Toddlers are naturally curious and helpful, and they love to imitate the adults in their lives. They seem to have a special fascination with dishes, kitchens and cooking.
Although they can stay amused with little play kitchen sets, they sometimes like to experience the real thing. The only problem is, toddlers and kitchens don’t usually mix. Their “help” seems to create extra work for their parents.
Here are some ways you can let your toddler help you in the kitchen that won’t slow you down too much, or cause a bigger mess than you had on your hands to begin with.
One day you’re going to want your child to help clean the kitchen, and if you make it a habit now, there will be less grumbling from your child when you give him extra kitchen duty someday. Sweeping is an easy duty, and for some reason, it looks fun to children. They love brooms, so give your child a turn operating yours. Then switch off and let him hold the dustpan while you sweep. Your child will think he is a big boy, and you’ll have a clean kitchen floor and future helper.
Toddlers love cookies and cakes. Baking has much more appeal to them than cooking does because they know they’ll end up with a tasty pastry to eat.
While letting your toddler help too much with the baking could be a recipe for disaster, there are easy ways to let them help you that won’t result in too much damage.
You can let them stir the batter, cut out cookie shapes with cookie cutters, pour in the already measured milk or dry ingredients. And of course, you can give them the biggest duty of all – make them the official taste tester.
You know that task you hate? The one that is a universal annoyance to adults? Finding a way to organize your drawer full of plastic storage containers so it doesn’t look like a tornado hit it is a perfect task for your child. Your child would love to get his hands on that mess.
Once you show him how to do it, he’ll happily sort through container after container making neat piles.
Give your child a wet kitchen rag and a bucket of water and she’ll feel like a hotshot. She might not get all the counters clean before she loses interest, but it will be a way for you to keep her entertained while you’re doing other kitchen work. Plus, she’ll be proud of her work and feel like a real contributor to the household.
Shannon Serpette is a mother of two and an award-winning journalist and freelancer who lives in Illinois. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.