Cooking with toddlers is a true test of a mother’s patience. I remember the first time my daughter wanted to help me cook. She was under two and pushing a chair with all her might to the counter so she could see what I was doing. She immediately wanted to get her hands in the mix. She is now four and that hasn’t changed one bit. As we continue to cook together, I am amazed at some of the conversations we have had and, ultimately, what she has learned just by cooking with me.
Cooking with a person whose natural tendency is to make a mess can be frustrating for moms, but when you consider the fact that cooking is a hands-on learning experience and your child isn’t in front of a screen, it’s a little easier to deal with a few spills. So what makes cooking so great for toddlers? You can make the most of the experience by focusing on these 5 benefits.
1. Importance of Instructions
Through trial and error, we have made some wonderful baked meals and some horrible ones. The great ones, typically, were the ones with recipes we followed. When we didn’t follow the recipes, something went wrong. She has also learned to follow my instructions; when I tell her something is hot, she knows not to touch it. It also prepares my toddler for school, interaction with friends and family, and the world.
It’s pretty simple. I started out when she was a little bitty girl and we told her we needed three cups or teaspoons of something. She counted them one by one. Pretty soon, she started mimicking me, and then she was counting all by herself. Cooking also allows for conversions, which are very important for kids to learn! Substituting 1/3 cup for a full cup or a teaspoon for a tablespoon and talking through the mathematics will help their minds grasp more complex problems in the future.
How often do we hear our children demand things right now? Teaching patience is difficult at times, but I have found when you are making cookies or cupcakes, kids will sit and stare at the oven, watching them rise. Though the smell can be tantalizing, telling them to wait until the timer goes off with a great reward at the end (a warm chocolate chip cookie) has gone a long way in our home.
In my home, we always have a lot of fruit and vegetables on hand and very little sugar because of certain health issues. Since my husband and I talk about healthy choices with all of our kids, my youngest does not see food as “good” or “bad” but “healthy” and “unhealthy.” She goes grocery shopping with me and helps me pick out produce, fish, eggs, and rice. The more my toddler is involved in every step of the cooking process, the more she is willing to try new foods. (We’re not perfect, but we’re still working on this one.)
The more my toddler is involved in every step of the cooking process, the more she is willing to try new foods.
5. Family Participation
Cooking with me has taught my toddler a lot about helping out in the family. After she helps me with the cooking, she’s eager to help with setting the table or gathering everyone for dinner. She is an active participant and watches everyone else participate by getting drinks, washing up, clearing the table, and sweeping. She is learning that everyone plays a part and is appreciated. And when we thank her for her help, she beams.
What do you enjoy about cooking with your toddler?