Here are some of they ways my toddler and I enjoy cooking together at home. I hope they motivate you to enjoy some quality 'kitchen' time with your toddler. There are so many early maths and reading skills involved in cooking it is too good an opportunity to miss.
There are many well recommended cookbooks for children especially when it comes to toddlers cooking.
There are two types of cooking that toddlers love to do. One is the classic 'role play' cooking and the other is 'real' cooking in the kitchen.
Role Play Cooking
Our toddlers watch us cooking and want to do the same thing. When my son Jamie was 20 months we bought him a play kitchen for Christmas and he has played with it almost everyday since.
In this picture he is playing with our real potatoes and putting them into his oven. This was one of his favourite activities for a few weeks.
Toddlers also love to be given the real pots, lids, utensils and some blocks to play with. This kind of 'cooking' can keep a toddler amused for ages.
Plastic fruit and vegetables that you buy in most toy shops are also fabulous for play cooking. We found some that have velcro on each piece so when you chop them with a plastic knife they make a ripping sound! How much fun is that?
We gave Jamie a set when he was about 20 months and he cooks with them in his kitchen or practices chopping them and putting them back together again.
There are so many activities you can do with these!
His other all time favorite is playing with play dough. I have finally perfected my homemade playdough recipe and find that it is as good if not better than any commercial playdough. It is also a wonderful treat to be able to make the playdough with your child and then play with it while it is still warm (yes that is the trick...it needs to be cooked).
However if you do want to buy a playdough I can only really recommend Crayola. Crayola makes a lovely play dough that comes in a range of bright colours, is non-toxic and not too sticky. It also has great pots that have lids attached and keeps for weeks if you remember to put the lid back on , so this is the brand we use! We bought a good bucket of play dough cutters and a rolling pin and these can also be used with real food and not just dough.
Real CookingWhen there are children cooking please ensure they are supervised at all times when in the kitchen. The hazards are numerous.
I really enjoy cooking with my 2 year old son Jamie. I find the more we do it the more used to it he gets and I guess you could say,
the more experienced I get too!
We both put on aprons and
wash our hands before we start and then I let him stand on a chair up to the bench.
Sometimes he doesn't want to wear his apron and as we live in a very
hot country a nappy is all he needs really, then we don't have to worry about him getting his clothes dirty!
One thing that works well when there are young children cooking is muffins.
When I'm cooking with Jamie I talk to him the whole time about what we are doing and he really feels like he is helping.
I put each ingredient onto a spoon or into the measuring cup and then hand it to him to tip into the bowl. He spends the whole time mixing...and sure....some of the mixture goes onto the bench... the floor...the cupboard doors... but Jamie has a great time and in the end there really are muffins to eat.
Another thing your toddler will enjoy doing when making muffins is greasing the muffin tins. I hand Jamie a pastry brush, the tin and some melted butter and believe it or not the tins are actually ready for me to add the mixture to after he has finished.
Muffins are also great as they only take about 15 minutes to cook and Jamie can watch them rise in the oven. You can also buy mini muffin tins which are a good toddler size when it comes to eating them!
Of course there are many safety issues when there are young children cooking that need to be observed. While the muffins are cooking I also encourage Jamie to wash the dishes in the sink. He loves to do this and I think it is important to help him understand the whole process of cleaning up after you cook.
It took me a few times to encourage him not to put any water on the floor but I soon learned to place a towel under the chair to catch the water and this activity will keep him amused for ages. It even gives me time to clean up after we've been cooking or do anything else I need to do in the kitchen!
The older he gets I find I am able to involve him a lot more in preparing our meals. If he can't help directly, I will still let him stand up to the bench while I am cooking and give him one of his plastic knives and a piece of bread and he will chop it up or spread it with cream cheese. Another favourite is using the food processor. I let Jamie push the pulse button and you can imagine how much he enjoys making that kind of noise!
Safety When There Are Young Children CookingObviously safety is a huge issue when there are young children cooking. A toddler must be supervised at all times when in the kitchen. The hazards are numerous.
So please take great caution with the oven, sharp knives, hot water and all other risks in the kitchen.
You know your own kitchen, tools and toddler. It is important to set your kitchen up to be as safe as possible and to continually teach your child about kitchen safety. But don't let the hazards put you off. Cooking with your toddler is a wonderful experience and can be done safely.
When there are young children cooking it is a great opportunity to teach about the hazards in the kitchen such as keeping away from the hot oven. By 20 months my son understood caution words in the kitchen such as: stop, hot, dangerous and careful. Note I only said understood, he was still too young to act on them every time. I believe it is important to teach our children these words. But we do need to do it over and over again as they are too young to have the impulse control needed to act on each command.
Another thing to remember when cooking with children is that some cooking mixture (such as muffins) contains raw egg and some children may be allergic to this.
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