One of the most annoying things in my life is when I’m trying to cook a meal and my three year old is whining, at my feet, asking for things, begging for a show, or getting into things he shouldn’t be getting into. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve burned a meal, or spilled a meal, or given up on a meal because I’ve spent the whole time disciplining my bored toddler. In the last year or so, I’ve learned that I just need to give him something to do while I cook and we’re all much happier people and meal times are a lot less dramatic. A couple of months ago, I decided to let him try to help me cook. Can I just tell you how much easier things are when he’s “helping” me? He loves being a part of things and feels such a sense of accomplishment when we sit down to eat. It’s so adorable and so much easier than trying to get him 45 minutes worth of activities to do.
So let me give you some tips (mostly from my trial & error) to make this an easier and enjoyable adventure for you, should you decide to allow your children to cross the kitchen threshold while your cooking.
1. Pre measure everything. You’ll find you have a lot less mess to clean up if you scoop the sugar or the flour rather than letting prematurely developed motor skills handle it.
2. Aprons. Just trust me on this one. There’s really no possible way you’re getting out of there spot free and the extra layer of fabric will help protect your little one’s skin just in case they get a little too close to the stove.
3. Play some music! We currently like cooking to the Frozen soundtrack. For obvious reasons. If my kids were a little bit older, they would be totally horrified by the way I behave when “Let it Go” comes on. I may or may not be listening to it right now…
4. When all the stages of cooking that they can help with are done, give them their own bowl with things to “cook.” I usually dump a box of pasta in a plastic bowl and let Jonah mix it up with a spoon. I ask him what he’s cooking, he’ll let me taste it…he loves it.
5. Let them help clean up. It’s an important part of the process and who knows? Maybe by the time they’re in kindergarten they can cook and clean up the kitchen for you! That’s the dream, right?
Do you let your kids “cook” with you? What are your tricks and tips?