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Cooking with kids... how to start?

Hey ladies - I'd love to hear your thoughts/experiences.

How do you incorporate kids/toddlers in to cooking with you?  Lucas is very interested whenever I'm making dinner but most things I'm doing aren't kid friendly (chopping, hot oven, etc). 

What are some ways a little one can help in the kitchen?  Do you have any "meals" or recipes that you make so that they can easily particpate?

I realize older kids can help much more, but I'm asking more based on the 2ish age level.

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Married 10.11.08
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Re: Cooking with kids... how to start?

  • Measure ingredients into prep bowls and let him help you by handing things to you or by helping add them into whatever you are making.  

    They can help you count out ingredients.

    Stirring is always a good one.  Sometimes messy, but they like it.lol

    Speaking of messes, one of my grandsons loves to 'help clean'.  My daughter used to just give him a dish towel and let him wipe up any spills while she was cooking.lol

     

     

  • It really is hard to find safe stuff for them to do when you're cooking, and they just want to see/touch everything!  It's easier to let them help with baking- measuring, whisking, mixing, smearing butter into the pan, putting cupcakes liners in, etc. 

    As for cooking, DD likes to smash garlic and "chop" herbs with her play kitchen knives, stir dressings and marinades, more measuring, tearing lettuce for salad.  We've had one of these kitchen helper step stools for about a year and a half so that she can see what I'm doing without being picked up (it stays on the opposite side of the island from where I generally work).  it seems to help if she can at least see what I'm doing and ask a million questions about it.

    ETA: As part of the constant questions phase, I also keep up a running commentary with her, what I'm doing, why I'm doing it, asking what she thinks is next, what veggie/fruit I'm chopping, etc.  It's like a cooking show for preschoolers, lol.

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  • Ditto doing some prep first and then letting them help. Today I made the mixture for black bean burgers and I measured the spices in a little prep bowl, cracked an egg in another one, and then just had DS dump everything into the FP (I also had big pieces of onion & pepper he just picked up). Then he helped me stir it in with all the other stuff.

    I also let him add spoonfuls of things to bowls, when I don't care too much about measuring (which is most of the time, lol). Like when I made corncakes, I let him take a spoonful of flour and a spoonful of cornmeal from the container and put them in the bowl.

    He loves using the salad spinner. :) He also loves to put the salad ingredients in bowls, although he tends to eat more than he puts - which is funny since he pretty much never eats any of those things if I actually put them on a plate. :P

    Putting shredded cheese on quesadillas is another one. 

  • My 2 year old loves making muffins and quick breads with me or adding the veggies and toppings to salad.
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  • My DS loves to make pizza.  I make a whole grain crust ahead of time and let him top it off.   I use all organic stuff so it's healthier than ordering pizza out.  He really likes when we make small pizzas so he can have his own.  I tell him what to put on my pizza and DH's pizza and he loves putting all the toppings on.  I also let him bake with me - that is easier than helping with dinner.  I also give him other things to do in the kitchen...set the table, put silverware away after I run the dishwasher, clear the table, get condiments out of the fridge (salad dressing, ketchup, mustard, etc...) if needed for dinner.  I also have him help pack his own lunch sometimes and he loves doing that. 
  • image MrsWindyCity:

    He loves using the salad spinner. :) He also loves to put the salad ingredients in bowls, although he tends to eat more than he puts - which is funny since he pretty much never eats any of those things if I actually put them on a plate. :P

    Levi loves the salad spinner as well!

    I'm getting lots of ideas from this thread so thanks everyone ...

     When I'm cooking I give him one of his little plastic bowls and put little pinches of the ingredients I'm using into his bowl - so he can make his "own" version of what I'm making.

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  • Aw, this thread makes me want to have a kid so I can cook with him/her.  Maybe I'll work on training the cat.
  • K loves stirring. I let her stir pretty much anything (with my help). I let her stir things on the stove, but she's about a year older than your son so I'd wait until he's at least 2 before I get him too close to the stove. He needs to understand "hot" and "don't touch" before you get him near fire. :)

    She helps me chop things but picking the parsley leaves off the stems, pretending to chop with her play knives, or just smelling the things I'm chopping. I keep her away from raw meat unless she's seasoning chicken breasts or dumping things into a bowl with ground beef.

    She loves watching me do things so I pretend I'm on a cooking show and explain everything I'm doing.  

    Cooking with kids is SO much fun. 

     

  • I let DS stand beside me on a step-stool, but he looses interest quickly.  I'm between him & the stove & I usually wait until after I've chopped veggies.

    If I'm baking, I let him taste some of the ingredients - like salt, sugar, flour, etc.  I've taken the time to explain the tastes to him.  He may not get it, but I figure if he's going to help I can use it as some sort of teaching experience. 

  • These are great, thanks gals.  I love the prep idea or even just letting him add the cookie ingredients to the mixing bowl. 
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    Lilypie Second Birthday tickers
    Married 10.11.08
    Baby LJ 05.21.10
    TheRookieChef.com
  • I let DD help me stir the bowl when I am baking. Then she gets to see the finished product.  Sometimes I'll let her have a chocolate chip or two.  Smile
  • This isn't cooking exactly, but when my oldest was a toddler I'd let him stand on a chair at the kitchen sink, and he would play with things I would put it there.  I would put some water and cups/bowls/ and a funnel and let him go to town.  It was definitely messy (I'd usually put a towel tarp below) but it would keep him in my sight, yet out of my hair while I was cooking dinner.  Also, sometimes I would just dump some ice cubes in the sink.  A couple of wooden spoons and melting ice are surprisingly fascinating for a two year old! 
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