Bags of fresh groceries on the kitchen table can be appealing and inspiring. I get excited about the opportunity to make something delicious to eat, and as my son grows, I’d like to pass that excitement on to him.
Though he’s still so small, he’s already eager to help. When I go into the kitchen to prepare a meal, he often runs in and grabs his small apron. Without prompting, he knows to climb on the footstool by the sink and give his hands a good wash before joining me at the kitchen table. He isn’t allowed near anything hot or sharp- oven and knives alike are obviously off limits. But he is able to contribute in other ways. Some of the ways I involve my toddler include:
- Fetching ingredients or tools. Aside from being a help to me, this also helps him to learn about different foods and where we store them in our house.
- Measuring. For now, we’re learning about numbers and cups and spoons. Eventually, I hope that measurement helps him learn about fractions, too.
- Pouring and mixing. Easy enough, though perhaps a bit messier.
- Shaping and rolling. Using small flour dusted hands, he forms biscuits and patties and crust. This might be his favorite part!
Whenever I accept help in the kitchen from my small son, I prepare myself for the whole process to take a bit longer, and to be a good deal messier. But, in exchange, I have the opportunity to show him about kinds of foods, how to prepare them, how they taste when fresh and how they taste when cooked. I get to teach him about food safety and kitchen cleanliness. More than all of that, I get to share with my boy the creativity, self-expression and self-reliance offered by preparing food. These are interests and skills I hope he’ll carry with him as he grows.
More ways to get your child helping out in the kitchen:
- Planning. Let your toddler help you decide which meals to make (within reason – we know you don’t want cupcakes for dinner). Involve them in the meal planning and grocery shopping process.
- Washing. Have them take care of washing the fruits and vegetables when preparing for a meal. This will not only include them in the process, but also teach them about food safety.
- Sprinkling. With supervision, allow your toddler to sprinkle salt, pepper, herbs and seasonings onto whatever dish you may be preparing.
- Veggie prep. Whether it’s tearing lettuce for a salad or snapping green beans and broccoli, this task is perfect for young children.
- Timing. Having your child help you set a timer or keeping track of time involves them in the kitchen process and helps to teach them about time and numbers.
Liz Moorhead is an English teacher-turned-writer and illustrator. She paints stationery, writes for a top wedding site, and blogs at Happy Sighs between walks to the park with her two boys.