If you’re looking to incorporate your toddler into meal preparation, you probably fall into one of two categories. Those that are interested in teaching their young children about food for some specific reason ( perhaps to help a picky eater or teach children early kitchen skills) or those, like me, who can’t manage to prepare a meal without a little person sobbing at their feet desperate to be picked up. But whatever your motive or need, there are a few simple kitchen activities that are great for toddlers.
#1: Doing the Dishes: This is my “go to” kitchen activity for Fig when there isn’t much else for him to do and he’s needy. Not only is this a fun sensory activity for toddlers but the warm water is soothing and usually calms him down when he’s in a mood. I throw in some plastic cups, utensils, and anything else that isn’t breakable and let him play in the water for as long as he wishes. This activity is also the one that keeps him occupied the longest, upwards of 20-30 minutes.
#2: Shelling Peas or Beans: Fig won’t eat peas in a dish but will eat them as he shells. In fact, he’s notorious for finishing off an entire batch of spring peas before they make their way into our meal. For this reason, I usually keep extra peas on hand and let him go crazy. This is a great activity for developing fine motor skills and inspiring some healthy snacking along the way.
3) Pouding/Mashing: Toddlers love destruction. Whether it be garlic, mashing avocados, or breaking nuts, pounding is a great activity for little kids. Of course, you must demonstrate the proper technique and supervise since an overenthusiastic toddler could easily pound their fingers along with the rest of the ingredients.
#4) Sorting: Another great kitchen activity if you don’t have much else to give your toddler. I grab some nuts and a few empty jars and tell him to transfer the nuts into the various jars.
#5) Stirring, Mixing, Measuring, and Transferring Dough: These activities can result in epic messes if not properly supervised ( take it from me, I’ve cleaned far too many flour explosions in my days). If you have the time to demonstrate and supervise, these activities can be really fun for both toddler and parent. Working with dough is a time tested toddler approved activity. Giving your little person a tiny batch of dough for themselves is even better as it allows you time to finish what you’re working on. Mixing and measuring is a great way to effortlessly and naturally introduce quantities and measurements to toddlers. Transferring dough into a muffin pan is not only fun but a great way to improve motor skills and accuracy.
#6) Cleaning Vegetables: This is an easy way to involve little kids in the beginning of meal preparation. Taking the outer layers of an onion or garlic off, scrubbing root vegetables or rinsing fresh greens in the sink have all proven to be engrossing activities for my little guy.
#7) Chopping: After the initial time investment it takes to teach proper knife skills, this can be a great activity for little hands. In fact, once Fig gets chopping he typically doesn’t want to stop and keeps asking for more and more items to chop; which of course can be problematic! Read about my post regarding kitchen and knife safety here.
#8) Juicing: Last but not least, helping a toddler squeeze juice from fresh fruit is super satisfying for little folks. Not only does my little guy enjoy squeezing fresh oranges, he also loves using a citrus reamer and working with lemons and limes. Just make sure your toddler doesn’t have any open cuts on their hands or touch their eyes ( again, learned the hard way).