How do you teach your toddler and preschooler to cook? How old does my child need to be to help out in the kitchen? What are some easy ways to cook with my toddler? Wait, your three year old knows how to make scrambled eggs, tell me more? If these are some of the questions you’ve asked yourself, then you’ve found the right place. Our children started helping in the kitchen with little tasks before they were even 2 years old. We’ll share from our family’s experience as we raise some future chefs.
6 Easy Ways to Cook with my toddler – steps even your 2 year old can help do
- Stirring dry ingredients together.
- Pouring in the already measured ingredients.
- Getting ingredients from the pantry or the refrigerator. (If there are cans, children can often get them if you tell them which picture to look for even if they’re prereaders.)
- Getting the tools (as long as they aren’t sharp knives of course, whatever level you trust your child.)
- Clearing the table or counters for meals.
- Setting the table for meals.
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From the time I can remember as a child, my mom let me stand on a kitchen chair at the table where family life centered. We grew up in an old house built by my great, great grandparents so the kitchen was the hub. It didn’t have counter space, only the kitchen table to prep meals, eat family meals, do homework and projects. I remember my mom letting me have my own bowl to help mix. We’d count each scoop of flour, sugar and baking soda. We often made huge batches of bread sometimes using almost the whole 5 pound bag of flour so unbeistknown to us we were learning addition through fun work.
As a young mother of a preschooler and toddler now these are fond memories for me as I have my four-year-old daughter and somedays my two year old son also brings his stool to join us in cooking. As our family grows, it’s always helpful to find easy ways to cook with my toddler. Yes, the kitchen gets messier (that’s why we have a broom and some microfiber cloths to clean up the major messes as we go, then to fully clean when we’re finished.) Of course, it often takes longer than if I just did it on my own. Still, it’s worth it for me.
Children learn math, science and socialization by cooking together with adults.
They are learning so much that they aren’t even conscious they’re learning. They’re learning math and science. They are also learning how to socialize with adults as we talk the whole time. I’d say it’s more exciting than a workbook, it’ll be more memorable, and it tastes better!
Isn’t it easier to just turn on some TV or videos so they stay out of the kitchen while I’m trying to cook? The flip side of this view is if a child learns early on that his or her role is to sit and watch screens while others work, they’ll have to unlearn this teaching later if they will grow to be responsible, contributing adults. This isn’t to say that on the days when my patience is shot and I’m feeling stressed where I’d easily snap at them, that it’s sometimes in everyone’s best interest to just let mama get some time alone in the kitchen. From the time my children are able to drag their own stool or chair over to reach and help out I try to incorporate them in the work in a meaningful way.
Has your toddler mastered the first 6 easy cooking steps?
Each of our children started cooking with me at different ages and their interests have varied. My daughter at four years old is interested in the full preparation of a meal down to the presentation and plating. My son who is two just wants to stir and continually pour flour and sugar and spices. I tend to keep giving them increasingly more challenging tasks and watch as their skills continue to strengthen. When they serve a meal they’ve prepared they are so proud!
Step up the challenge, let your 3- or 4-year-old surprise you with their cooking skills! 4 more easy ways to cook with my toddler:
- Stirring with liquids.
- Pouring and mixing together the liquid and dry ingredients, then maybe putting it in the pan.
- Making simple dishes like scrambled eggs that are cooked at lower temperatures. I can crack the eggs for my three year old and she will stir them, then I help pour them in the skillet and she’s almost able to stir and cook them independently. I only have to help out if they start to stick to the pan. Granted I don’t leave them unattended in the kitchen. I do rest easier knowing if I need to run to the bathroom quickly or I need to help the baby I can even if I have something cooking on the stove because they’re learning how to be responsible in the kitchen.
- Washing the dishes. Prepare for lots of water to get everywhere and you might want to double check for quality assurance until your satisfied with dishes actually getting clean.
But, where’s the math lesson for my toddler?
When I cook with our children they put on their aprons and are heavily involved in the process. Often we use smaller measuring spoons so they get even more practice counting as we combine the ingredients. I have a handy conversion chart hung on the side of my refrigerator for this very reason so I don’t have to always look up how many tablespoons are in a quarter of a cup. Because there are three teaspoons in one tablespoon and four table spoons in one quarter of a cup, you have a lot of options depending on how long you want the task to take.
- 1 Tablespoon = 3 Teaspoons
- 4 Tablespoons = 1/4 Cup
- 6 Teaspoons = 2 Tablespoons
- 4 Cups = 1 Quart
My children count with me each egg and each individual ingredient. Here’s our family’s favorite pancake recipe for fluffy and easy pancakes.
Day Family’s Easy Pancakes
These are light and fluffy and a forgiving recipe. We make them almost daily. Add some chocolate chips or blueberries as an added bonus.
- 1 cup flour
- 2 Tbsp sugar
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 egg
- 2 Tbsp oil
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 1 tsp vanilla
- Preheat griddle medium heat.
- In a bowl combine dry ingredients.
- In a separate bowl, combine egg, oil and milk.
- Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Stir just until combined, may still be a little lumpy.
- Using a measuring cup, pour batter on griddle 1/4 cup for dollar pancakes or larger cup for larger pancakes. Add mini chocolate chips or blueberries if desired.
- Cook until bubbles have formed and are starting to pop after a minute or two of cooking. Flip once.
- Enjoy with all your favorite toppings.
We generally double this recipe for our family loves pancakes!