Happy day! We are so excited to be welcoming back a fabulous guest contributor today. Say hello to Jessica, from SmartNutrition who is here to help us learn how to get our toddlers to eat our cooking!
10 ways to get your toddler to eat your cooking!
Cooking is much faster when you don’t have toddlers by your side. But the few extra minutes it takes to get them involved are completely worth it.
I have a two year old sous-chef. He’s been helping me in the kitchen since the day he was born. In the early days, he mostly just sat in his bouncy chair and provided the entertainment. But as he’s grown, I’ve given him more and more “tasks” as his maturity and coordination have improved.
I do this very purposefully, because when children are familiar with a food, they’re more willing to taste it. Being involved in the kitchen helps them to “buy in” to the meal. This is true for children of all ages. Don’t you want to know a little bit about something before you put it in your mouth? New foods are less scary when children have the opportunity to interact with them.
Safety must be kept in mind at all times with little ones in the kitchen. Make sure toddlers are always supervised, and dangerous items are kept out of reach.
Here are a few ideas for how to involve your toddler in the kitchen
- Dump ingredients you measure into the mixing bowl. Make a batch of muffins and get your toddler to pour the ingredients in the bowl.
- Squeeze the garlic press and hold the can opener. I get my son to “help” me with these tasks. He’s literally doing zero work, but he feels like he’s contributing. He loves saying “squ-eeeee-ze!” and “turn, turn turn.” He also likes to place the garlic cloves in the press.
- Talk about ingredients (count, colours, taste, etc). As I’m preparing food, I will place a kitchen chair close to me so that my son can stand on it and see what I’m doing. I’ll name all the ingredients, and describe them. We’ll talk about what colours they are and what they taste like… whether the ingredient is sour, sweet, salty, spicy, or bitter. If something needs to be counted or measured, we’ll do that together.
- Get them to hold ingredients. This is simple but effective. Children learn by exploring. I will often give my toddler an ingredient to hold and explore. If it’s something a bit messier, I’ll place him in his high chair and he can go to town exploring the ingredient on his tray.
- Wash potatoes or carrots. I’ll place what I need for a recipe in the sink, fill it a little bit with water, and then let my toddler scrub away. He actually will clean the veggies much better than I do since my patience will only tolerate a quick rinse.
- Hand them stuff to put in the garbage or compost bucket. Toddlers love to be helpful and independent. It’s not too often they can accomplish both at the same time! This is such a simple task they can do all by themselves.
- Press buttons on appliances. I have a little mini chopper (food processor) that I mainly use for chopping nuts. My son loves to help me press the pulse button. The first time I got him to help me, I accidentally ended up going through ALL the nuts I had instead of just the amount I needed for the recipe. He was just having so much fun, I couldn’t stop refilling it up! Oops! Whenever he is within reach of an appliance, I make sure to unplug it from the wall socket as soon as we are done using it. That way, if I turn my back, he can’t hurt himself, or turn on an open blender and make a giant mess in my kitchen!
- Slice soft food with a plastic knife. I do a lot of veggie chopping in my food preparation. This is something my son would love to help with, but a chef’s knife and a two-year old just don’t mix. Instead, I use a similar distraction task. I set him up with his own cutting board, a plastic knife, and a soft food like a mushroom. The plastic knife is for safety, but I still insist on proper knife usage. This gives him a safe environment to learn how to correctly use a knife. When I hand him the knife now he looks up at me and says “sharp side down!” If he starts to play with the knife, I take it away. Always take safety rules seriously.
- Give them a measuring cup with water and a whisk. When you have other tasks that are difficult to get your toddler directly involved in, come up with other distraction tasks. I’ve set out a measuring cup with water and whisk for him to stir while I focus on what I need to get done.
- Set the table. I’ll get out the plates, bowls, spoons, and forks needed for the meal. One by one, I’ll hand them to my toddler and he’ll carefully walk over to the table and put them down at each person’s spot. I’ll usually announce what it is and who it’s for. “Here’s a fork for Mama.”
What are some other ways you involve your toddler in the kitchen?
Jessica is a registered dietitian, recipe creator, nutrition counselor, and a hopeless gardener. She has visited 27 countries and hopes to see many more. She is passionate about helping people get the most nourishment, health, and enjoyment from the food they eat. She created the exclusive program, I Quit Overeating, to help people across the world rediscover a rewarding, joyful relationship with food. You can find her blogging over at www.smartnutrition.ca
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