top of page
  • Writer's pictureEmma

A Toddler in the kitchen ...

Involving your little one in food preparation has so many wide-ranging benefits and may not be as challenging as you think.

Taking part in preparing meals is not only about cooking .... think about everything you do to put food on the table; from planning and shopping all the way through to setting the table, serving the food and even clearing away afterwards. Your little one can be involved in all of these activities as well as the actual preparation of the food itself and the developmental benefits are amazing!

What your little one learns by helping out in the kitchen....

  • Personal, Social and Emotional Development

We all know how our self-esteem soars when someone lets us know our actions have been helpful to them and your little one is no different; by getting them to team up with you in the kitchen you are giving them the message that they are valued.

They will also learn, by being invited to handle some items of equipment they would not be able to play with on their own, that some things require particular care and a change in behaviour. For example, you will explain to your child that throwing a fork could hurt someone else or touching something from the oven will burn them. In this way they will begin to develop self-regulation and understand that they have a responsibility to adapt their behaviour in different situations.

  • Language and Communication

Following your guidance as you explain how to help will support your little one to develop listening skills. They are more likely to want to listen to you when they are doing something exciting and challenging. The more they listen, the more speech sounds they are absorbing which will support their developing speech as well as preparing them for later phonics awareness.

There are so many opportunities to extend your little one's vocabulary in cooking. They will hear a lot of new 'action' words in context (such as 'mix', 'cut', 'squash', spread' ...) which will encourage them to begin joining words into phrases. Then there are all the names for foods and equipment to learn as well as the descriptive language you might introduce them to such as 'sticky', 'soft', 'juicy', 'hot' etc.

As a result, your little one's 'receptive language' or understanding will receive a big boost too. They will be learning how to follow simple instructions by listening to you and responding to your gestures, such as 'put the flour in the bowl' as well as growing an understanding of simple questions such as 'where is the egg?'.

  • Physical Skills

Peeling a satsuma or a banana refines fine motor strength

Pouring milk from a small jug onto their cereal helps them build control of the muscles of the hands, wrists and arms

Chopping or slicing soft fruits and vegetables (tomatoes, bananas, mushrooms etc) develops hand-eye coordination

Scrubbing vegetables encourages experimenting with different grips

Beating eggs supports your little one's developing balance and core strength as well as regulating movement

Carrying heavy bowls, large baking trays etc helps with core strength

Kneading dough exercises the fingers in preparation for using tools and equipment

Learning how to clear up, wash their hands and other hygiene measures will introduce your little one to the idea of the need to keep ourselves and others safe and well.

  • Early Maths

Measuring ingredients for recipes is a great way to introduce the concept of quantity. If you use cups or spoonfuls rather than scales it is a clearer. simpler way for your little one to see and compare amounts of ingredients.

They will hear simple number language as you count the spoonfuls being added to mixtures; try if possible, to say one number name at the exact time they tip the spoonful in so they attach that name to the action.

Cooking, setting the table, selecting and using equipment are all good ways to introduce the language of size; at this age keeping it as simple as 'big' and 'small' will be all that is needed to get your little one thinking and comparing.

  • Early Science

When your little one sees the cooking process from start to finish you are letting them discover how materials change when we do things to them. Instead of food mysteriously arriving on their plate, they will learn that a runny white and wobbly

yellow inside of an egg changes to a creamy yellow goo when whisked and then a pale yellow solid when heated in a pan. First hand experiences such as this encourages a 'what if?' attitude, so your little one becomes more curious to explore their world.

Everyday ways your little one can help in the kitchen ...

  • Washing vegetables

  • Beating eggs

  • Kneading dough

  • Using cookie cutters

  • Decorating biscuits/cakes

  • Scooping cereal out of box

  • Pouring milk or water from jug

  • Peeling fruit, especially bananas and satsumas

  • Washing fruit/veg – scrub potatoes/carrots etc, peel carrot

  • Chopping fruit/veg – banana, cucumber, strawberries, mango, tomato

  • Spreading topping on crackers/bread

  • Squeezing orange juice

  • Setting the table

  • Clearing the dishes

  • Loading the dishwasher

  • Washing own snack cup/plate

  • Measuring ingredients

  • Helping to add ingredients

  • Stirring, hand whisking, sieving

  • Cleaning up after cooking; wiping, tidying and sweeping

Try these simple recipes ...

Your little one can have a go at everything in these recipes except for those underlined which should be done by an adult.

Mini Pizza

1 English Muffin (the bread kind, not the cake!)

Cheese - whatever you like

Tomato sauce/pizza sauce

Ripe tomato and/or mushrooms

Preheat oven to 180 deg c

Split the muffin into two

Spread tomato sauce onto each muffin half using a round ended knife or spoon

Sprinkle grated cheese on top of each

Chop or slice the tomato/mushroom using a round ended knife

Arrange toppings on each muffin

Bake for 8-10 minutes

Banana Oat cookies

1 large or 2 small ripe bananas

1 cup rolled oats (not the jumbo ones)

Wash hands

Preheat oven to 180 deg c

Grease a large baking sheet using buttered-up hands!

Roughly chop bananas using a round ended knife

Mash bananas in a bowl with a fork or potato masher

Tip in the oats

Mix with a wooden spoon

Dollop golf ball sized blobs onto baking sheet

Flatten slightly with hands

Bake for 15 minutes or until golden and set

Cheesy Puffs

1 Ready rolled puff pastry sheet

Grated cheese

1 egg

Wash hands Preheat oven to 180 deg c

Grease a baking tray using buttery hands

Break egg into a bowl and beat with a whisk or fork

Unroll the puff pastry

Brush egg all over the pastry

Use cutters to cut out shapes

Sprinkle cheese onto each shape

Place shapes onto baking tray

Bake for 10 minutes

Pasta Sauce

10 cherry tomatoes

Olive Oil

Wash hands

Squeeze, squash, tear and smash the tomatoes using hands, in a big bowl

Tip into a pan with a dollop of olive oil

Simmer gently for about 20 minutes

Serve on cooked pasta

Bread Blobs!

4 cups strong bread flour

1 sachet dried yeast

1 ½ cups warm water

1 tbsp olive oil

Wash Hands

Preheat oven to 200 deg c

Measure out ingredients then tip into a large bowl

Mix, knead and pummel for 1 minute.

Leave for 10 minutes

Repeat the 30 seconds’ kneading

Cover & leave to rise in a warm place for 30 mins

Shape into whatever you like – either one big loaf or, as I prefer, a random collection of blobs!

Leave to rise for another 30 mins

Bake at 180 - 25 mins for a loaf, much less time is needed for the random shapes so keep an eye on them!

Happy Cooking!

33 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page