Reasons for Cooking with Toddlers

Submitted by Nic on May 6, 2013
Looking for a new fun activity for your children? Well look no further than your own kitchen! The kitchen can be a playground for younger kids full of exciting smells and things to do. Even older kids are interested in making their own goodies and finding out how meals come together. While it may not be possible to have your kids underfoot in the kitchen at all times, consider making some time for your toddlers to cook along with you.


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Toddlers are naturally curious and are ever willing to learn. Make the most of your child’s enthusiasm and begin by asking him to help out with small tasks. For example, he could help you stir something or set the table.

Measuring ingredients and cracking eggs may prove difficult for little hands to handle alone but with a little help, even these tasks can be accomplished.

Before beginning to cook with your toddlers make sure you:

  • Create enough time for the kids to help out in the kitchen – Now is not the time to be on a tight schedule and rush your kids along.
  • Make sure your kids are rested – Try cooking on a weekend morning or after their afternoon nap. With younger kids you have to keep an eye out for potential causes for tantrums and cooking may frustrate a tired cranky child.
  • Plan ahead – Prepare your menu in advance. You could even shop for the ingredients with your little one to add to his involvement in the task. Choose a simple recipe with less than five ingredients so that your child is not overwhelmed.
  • Let them choose – Make your little one feel important by letting him choose what he wants to cook. Provide him with some easy options and let him feel like he has some control over the task ahead as well.
  • Be safe – Always ensure that your children are safe in the kitchen. Do not let them handle hot pans or go near the stoves or the oven. Toddlers are too small to handle heavy pots or complicated equipment so keep small hands away from whirring beaters and sharp knives as well. Instruct your children about what can be touched and what cannot. Establish rules such as washing hands before and after handling food and cleaning up after cooking to inculcate good kitchen habits.
  • Supervise at all times – Toddlers are surprisingly fast. Keep an eye on your kids at all times. If you don’t think you can manage them alone enlist the help of another responsible adult.
  • Make it fun – Cooking with a toddler is a messy affair. There will be spills and mistakes made, so do not get upset with your child. After all, if he is reprimanded or scolded he will not want to cook with you again.

Easy cooking tasks for a toddler include:

  • Mixing batter
  • Stirring together ingredients
  • Decorating sandwiches or cakes
  • Mashing softened fruits or veggies
  • Spreading things
  • Cutting with a dull knife
  • Using cookie cutters
  • Assembling sandwiches and cookies
  • Breaking eggs (with help)
  • Making a salad
  • Blending a smoothie

Cooking with your toddlers is a fun activity for sure but there are also other reasons to spend time together in the kitchen such as:

  • Food knowledge – As your little one watches you plan and prepare for a meal, he will begin to understand how dishes are put together. You can explain some simple concepts along the way such as how adding spices changes the taste of a meal or what are the benefits of different vegetables. Allowing your kids hand-on experience cooking in the kitchen is also a great way to learn how to handle various produce.
  • Fine motor skills – Cutting, stirring, separating…all these tasks add to the development of various fine motor skills in your toddler. Even a simple task such as shelling peas can increase hand-eye co-ordination and motor development.
  • Brain development – A toddler’s brain continues to develop in leaps and bounds. Feed his natural curiosity by exposing him to different tastes, smells, textures and tools in the kitchen.
  • Family traditions – Cooking together provides a wonderful opportunity to bond with your kids. Start off a new family tradition and include one family cookout night every week into your regular routine. Cooking and baking together for the holidays is another way to bring the family together.
  • Increases self-confidence – Cooking together is an easy way to increase your child’s confidence and self-esteem. It allows him to feel good that he has taken part in creating a family meal and allows him the opportunity to show off his creations. As he spends more time in the kitchen, his skills will improve as well and add to his confidence levels.
  • Learn math concepts – As you teach your kids to cook, use math skills to explain the recipe. Weighing, measuring, and counting of ingredients can supplement their knowledge of math in a fun and exciting way.
  • Teach good nutrition – Cooking your family meals means less money spent on junk food and ready to eat dinners. Explain to your toddler the importance of healthy eating and making the right food choices for good health.
  • Above all it’s a fun activity – Apart from all the educational benefits, there is no doubt that cooking is above all a fun activity. By inculcating healthy eating habits in a fun way, you are ensuring better health for your family in the long run as well.
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