When Bubba was a little guy, I rarely involved him in making meals.
I fretted over hot stoves, boiling water and sharp instruments. I even
worried about messes. It was quicker and easier to do it myself, and
I didn’t take the time to discover safe ways to teach him to help.
I didn’t realize all of this at the time, but I’m aware of it now, and I
don’t want to repeat the same pattern with Little Miss.
So I started searching for ways to include toddlers in the kitchen.
My cousin is a Montessori teacher, and she shared ways to set up
safe kitchen activities for little ones. There are also, of course,
a million ideas on Pinterest.
Turns out, there are countless tasks a toddler can perform in the
kitchen, given the appropriate tools, demonstration and guidance.
(How did I not realize this before?!)
We started with bread. I measured the ingredients and she dumped
them in the pan. We like to read The Little Red Hen while it bakes.
She is not just learning to measure and pour, she is also practicing
teamwork and patience.
Next, I introduced a banana slicer. We often make cinnamon banana
oatmeal for breakfast. She can now peel a banana, place it on her
cutting board and push the slicer through the banana. She always
pops a slice in her mouth with glee. It keeps her busy, entertained
She also feels proud and important.
Banana pancakes have been my breakfast specialty for years. My
recipe provided the perfect opportunity to practice both of her new
skills. We boogie to Jack Johnson’s song, Banana Pancakes, while
we make our batter. Then we read Pancakes, Pancakes!, Eric Carle’s
beautiful book about a boy who helps his mother make breakfast.
One at a time, I’m introducing other toddler kitchen tools. I’m con-
scious to start tasks when I have the patience to focus on her and
time to ignore the clock. With a little help, she can cut cooked eggs
with a wire egg slicer. She butters her bread (and often her hand)
with a tiny spreader. She practices removing strawberry stems with
a huller. This task is still tricky for her. She tends to get frustrated,
but she’s learning to take a break, ask for help or keep trying. We
make messes and clean them up.
This week, we started using a wavy chopper. It’s sharp, so for now,
I always help her. (Yes, my heart RACES when I place a sharp instru-
ment in her tiny hands, but it’s getting easier!) I remind her to never
touch the sharp silver part, and I model proper use. She wants to
rush, so I help her slow down and keep her safe.
I’ve already discovered an unexpected bonus. She gets excited to
eat what she helped to prepare!
She helps set the table. We hold hands and say a thankful prayer.
We eat. We laugh. We connect.
Our family story unfolds around the table.