Those who know me and my family know that my husband and I love to cook. In fact, it’s how we spent much of our time while dating – cooking at home rather than going out. My first Valentine’s Day gift to him was a box of Omaha steaks and a collection of steak recipes and sauces that I put together for him. So it’s only natural that our children would follow suit. From the time our first was a little babe, she watched us cook. As soon as she was old enough to stand and climb, we decided it was time for her to join in so we bought her a step stool for the kitchen.
At the time, and as far as I know still, it seems there were only two such kitchen stands on the market: The Little Partners Learning Tower and The Guidecraft Kitchen Helper. While the Kitchen Helper is less expensive and folds for storage, we opted for the Learning Tower because of its more solid design and reviews indicating a much higher quality. We haven’t regretted it for a moment – well, there is the occasional stubbed toe when walking by, but otherwise, it was money well spent. This is a product that will last. We love its solid and sturdy construction – there is no chance of tipping. In fact, as you’ll see in the video below it can even handle our daughter’s excitement.
According to the product description, it can support up to 500 lbs which means that my little girl can share with the whole family…ok, maybe just her little sister. The platform is adjustable so it can grow with our child who uses it nearly every day. She loves pushing her “box” up to the counter and climbing up to get in on the action. We love spending time together in the kitchen as a family, and it’s nice to have a tool that lets our daughter safely be a part of it.
So you may be curious how much your young child can really get involved in the kitchen. You’d be surprised. I was quite amazed when I came down one morning to find my barely 2 year old helping Daddy make scrambled eggs – she was cracking eggs like a pro.
Even before your baby is a toddler, though, you can give him or her a place in the kitchen. Here are few things we’ve done with our babies:
- Give them a front row seat, and interact with them. Put the bouncy chair in front of you, pull up the high chair, or put them in your baby carrier and tell them what you’re doing. Let them feel textures, running water, experience new smells, etc.
- Give them access to a drawer or cupboard filled with plastic containers, and let them play. They’ll learn that not everything in the kitchen is off limits to them.
- Teach kitchen safety early. Teach them hot and cold – use running water from the sink to introduce them to the concept. Teach them to keep a safe distance from the stove when you’re cooking. My baby always comes out of the carrier when I’m at the stove. Teach them what they cannot touch – the stove, oven, knives. We taught our daughter “no touch”, “only Mommy and Daddy” very early, and it has stuck.
- Give them a taste.
When your baby becomes a toddler, it’s time to let them get involved. Here are a few things your toddler can do:
- Retrieve bowls, measuring cups and spoons or handy ingredients.
- Help measure and pour ingredients.
- Sprinkle salt and pepper. Our daughter loves to use the salt and pepper mills.
- Wash and scrub fruits and vegetables.
- Shred lettuce.
- Crack eggs.
- Stir ingredients in a bowl. Alternatively, you can put dry ingredients in a large Ziploc bag and let them shake it up.
- Crush cracker toppings in a plastic bag. Zip it up and let them smash it with their little fists.
- Peel fruits and veggies. My daughter loves to peel the skin from onions, garlic, and bananas.
- Prepare fresh herbs, picking the leaves from the stems. One of our daughter’s first and favorite tasks is plucking the leaves from sprigs of thyme, a task I will happily hand over.
- Learn concepts such as colors and counting. Let them count out measurements. Or give them a handful of raisins to count.
- Let them help with clean up. My daughter loves to help empty the dishwasher. She picks up the dishes from the bottom rack and hands them to me and has recently begun putting the silverware away now that she can see into the drawer. And it is well-known in our house that my daughter is the only one who gets to load the soap and start the dishwasher.
Roll up your sleeves, and have some fun. Your children will feel such a sense of accomplishment at being able to participate in the meal preparation, and perhaps they’ll be more inclined to eat it knowing they helped.
If there’s any doubt, here’s our little one making pasta with Daddy…
If you have any other great ideas you’d love to share, please leave a comment. We’d love to hear it!
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