Toddlers are natural-born helpers in the kitchen, but it doesn’t come with ease if we are not prepared to have them help. For many of us, it can feel like it is slowing us down. Sometimes it can feel overwhelming and stressful to do every day, but allowing your toddler to help will nurture their instincts and helps them to learn. Also, think of all the memories that you will make together in the kitchen, because we all know how quickly they grow up.
Below are some tips on how to prepare and make it fun for both you and your toddler:
Keep Safe Items Close
Sometimes our little ones really want to help even if there is not much for them to do. You can give them some plastic cups and bowls with a little spritz of water on them. Hand them a cloth and allow your child to simply dry them.
Define What YOU Do
We all have certain tools that we’d prefer our little ones not touch. Sometimes it’s a safety concern, of course, but whatever your reason is, make sure to have a chat with your child. This way, they know to expect not to help out when you use this tool.
Save the Wet Ingredients
Things like mixing up pancake batter are always fun for toddlers, but save this for a day when you don’t have to get out the door in a hurry. Messes that are sticky, or contain eggs and dairy are the hardest to get under control in a rush.
Prep Your Child
Before beginning any recipe, talk to your toddler about what you are going to bake or cook. You can do this as you wash your hands and get ready for the first task. Make sure to tie hair back, roll up the sleeves, and put on an apron (an art smock works great as well).
Prep a Space
Before inviting your toddler into the space. Lay out the tools and ingredients on a large baking sheet for your child. A small silverware holder or cup can be used to hold spatulas and tools. Tiny containers or measuring cups can be filled with spices and ingredients. Wet ingredients can also go into small containers. Keep the wet ingredients closest to you. This way, you can slowly hand the items to your child as you talk about them.
Prep Some Things Ahead of Time
You can always cut up ingredients and measure things without distractions ahead of time. This will help ensure that nothing is missed or added in excess.
Adjust as They Grow
One week, it may be best to ask for “this cup”. The next month, you may be able to ask for a colored cup or food. Months later, perhaps you can define more and more foods and ingredients specifically.
Just Go With It
If your toddler loves to mash, let them mash, or maybe they love to mix. If everything goes into their mouth, focus on recipes that don’t use raw ingredients like making a big fruit salad and don’t worry about it! Sometimes the cookie dough won’t be evenly rolled or spooned out, so just cook two separate batches and adjust the cooking time.
Here are a few ideas for fun meals and treats to prep with your toddler:
- Avocado Pudding
- Chicken Salad
- Pasta Salad
- Sugar Cookies
- Fruit Salsas
What are some of your favorite recipes to bake or cook with your toddlers?