Contributed by: Jennifer Clendenion
As the mother of a nearly 3-year-old toddler, I know how much young kids want to help mom in the kitchen. It's a great place for learning, as well as for bonding. Here are a few tips as your little one becomes "mommy's little helper":
1. Get them in on the action - My daughter wants to help at the stove, but for obvious reasons this is dangerous. I try to make her feel included by always giving her a task to help me complete dinner. Sometimes she tears lettuce for salads, or adds pre-cut veggies to the bowl. Kids who are a little older can set the table.
2. Teach them numbers - One of my daughter's favorite things is setting the timer on the microwave. She loves to punch the buttons and she's learning some numbers.
3. Set aside a place for her to work - If you have room, a kid-sized table is great, but just a spot at the counter and a sturdy chair or stool works, too. If you set aside this special place, there may be less of a chance of your youngster getting too close to the stove or getting under your feet.
4. Give them their own utensils - Inexpensive plastic bowls, spoons, plates, and cups will make them feel special. Distinguishing between mommy's things and theirs will keep them happy and your stuff out of toddler hands. A little apron will not only be cute, it will help your tot feel grown up.
5. Ask for their input - Which ingredient do they think should be added next? Give them a taste and see what they think. Gauge how much enjoyment your child is getting out of the experience. If they're getting restless, ask them if they want to do something else.
6. Make it a family affair - Get dad in on it, too. Try to keep your older kids schedules flexible so that they can help a few days a week. Invite Grandma over to show your little one her techniques for making pastry. Even if your 2-year-old doesn't understand, the family will have some great stories to share.
When your kids join you in the kitchen, you're not only keeping an eye on them, you are also creating memories. Most toddlers are pretty picky eaters, but kids who have a hand in the preparation of the meal are more apt to eat what's been made. After the end of a busy and hectic day, the help can be a blessing, and the time spent with your children is priceless.
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