Children cooking is a valuable learning experience. There are children cooking classes you can send your child to but I believe the ones they’ll enjoy the most are those experiences they receive at home with you. You can start cooking with your children when they are still toddlers! Here are some of the ways my toddler and I enjoy cooking together at home. I hope they motivate you to enjoy some quality ‘kitchen’ time with your toddler. There are so many early maths and reading skills involved in cooking it is too good an opportunity to miss.
There are two types of cooking that toddlers love to do. One is the classic ‘role play’ cooking and the other is ‘real’ cooking in the kitchen.
Our toddlers watch us cooking and want to do the same thing. When my son Jamie was 20 months we bought him a play kitchen for Christmas and he has played with it almost everyday since. I highly recommend play kitchens for all toddlers.
Toddlers also love to be given the real pots, lids, utensils and some blocks to play with. This kind of ‘cooking’ can keep a toddler amused for ages. Plastic fruit and vegetables that you buy in most toy shops are also fabulous for play cooking. We found some that have velcro on each piece so when you chop them with a plastic knife they make a ripping sound! How much fun is that? We gave Jamie a set when he was about 20 months and he cooks with them in his kitchen or practices chopping them and putting them back together again. There are so many activities you can do with these!
Now that Jamie is 2 I also really enjoy cooking with him. I find the more we do it the more used to it he gets and I guess you could say, the more experienced I get too! One thing that works well when there are young children cooking is muffins. I put each ingredient onto a spoon or into the measuring cup and then hand it to him to tip into the bowl. He spends the whole time mixing…and sure….some of the mixture goes onto the bench… the floor…the cupboard doors… but Jamie has a great time and in the end there really are muffins to eat.
The older he gets I find I am able to involve him a lot more in preparing our meals. If he can’t help directly, I will still let him stand up to the bench while I am cooking and give him one of his plastic knives and a piece of bread and he will chop it up or spread it with cream cheese. Another favourite is using the food processor. I let Jamie push the pulse button and you can imagine how much he enjoys making that kind of noise!
Obviously safety is a huge issue when there are young children cooking. A toddler must be supervised at all times when in the kitchen. The hazards are numerous. So please take great caution with the oven, sharp knives, hot water and all other risks in the kitchen.