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Cooking with Toddlers

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I remember the first time my daughter wanted to help me cook. She was less than two and pushing a chair with all her might to the counter so she could see what I was doing. 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.

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, not to touch it. It also prepares my toddlers for school, interaction with friends and family, and in the world.

2. Counting:

It’s pretty simple. I started out when she was a little bitty girl and we told her we needed 3 cups of something or teaspoons. She counted them one by one. Pretty soon, she started mimicking me and then she was counting 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.

3. Patience:

How often do we hear our children demand things right now? Teaching patience is a difficult thing at times, but I have found when you are making cookies or cupcakes, they 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 (i.e. a warm chocolate chip cookie) has gone a long way in our home.

4. Nutrition:

We try to be rather healthy in our 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 between us and 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 90% of the time and helps me pick out produce, fish, eggs, and rice. The more my toddler is involved every step of the cooking process, the more she is willing to try new foods. {Tweet This} Although we are still working on that one.

5. Family Participation:

Cooking with me has taught my toddler a lot about helping out in the family. She helps me with the cooking and, then when her part is done, she helps with setting the table or gathering everyone for dinner. She is an active participant and watches everyone else help: getting drinks, washing up, sweeping. She is learning that everyone plays a part and are all appreciated. And when we thank her for her help, she beams.

Share with us… What do you enjoy about cooking with your toddler?


What is your favorite thing to cook with me? Why?

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