Hi! I’m excited to be joining you for Take a Taste Tuesday! My name is Angela Chang, and I am a former Montessori infant and toddler teacher, currently a SAHM to two little girls. I write over at MOMtessoriLife.com, where I share how to be Montessori at home through ideas for activities as well as Montessori parenting philosophy.
Including young children in the kitchen has become a passion of mine, although I will admit that I used to hate it – it’s messy, you can’t control everything that happens, and it takes a little longer to get the food prepared. It would be easier to just do it all myself. However, I have seen that if you prepare ahead of time, the benefits and skills gained by your children far outweigh the inconvenience.
My daughters are just one and a half and three years old, but they are very active in the kitchen. They cut fruits and veggies, crack eggs, stir ingredients, brown meat, thicken sauces, and do a variety of other kitchen tasks while I prepare meals. Preparation and simple modeling are key for safety – they know what parts of the pots and pans are ok to touch when they are on the stovetop, and they know how to hold crinkle cutters and other sharp utensils so as not to harm themselves or each other. Sometimes it takes a little bit longer to prepare your meal with a toddler, so build in extra time when you are planning it.
If it takes so much preparation, why is it worth it?
The benefits to preparing foods with your toddler:
1. Your child is not getting in the way or under your feet the whole time you are trying to cook. Instead, she is standing on a helper tower or stepstool right beside you, actively helping or watching.
2. Your picky eater is more likely to taste more foods. When your child helps prepare something, she knows exactly what goes into it. More exposure equals more willingness to taste and possibly even LIKE new foods.
3. Your child will feel like a valuable part of the family with an important contribution to make. She will be proud that she helped make dinner, or that she made her own lunch.
4. You will be able to spend time bonding over new experiences. If you work outside the home, you may not see your child all day until it is time to prepare dinner. Working together in the kitchen allows you to spend quality time together.
Skills you can work on while cooking with toddlers:
1. Sensorial Differentiation: Taste test as you prepare food. Smell the different ingredients. Notice their colors and the ways they feel. Most importantly around the stovetop, explore heat and make sure your child knows what parts of the cooking implements become “too hot” and which remain cool enough to touch.
2. Vocabulary: Name the ingredients you are working with and their attributes.
3. Fine Motor Skills: Precision is needed to cut, spoon, and stir ingredients. Practice will refine those skills.
4. Hand-Eye Coordination: Putting ingredients in the proper places is necessary to have a complete meal prepared.
5. Following Directions and Sequencing: Describe the steps you are taking with words like “first,” “next,” and “last.”
If your child is anything like most toddlers I know, she probably often wants to do things “by myself!!!” So let her! Under your careful supervision, allow her to have some independence in the kitchen as you prepare meals together. It will be great bonding time for both of you, and you may even have your own personal chef in a few years!
Each Tuesday for the next several weeks a fellow mom/friend/community member will be sharing a fun recipe, tips to include kids in the cooking process, or a great family restaurant for “Take a Taste Tuesday.” If you are interested in sharing your eating and/or cooking fun be sure to connect with me via email!