Andrew and I have always loved cooking with each other and for each other. I think it is a type of love language for both of us. So even before Jack’s arrival we used to talk about how excited we were to cook with our kids. Of course it isn’t a given that our children will enjoy cooking as much as we do, but we were hopeful and knew that we wanted to include them from a young age.
Lucky for us, Jack does show an interest in cooking. Or maybe not cooking specifically, but he loves to help with whatever it is Andrew and I are doing whether its cooking, unloading the dishwasher, or folding laundry. So we have taken advantage of this and allow him to help and be involved whenever the opportunity presents itself.
For Jack’s first Christmas (when he was around 10.5 months old), my in-laws gifted him this play kitchen. Even though he was quite small he immediately was interested in playing with it. We placed it within sight of our own kitchen at home so that as we cook he can play in his own kitchen. Then as he got older he continued to play in his kitchen while also showing interest in cooking with us.
Its not always easy to cook with Jack or have him involved. To be honest sometimes it makes things harder, messier and it takes longer. But it is 100% worth it. He enjoys it and it is great quality time for us. So here are a few ways I make cooking with Jack a little more doable.
Prep Ahead of Time
Jack is still too little to help with measuring out ingredients so when cooking with him I try to measure everything out ahead of time and have ingredients prepped. I try to do this when Jack is either down for a nap or in bed. If we are cooking rather than baking I will often let him help measure things out because things don’t need to be quite as specific for measurements.
Involve Kid Friendly Recipes
We don’t limit what we let Jack help with. If it is something more complex we find ways for him to be involved but we also try to include kid-friendly recipes for him to easily make. We have two different cookbooks that my MIL gave us that are for cooking with toddlers. They are full of great recipes and often provide inspiration for other things to cook with Jack. Jack has this book and this one too and we love them both. I also have my eye on this one too that look helpful, especially for picky little eaters.
Let Them Experiment
If I am making something too difficult or not suitable for a little one’s involvement then I give Jack his own ingredients and kitchen tools to play with. Often this involves a bowl, whisk and some spices to play with. He enjoys mixing them together and gives him a sense of independence.
Give Them Options
Obviously we can’t let our little ones dictate our weekly meals and menu but there are times that we can give them options. For Jack’s lunch I often try to give him options of what we can make. Not only does he feel independent because he gets to help make his own food but he also feels he has a say in what he eats. Any time he chooses and gets to make his own lunch the joy is written all over his face. I can tell he feels proud when he sees what he has made even if it is something as simple as a PB&J or a cheese quesadilla.
Have Kid Friendly Tools
The most helpful kitchen “tool” we have for Jack is his kitchen helper stool. It has 4 sides to it and can be completely enclosed so that he won’t fall off or out of it while in use. He absolutely LOVES it. It is adjustable in height so he can be exactly where he needs in order to best reach the counter to help cook. A few other similar options can be found here, here and here.
Jack is still at the age that he obviously isn’t going to be cutting or chopping anything. Right now he is mostly limited to spoons, measuring cups and whisks (his personal favorite). But if your child is older you can get safety knives that allow them to chop and slice without welcoming cuts and injury. This knife is a great option for younger kids while this safety chef’s knife would be great for older kids.
I hope these tips and suggestions will help you get your little one involved in the kitchen. Not only is it a good learning experience for them, but it is also a wonderful way to bond and work on strengthening their development skills.