Have you got cooking with your toddler yet? Yes we love dining out but we try to balance it out by cooking at home at least four times a week on average. Some days I enjoy cooking and some days…well you know how it goes. A whiny toddler, a fussy baby and an empty fridge can mean tough times ahead for dinner. However for the most part I must look like I’m having fun, because the Little Monkey wants in on the action.
The moment I start banging the pots around and pull out the chopping board, comes “Mom I want to cook toooooooooo”. Rather than shoo her away (my first reaction), I’ve decided to enlist her help. On cranky days the idea of cooking has saved us from many a tantrum – I’ll take peace and quiet over a messy kitchen any day! Of course, I do the chopping and prepping of any raw meat. She helps by tossing the pasta or rice in the pot. She’s also pretty good at basting and pulling things out the fridge. It’s the little things that keep her occupied. It may mean an extra step to bring the pot of water down to her level (so she can toss the pasta in) but it is quite fun to watch her eyes sparkle. Have we got a chef on our hands? I guess only time will tell.
We started the journey shortly after she turned two. I remember I came home after watching Labor Day at the theatre with the urge to bake a pie. If you’ve watched the movie, you know why! In hindsight starting with a pie may not have been the best idea, especially since I am no Pie maker, but it was a fun ten minutes and it helped set the stage for the rest of our adventures.
Here’s some tips I’ve figured along the way
1) Ask them if they’d like to help. Some days it’s a yes, some days it’s a no. A no is usually followed three minutes later with a “I’m coming too”! OR Ask them what they’d like for dinner – this helps ensure that they actually eat what’s cooked! Double win.
2) Have them help gather any ingredients or pans you may need ( as long as it’s within their reach). The Little Monkey can easily grab what she wants from the fridge and the cupboard and she’s good at pulling the pans out too. If she’s pulling things out it may as well be for my benefit!
3) Talk about the different things you’re doing and highlight the dangers. I started by telling her how I’m tossing things into the HOT pan and how she can never touch it. Or climb on the stove. This has helped us immensely. I also tell her that I’m chopping with sharp knife and that only mom and dad can use the knife.
4) Think about the steps – you may not realize it and sprinkle the salt in the dish or toss in the chopped onions into the pan. Why not let them do that? You may have to carry them up to the stove or bring a hot pan to their level – but remember to tell them that the pan is HOT and that they cannot touch it. We’ve had no burns in the past five months of cooking.
5) Create a fake recipe. Some days I just toss a cup of flour into a pan of water and have her mess around on the kitchen floor. Just to keep her busy if I’m working on a special recipe. As long as you can easily wipe the mess off it shouldn’t be too much extra work. Our kitchen is tiny and I do bump into her but I don’t mind it one bit.
Do you have a toddler in the kitchen? Let me know if you have any special tricks to ensure a smooth cooking experience.