By Serena Norr
One of my favorite activities that I love with my daughter is cooking. Since she is only four-years-old the majority of the ‘cooking’ part falls on me, but what I do love is the experience of being together in the kitchen where I get to teach her about new ingredients, tools and techniques. Starting at around two years old, this has been an amazing way for her to increase her vocabulary as she learns new words, use some basic math and learns about helping and cleaning up. Here are some tips to start cooking with your toddler.
1. Shop Together. Before the actual cooking starts I like to begin our experience in the grocery store where we ‘plan’ out what we are going to make. This includes talking about the recipe and then finding the ingredients together. This is a great way for your toddler to identify certain items in the grocery store as well as learn basic math by talking about the prices of various items.
2. Start Basic. The initial cooking experience with a toddler will most likely be very short – so try not to get frustrated when your tot loses interest. Basically, start with a simple recipe – like mixing fruit in a bowl for a fruit salad or adding cheese or sauce to some pizza dough. It is all about focusing on the skill for toddlers so make sure the recipe isn’t too complicated or too involved. In the beginning, my daughter had more of an interest in bashing the pots and pans around where I explained concepts like big and small from the various pots.
3. Give Them a Job. While making your basic recipe give your toddler one specific task. I started with something simple like letting her add spices to my soup (the stove was not on) or mixing vanilla or beating eggs. This allowed her to focus and eventually ask for more jobs.
4. Talk them Through it. While my daughter is helping I talked to her about what was happening. “Mommy is adding this ingredient to the pot” or “Smell this herb,” etc. Through this she was able to learn about new herbs, spices and foods as I let her touch, smell and taste the various ingredients we were using. This is also fun when we use kitchen utensils where I tell her what each of them are what they are used for.
5. Make it Fun and Expect a Mess. Cooking with toddlers will be messy and although the experience is fun it also means that flour will end up everywhere or that a jar of sprinkles will be eaten before the cookies are finished or that potions (all the ingredients together) can be more fun than following the recipe line-by-line. Through the mess I also taught her about cleaning up to emphasize that it is a part of the process.
Cooking with toddlers isn’t easy and requires patience but the activity is extremely rewarding for children as they use their hands, learn new words and work together with their parent. To get started, think simple by creating one of these basic recipes.
1.Fruit salad. Cut up the fruit and have your toddler mix everything together. Talk about each fruit – shapes, textures and colors – as they are helping you get everything together.
2. Pizza. Have your toddler flatten the dough by using a rolling pin. They will need your help but it will be fun for them to learn how to roll and knead (and play) with the dough. They can also add the sauce and cheese for a fun lunchtime meal.
3. Make cookies. One of our favorite activities, a lot of this falls on the parent but a toddler can learn how to mix and pour while also learning how to crack an egg and shape cookies.
4. Soup. I initially got into cooking with my toddler due to my love of soups. While I was making them, I talked to her about the different herbs, ingredients and tools that we used. This is also a fun way to (try) to get your toddler to new food.
5. Cake. Sweet treats are always a hit but I love them as a way to learn about everything from mixing to measurements. In the beginning give your toddler one task (say mixing) so you can focus on getting all of the components of the cake together. Eventually they will be able to handle mixing, then egg cracking and pouring.
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About the Author:
A Brooklyn-based writer and mom of two, Serena Norr created her original blog Seriously Soupy as a way to learn more about soups and to experiment with new ingredients. She also writes about healthy living, parenting and lifestyle topics on her blog Mama Goes Natural.