Cooking with toddlers has so many benefits, but not all toddlers are naturally interested in the kitchen. Here are a few ideas for how to get a toddler interested in cooking and helping you in the kitchen!
I recently wrote about the benefits of cooking with toddlers, so make sure you go read that so you make the most of your time in the kitchen with your little one.
But what happens if your child is JUST. NOT. INTO. IT?
Here are a few ideas for how to get your toddler interested in helping you cook:
1. No pressure
First, don't pressure your child. Just like any other activities, just like I talk about in my 52 Weeks of Sensory program, don't force toddlers to help you cook. This can lead to negative associations with being in the kitchen and can backfire in the long run.
Instead, try some of these ideas below.
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2. Start with something super simple or fun
I got my son interested in cooking by asking him if he wants a snack. When he said "YES!" I asked him to come help me. All we did was cut up a cucumber and measure out some dried cranberries into a bowl.
I praised him for his help and said "thank you for helping me cook!"
I know, it's not actual cooking that we did, but now he thinks that he cooked himself a snack all by himself and it was fun, easy, and super quick. And guess what - next time I went to make him snack, he was begging me to let me help him cook.
Or try a super fun recipe, such as this monster popcorn or these monster donuts (or skip the Halloween theme and add a delicious chocolate drizzle!). Or try something ridiculously simple (and delicious!), like these 2 ingredient pumpkin muffins (bonus! they have a hidden vegetable: pumpkin)
3. Start with easy foods they love
Building on to the previous tip, start with making something easy that your toddler loves to eat. They might get super bored if you're trying to get them to help you make puff pastry or a lasagna from scratch, because they just don't understand what all the steps are for and have no idea what will come out of it at the end.
But they can totally see the a quesadilla coming together in just a few steps, or a fruit salad being chopped up and ready to eat immediately, or better yet, a smoothie or a milkshake!
4. Get them a cooking kit
Toddlers know when something is JUST FOR THEM. So instead of just dragging your child along for the not-so-exciting ride of making dinner every day, take a few minutes to cook something special with your toddler.
We LOVE the Raddish Kids cooking club because my son knows when that the box that comes in the mail is JUST FOR HIM and he is excited to start cooking with it.
Each kit has 3 recipes created especially for kids, special kitchen tools just for my son, a little apron patch, kitchen collectives, and other fun bonuses, so it's kind of like a little treat for both me and my son every month. Try it out for yourself - use this link to get a free Raddish Kids Apron with a 6 or 12 month subscription!
5. Ask your child for help
Make your toddler feel important and useful in the kitchen by asking for his or her help! And then give then an easy task that they can really help you with, and explain to them how they are helping you.
Easy kitchen tasks that toddlers can do on their own:
- Transfer chopped vegetables to a baking sheet
- Sprinkle cheese all over
- Stack cans in the pantry
- Rinse plastic storage containers in the sink (just pull up a step stool or a kitchen helper to the sink)
6. Let them do the harder cooking tasks too
Many toddlers will want to do things just like mom or just like dad, so they are going to want to get involved with the more complicated or dangerous things. You're going to have to let them do that if you want them to stay excited about cooking! Otherwise, hearing "no don't touch that" and "no you can't do that" is going to demotivate them really quickly.
So let them scoop the flour, mix the batter, chop the veggies. Yes, it will be a huge mess, but think about how long it will take you to clean up the mess... maybe 5 additional minutes? That's worth it to have a fun experience with your child, have them practice their motor skills, and have them feel good about helping you.
My son LOVES chop food, so we got him his own toddler-safe cut-proof knife set and utensils. I supervise him closely as he chops, but I let him do it on his own too, without hovering over him too much.
7. Praise and thank them often
As I keep mentioning above, make your child feel good about cooking! Thank them for helping you, praise them for their effort, don't criticize their knife skills or pouring skills. Encourage them with positivity and fun.
8. Be silly
Speaking of fun - get silly in the kitchen! Dance, sing, make fun rhymes, make silly sounds as you plop ingredients into the bowl. Make your child laugh and giggle and have a great time hanging out with you in the kitchen.
9. Get them their own play kitchen
Encourage your child's love of cooking with a play kitchen set, so he or she can play pretend and have a positive experience about cooking. This will translate over to them wanting to help you in the real kitchen too!
This play kitchen is AWESOME, with all the accessories and cooking tools your child needs to start playing.
10. Get them their own equipment
In addition to a toy kitchen with toy accessories, kids love having their own kitchen tools to work with! This 30-piece kitchen caddy from Curious chef is awesome, with all the (safe!) tools, measuring cups, and accessories your child will need to help you cook. Put it on your wish list!
Looking for easy recipes to cook with toddlers?
- Mini broccoli quesadillas
- Mini chicken quesadillas
- Mashed potato nuggets
- 3 Ingredient tuna salad
- Hawaiian chicken salad with pineapple
- Jello with fruit from juice
Looking for other articles about parenting toddlers?
- 22 practical life skills to teach your toddler
- My #1 tip for reducing toddler meltdowns
- How we potty trained our strong willed toddler
- When the 3 day potty training method doesn't work
- Open ended toys for toddlers
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