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All of those videos online of toddlers cooking in the kitchen are absolutely adorable, but how can their parents actually keep them safe and focused?! It may seem impossible but there are a couple things to keep in mind: most times those kids practice EXTENSIVELY and know what the kitchen rules are, and also the parents may be using a tripod so their hands (and body) are ready to jump in when needed. That being said, you too can make sweet memories with your little ones (or not so little ones) in the kitchen. Here are some of my favorite tips.
You must be focused and fully present when cooking with kids, so put your phone away, have all of your ingredients portioned and ready. It is also very helpful to read that recipe in it’s entirety several times. I want you to know it forwards and backwards so you don’t need to step away and check anything.
Make sure that whatever workspace you choose is clear and does not have dangerous objects within arms reach. That’s the obvious one, right? What about your little one’s legs? They need to have a sturdy and steady place for the rest of their body. A learning tower can be fantastic for this, but if you don’t have one my next favorite place is the kitchen table. Bring the work to them and let them sit somewhere that they are safe and secure. The seat is comfortable, the work space as at chest height, perfect for working.
When you’re just starting in the kitchen, especially a consistent practice of cooking with your kids, start super simple with practicing skills. I love using boxed mixes for this reason. There are fewer steps, your little one can participate more, and you get to the final product faster! Think about a chocolate chip cookie recipe from a cookbook versus one from a pouch. Using a pouch means no measuring of dry ingredients, no creaming the butter and sugar, just cracking an egg and stirring all the ingredients into a bowl. It’s easier to offer fewer steps while you’re child is building their focus and skills. Plus they won’t think any less of the cookies if they come from a pouch versus from scratch – their excitement is over the time with you, the independence and the cookies. (I love the King Arthur Mixes.)
Don’t let your child work near sharp knives and open flame or a hot griddle (or any other heat source) when they’re just learning. Adding in real knives and heat are definitely intermediate skills. You should focus on the above safety points before getting your kid involved in those activities, and also make sure they know their way around the kitchen and are able to focus and listen to your instructions before doing it.
Other than mixes, here are a few ideas of easy recipes to make with your little one.