this banana slicer is perfect for little hands. Depending on her kitchen skills, you can also give your young toddler a plastic chef's knife to cut soft fruits and veggies.
Whether your toddler is mashing with her hands or a toddler-sized utensil, this job is sure to be a hit. Your toddler can mash avocados for guacamole, potatoes or cauliflower for a side dish, or cheese or berries for a dessert.
Time to serve? Have your young toddler arrange bread in a basket, or put a roll on each plate before it goes to the table. Or maybe she can arrange veggies or crackers on a serving platter. She'll get a kick out of all the help she's giving.
Finally, help with the dishes! Have your toddler hand you utensils and non-breakable dishes from the dishwasher for you to put away. Sure, it'll take twice as long, but it's guaranteed to be at least eight times the fun.
Of course, remember to be safe when cooking with your kids. Most young toddlers shouldn't be working with hot ingredients, or at or near the stove. It's also important to be mindful of placing knives and other dangerous objects out of reach. Cutting out of reach is also recommended because little hands can wander! In other words, be sure your common sense always goes with you into the kitchen.
Once you do get your young toddler in the kitchen, you'll both find great benefits from it. There are infinite opportunities for her to learn, and even more opportunities for the two of you to bond. Participating with you may even help your toddler's self-esteem.
So, what are your favorite ways to get your young toddler involved with dinnertime?