Cooking Fun with Your Little One

Toddlers love to be mommy’s helpers in the kitchen. And while that extra set of hands might slow things down (and, yes, likely up the mess factor), introducing your child to cooking can be a fun way to bond and makes for a great rainy day activity for your toddler. And (bonus!) being involved with meal preparation may even help encourage your tot to establish healthy eating habits. Here’s how to make the most of your time with your junior chef.

Make it simple.
Keep your toddler’s development in mind when picking a dish, and avoid complicated or time-consuming recipes. Choose something with only a few ingredients and simple steps, like a fruit-and-yogurt parfait. Because toddlers like to stick their fingers in their mouths, avoid anything that could expose them to dangerous uncooked ingredients like cookie dough made with raw eggs.

Shop together.
Grocery shopping with a toddler in tow may make for a longer outing, but it can be fun to find the ingredients needed to make a dish together. Boost your toddler’s development by making it a learning experience. As you pull items from the shelves, talk about how they add to the dish’s flavor (“These blueberries will help make our muffins sweet!”), ask him whether he wants a red, yellow, or green pepper in your salad, or give him an introductory spelling lesson by pointing to letters on packaging (“Sugar starts with the letter ‘s’”).

Find simple tasks.
Kitchen activities for toddlers can include rinsing fruit, pouring in sugar or other ingredients, stirring, mashing, and patting. A fun toddler game is to drop blueberries onto cooked pancakes to create smiley faces or the first initial of his name.

Supervise everything.
Safety lessons and supervision in the kitchen are key. Let your child know what is okay for him to touch and what is always off limits, such as the whirring beaters of a mixer, handling sharp utensils, and touching anything on the stove.

Praise your child’s cooking prowess as you sample your dishes together, and try your best to ignore the flour on the floor or that cup of spilled milk. The important thing is that you’re boosting your child’s confidence by encouraging him to master new skills and even sample new foods. Bon appétit!