William loves to help me cook, but I have to be honest, sometimes I don’t. It typically takes much longer than usual, often makes a huge mess, and it is sometimes very distracting having a little one help. One time William had me so busy we forgot the oil in muffins, which as it turns out, makes for a very, very dry and unappealing muffin. Not good to serve to a house full of guests at a baby shower. But, there are valuable lessons your child can learn by helping you cook, so it’s worth giving yourself a pep talk, if you need it, for a little extra patience.
Along the way, I have learned a few things about having a kiddie in the kitchen cooking by your side. First of all, patience is key. Children are at a different skill level than adults, so they do things differently. Meatballs may be misshapen, banana slices won’t all be the exact same size, and the brownie batter may be lumpy. That’s ok. If you are cooking with a young toddler, that little one will want to play with and explore the ingredients. So, peanut butter will be smeared across the counter, spices and herbs will dust the floor, and most of the cookie dough will be eaten before it is baked. That is also ok. Cooking with your child is more about the process and less about the product, even though there is nothing better than sharing the finished product with your kiddie. Warm chocolate chip cookies and cold milk, anyone? I can assure you that your child will be so proud of what he accomplished!
Confidence is only one of the many skills children learn while cooking alongside a parent. They learn to follow directions, and also learn basic nutrition, kitchen vocabulary, cooperation, and reading skills. Not to mention basic math and science concepts. William said to me once, “Mama, this one bigger than the other one. Can we use big one, Mama?” referring to a half cup and whole cup measuring cups.
Below is a list of age appropriate tasks for your little helping hands.
Most two year olds can…
- Wash/scrub vegetables and fruit
- Dip one ingredient into another
- Sprinkle ingredients
- Roll one ingredient into another
- Tear lettuce
- Crush crackers or dried bread cubes
- Place foods onto baking pan
- Use a cookie cutter
Most three year olds can do all of the above and…
- Cut soft foods using a plastic knife
- Mix batter
- Scoop ingredients
- Pour measured ingredients
- Gather ingredients and cooking utensils
- Shake homemade salad dressing
Four years and older can do everything above and also…
- Mash soft foods
- Measure ingredients with guidance
- Peel fruits and vegetables
- Crack an egg
- Shape meatballs and cookies
There are so many things I can teach William while he is at my side cooking with me in the kitchen.
When the timer bings on the oven William calls out in excitement, “Mama! Nana muffins are ready! They’re done!” He then grabs the hot pads from the drawer next to the stove, practically throws them at me, and backs out of the kitchen while I retrieve our chocolate banana muffins from the hot oven. Yes, cooking with a young person means I have to work around someone and adjust my routine, and the amount of responsibility in safety is increased dramatically, but enjoying those muffins I made with my little guy is well worth it! And honestly, can I really deny that blonde haired little boy who pushes a stool up to the counter and says to me, “Mama, you need help?”
Of course I do!
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I am Sarah, an educator turned stay-at-home mama of five! I am the owner and creator of Stay At Home Educator, a website about intentional teaching and purposeful learning in the early childhood years. I’ve taught range of levels, including preschool and college, and a little bit of just about everything in between. Right now, my focus is teaching my children and running a preschool from my home. Credentials include: Bachelors in Art, Masters in Curriculum and Instruction