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I know age 2 might seem early, but we’re trying to teach our toddler as much as we possibly can about cooking. Here’s the thing, I’d like to think he’s going to be food allergy-free someday, but that’s likely not going to be the case. So far, results from skin prick testing have indicated increased wheal/flare reactions, he’s failed every baked food challenge we’ve tried, and his list of food allergies keep growing. Almost all safe foods require preparation, so cooking will, by necessity, be a large part of his life.
We’ve decided to start cooking with our toddler so he is prepared to take care of his food allergies in college and beyond. So far, he’s loving it!
uncoordinated cooking 101
The first necessity for cooking with a toddler? A learning tower. Ollie is an incredibly bright little boy, but he has my coordination (sorry buddy!). This means he can (and does) fall while standing still. I can’t imagine him standing on a chair while we cook. I see a broken child and many broken dishes in that situation.
We use our Little Partners Learning Tower ALL the time. It has a semi-permanent home at the end of our island (the simple, light wood is not an eye-sore, but the stubbed toes are real). Ollie eats breakfast standing in his tower, as well as his snacks throughout the day. We do all of our food prep on the island. When in the tower, Ollie is at our level, letting him see what we’re doing on the counter, and enabling him to be involved. Ollie can safely help cook or watch while doing his own thing. With the amount of food prep required for food allergy families, anything that keeps a child happy while a meal is made is a win in my book!
give your toddler the knife
Ollie’s favorite thing to help us do is cut. We have this set of Curious Chef knives. I feel completely confident he cannot cut himself using these. They work well with bananas, cucumbers, potatoes, and other soft fruits and veggies. Carrots are sometimes too hard.
We’re slowly working on proper knife skills. Whenever he’s cutting, he’s always snacking too. This is a huge win. He eats an extra serving of vegetables every time he helps us cut. It’s also quite entertaining when he chomps into a raw potato. I promise we warned him he wouldn’t like it!
In the end, he is always SO proud of what he cut. Last time he helped us cut cucumbers, he got down from his tower, got his own bag, and, “just packed a snack for Dana Daycare.” It may have been the most mangled bag of cucumbers ever, but he was incredibly pleased with his independence and gobbled them down the next day.
let the toddler do the measuring
We also use these measuring spoons and cups all the time. I like that they’re not plastic in terms of safety and durability. They have already endured countless drops from the learning tower. We work on color and number recognition while we’re cooking. Ollie knows some of his numbers now, so we ask him to get a scoop of the “one two” spoon if we need one half of a teaspoon of something for example. Before he knew numbers, the same method worked with getting a scoop of the “green” spoon. And now he knows his colors!
dress like a chef
Want to make cooking even more fun? Add a chef’s costume. My sister-in-law is an amazingly talented seamstress and made Ollie an apron from an old shirt of his dad’s. For the rest of us non-seamstress types, there’s this. I think I’ll be adding a chef hat to our collection soon. Hats make everything fun when you’re two. When you’re Ollie, matching makes everything even more fun. Maybe we will add some adult chef hats too!
Cooking with a toddler can be challenging at first, but by getting them involved early they start learning the important, healthy skill (especially for someone with food allergies), are occupied during meal prep, and may even start packing their own snacks! What’s cooking like at your house?