I have two young sons under 5. Having children can be so much fun, especially teaching them new skills. But it can also be tricky with activities like cooking which have an element of risk. Think stoves, knives, etc. These are some of my favorite ways to involve both children, ages 2 and 4, in cooking our from scratch recipes.
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A matching kitchen play set.
We got this set for the younger son’s birthday, though both children enjoy it. I set it up right next to mine. I usually even add dry rice, dry beans or small cereal so they can mix and pour along with me! This works if you continue to weave in encouragement and ask what they’re making and how it tastes, pretending can be fun at 4 or 34.
Stir stir stir!
Any recipe that requires stirring can be great for including them. I check and encourage while I set up other parts of the dish. One of my favorites is homemade lemonade. With help squeezing them from the older one, I will add the sugar and then either child can just stir to his heart’s content.
Due to their young ages, I avoid heat almost exclusively. One exception is the microwave. Even the two year old can open, place something in it and be guided to the correct numbers and start button. He alerts me when it beeps (“momma all done”). He’s been taught that then it is too hot for him to handle.
This is a fun way to get them involved but have the shower on stand by. This muffin recipe is yummy and easy to make (though it does include raw flour, be cautious). I encourage them to get their hands in for the mixing and then use those small hands to fill the muffin pan up.
There are very few ingredients in homemade pastas, pie crusts, breads, usually. For these recipes they need time (to rise) and some kneading. Because they do not have any raw meat or even eggs in them I let both kids knead which they enjoy. With pastas, pizza dough and pie crusts there is usually a little leftover for them to play with – real life play dough!
I also try to include them in natural home care and cleaning. For example, I will fill a spray bottle with water. I give it to them and a cloth and they can run around “cleaning” lots of different surfaces. They also help make sugar scrubs that are edible with me, they even get to lick the bowl!
After the recipes are completed and any dishes with egg or raw meat are prewashed by mommy, the two year old enjoys (in fact would spend hours) washing the dishes at the sink. It can actually be helpful! Then we all get to enjoy the yummy food we made ourselves. Mmmmmmmmmm… Little chefs in the making? One can dream. But in the meantime, I appreciate any tips or advice on including the littles, especially if it can be truly useful.
Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think or what works for you. Happy cooking!