A Toddler in the Kitchen

Keeping a toddler occupied is hard work. It can make it difficult to get things done. Mainly dinner. Or, really, any kind of cooking.

The solution: bring them into the kitchen with you.

But be prepared for the unexpected. Here’s a quick rundown of what I’ve learned, so far.

Safety first.
When I first started cooking with Evie, I let her sit on the counter. It was easy to keep a hand on her and let her be a part of the fun. Then she got too wiggly. So, I let her stand on a chair. This wasn’t the best idea because she could easily fall off.

Recently, we built a learning tower. You can find plans on Pinterest. Basically, you take a cheap Ikea stool and build a little cage/fence around it. Your toddler can still climb into and out of it without (much) assistance — but the risk of falling off while standing is greatly reduced.

It’s been a lifesaver. I can grab ingredients without fearing that Evie will take a tumble. And, I think, she likes the feeling of being somewhat independent.

Plastic knives and kitchen scraps.
One of the most alluring things to toddlers in the kitchen are knives. I can’t count the number of times Evie has reached for them or insisted that I share. And let me tell you, reasoning with a toddler that is melting down because she can’t have a knife is a real treat.

Now, Evie has her own set. They’re plastic and can’t really cut through anything. But they’re hers. As I cut and peel, I send food scraps her way and she does her very best to cut them up without dismembering herself.  

Sometimes it won’t be edible. Sometimes it will.
Things will not always turn out as deliciously as you had imagined. Evie and I attempted banana bread one day. I’m not sure where things unraveled — but, good grief, that bread was bad. I mean throw in the garbage bad. I have an inkling that a little hand may have gotten carried away with some extra baking soda when I wasn’t looking. I still shiver thinking about that bite I took.

On the other hand, sometimes it will turn out perfectly. It will be so good that you and your toddler will sit together on the kitchen floor and devour your creation. You’ll smile and laugh and finish with wonderfully full bellies.

So many messes.
It can also get messy. Toddlers are not known for their attention to detail. When you have one helping in the kitchen — things can go sideways very quickly. We’ve spilled just about everything. But it cleans up. And if you have a dog, sometimes they’ll eat it so fast that there’s no need to clean it up.

Use a food scale.
I have found that using a food scale helps me when baking. Evie likes pushing the buttons and it’s easy to let her spoon in the ingredients until she hits the correct number. You also have less dishes to clean up this way, too.

Experiment.
Try new recipes and new foods. Evie has mostly free range to dip her fingers in and try what we are cooking. With the exception of brown sugar. That kid will eat an entire bag if given the opportunity. We’ve compromised and now she can eat whatever falls onto the counter.

At the heart of it, have fun and try not to worry too much about messes or following the recipe 100%.

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