Let Your Toddler Help in the Kitchen

Sifting flour

Sifting flour

My kid likes to cook.

She doesn’t care whether she’s cooking in her own kitchen, or if she’s cooking in my kitchen. She just likes to cook.

Whenever I’m in the kitchen, trying to prepare food, Grace wants to help. She pushes her step stool up to whatever surface I’m working at, and she sidles right up next to me. If I’m sifting flour, she sifts flour. If I’m chopping onions, she wants to chop onions.

Every parent knows that all jobs are easier without the help of an eager toddler.

I let her help anyway. It builds her self esteem and her self confidence, and someday, she’ll actually be a productive helper.

Today, she might flip flour all over me and the counter, but next month, maybe she’ll push it down through the sieve. It’s a work in progress.

Chef Grace

Chef Grace

I think it’s important to give toddlers jobs they can do (or at least believe they can do) safely. If you guarantee their success in the kitchen now, they’ll take more risks and enjoy cooking more later.

Try some or all of the following to get your toddler involved:

  • Ask your toddler to give you items from a cabinet or drawer and then to put them back.
  • Give your toddler supplies that are similar to yours and let her mimic you. In the picture above, I was sifting flour, and Grace was tossing flour in a small bowl. It was similar enough for her to feel like she was doing something valuable.
  • Put trash in the garbage can.
  • Give her a spray bottle of water (or water and dish detergent) and a towel, and let her clean up after you.
  • Tear or break food into pieces. (This works well with things like spinach, lettuce, and mushrooms.)
  • Transfer food from one container to another. Grace loves to put chopped food into a baking dish.
  • Rinse or wash tools in the sink. Never give her sharp tools!
  • Rinse or wash fruits and vegetables.
  • Ask your toddler to help set and clear the table.
  • If all else fails, try giving her pots to drum with a wooden spoon or containers full of water to splash in. They’ll keep her busy and let you get some work done.

Remember that your toddler has a very short attention span. She may want to play with the magnets and come back to cook several times. Don’t get frustrated with her; just go with the flow.

© 2009 – 2014, Tara Ziegmont. All rights reserved.

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Comments

  1. Sarah The Party Mum says

    Hi Grace, what a cutie you are :) My daughter is 13 now and we always had loads of fun cooking together and we still do. Not sure how this link back thing works, you might like to email me and explain, I’m still learning and still building my site with loads of good party food for kids. In my site I often say let the kids be involved with the party planning, they so love to be involved it makes them feel so important and grown up and we shouldn’t let our need for order stiop them from having fun. What better way to get them involved in their own party then letting them help with all the food preparation. As an adult I LOVE the anticipation created by preparing food for a big family do, and so do our kids. Enjoy them while they are young :)

  2. Sarah The Party Mum says

    Hi Grace, what a cutie you are :) My daughter is 13 now and we always had loads of fun cooking together and we still do. Not sure how this link back thing works, you might like to email me and explain, I’m still learning and still building my site with loads of good party food for kids. In my site I often say let the kids be involved with the party planning, they so love to be involved it makes them feel so important and grown up and we shouldn’t let our need for order stiop them from having fun. What better way to get them involved in their own party then letting them help with all the food preparation. As an adult I LOVE the anticipation created by preparing food for a big family do, and so do our kids. Enjoy them while they are young :)

  3. Julia says

    we’ve been doing this with antonio as well. i figure if he feels like he got to help make dinner, then he might be more motivated to eat it. his favorite way to help, by far, is to do the salad spinner. he likes to stir things for me too. i’m excited because kate just gave him a little apron with his name on it. my little chef!

  4. Julia says

    we’ve been doing this with antonio as well. i figure if he feels like he got to help make dinner, then he might be more motivated to eat it. his favorite way to help, by far, is to do the salad spinner. he likes to stir things for me too. i’m excited because kate just gave him a little apron with his name on it. my little chef!

  5. studentfoodie says

    OMG! this is the cutest thing i’ve seen in a long time!!! i cant wait to have kids of my own! i always regret that my mom didnt want me helping her in the kitchen because she thought it was unsafe when i was little. going back and trying to learn her techniques has been a challenge. shes a really great, creative cook.

    im currently a nutrition/ dietetics student working towards my RD and at my university they offer summer culinary kids’ camps every week. and lemme tell you, those kids _learned_! it was so fun to watch 7-17yr olds (not all in the same groups) take away useful information on how to eat right, food safety, and experience things from places they never heard of. every day they focused on cuisine from a different country. with proper instruction, the kids were learning knife skills so that they could chop and dice with confidence the correct way that keeps their little fingers safe. it was so wonderful!

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