Let’s face it, toddler’s are messy little human beings. Extremely messy little human beings. But did you know that they love to be little helpers too? Cooking with your toddler has so many benefits for both them and you! Your toddler will glow if you ask them to be your little helper in the kitchen.
Dinner seems to be either a meal you look forward to making or a meal that you would rather not make. Either way, everyone needs to eat. I find it easiest to let everyone on board when it comes to making dinner. Breaking it down into steps that each person can complete makes it easier on me (or whoever is cooking). That means I even let the toddler cook.
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Pointers for Cooking With Your Toddler
Here are some pointers of cooking with toddlers and what you can do to make cooking with your toddler a great experience. Remember that cooking with your toddler is all about the experience they get and the memories they make. It is not necessarily about the end product, or even if the dinner ends up being edible.
Be Ready for a Possible Mess
Toddlers can be messy. Thankfully, super messy situations can sometimes be easy to avoid. Simply by thinking ahead and planning ahead, the amount of mess can be much smaller.
That being said, sometimes a little mess is a good thing while cooking with your toddler if you are prepared for it ahead of time. Toddlers are constantly told what to do, and sometimes letting them cook and make their own messes gives them a bit of freedom. It also teaches skills about how much clean up there is, so maybe each time they will make a little less of a mess.
Having a bit of mess can also improve their communication skills. Instead of simply asking them questions, you are giving them the experience to talk about and work through. Cooking involves step by step instructions. Cooking with someone also involved teamwork, so those communication skills can be strengthened with those back-and-forth conversations.
Keep in mind though, no matter how messy things get, anything can be cleaned up. Any mess is worth the memories.
Cooking with your Toddler Means Working at Their Level
Sometimes it can be helpful to bring things to your toddler’s level. Bring the work surface to them instead of boosting them up to the work surface. By doing this you will make your child more comfortable. They will be less nervous trying new things when they are able to reach everything with ease. If they are helping to measure ingredients, there will be fewer spills this way because they are more comfortable.
Bringing the work surface to them will also help them feel more confident in what they are doing, which means making fewer mistakes.
If you are raising a spirited toddler, this also gives them a sense of independence and doing things for themselves. They won’t have to ask for any assistance with reaching something or holding something for them.
How to Make it Safe for Toddlers to Cook
Talking (age appropriately) about kitchen safety is a must. Mention how certain things aren’t safe when hot, that slicing things is only for adults and that before they do anything in the kitchen they are to ask permission.
Keeping any potential dangers out of reach is very important as well. This could be things like plastic wrap and aluminum foil boxes, knives, glasses, and blenders. Anything that you wouldn’t want your child getting into on a normal basis should also be out of reach when your child is with you in the kitchen.
What Can They Make?
Your toddler can easily make themselves a sandwich. If they choose peanut butter and jelly they can scoop and spread the peanut butter with a spoon. When it comes to the jelly, it is easiest if you have a squeeze bottle and they can help you squeeze it.
If your child prefers a meat sandwich, let them put all the fixings on it themselves.
Cooking With Your Toddler: How Can Your Toddler Help You in the Kitchen?
- Have your child measure out ingredients
- Place the vegetables in the microwave and push the buttons
- Put the cake pan(with some help) in the oven before it is turned
- Push buttons (or turn the dial) on the oven once the door is closed with your help.
- Add the ingredients into a pot or pan.
- Let them set the timer for you.
Tips for Cooking with Your Toddler
- Place a cheap tablecloth under where they are working to catch anything that may fall. Doing it this way means that I can fold it up and shake it outside. If you don’t have a tablecloth on hand, a towel or blanket will work just as well.
- Put them in clothes that you don’t mind getting ruined. Most of the time things wash out but putting them in other clothes will ease your worries.
- Keep the vacuum nearby (and plugged in). Doing this will make clean up much faster than if you were to have to go grab it.
It takes a bit more planning to have your toddler cook with you (or on their own). It takes a lot more patience and a whole lot of love. However, the lessons they learn by doing it are wonderful. Cooking with your toddler also creates bonding time and creates memories when you allow them to be in the kitchen with you. The more you can teach them while they are little, the better off they will be as they get older.
Have you let your toddler cook with you yet? What was your experience like? Comment below!