Dec 11 - Christmas stollen for my mom. Spent 20 minutes picking out whole peppercorns Ruthie dumped into batter.
Dec 26 - Pancakes. Sat for a few minutes debating whether to continue cooking or throw away batter than has been sneezed directly into several times.
Jan 4 - Banana bread muffins. Ruthie has gotten pretty good at cracking eggs at this point but decided to smash the egg in her teeny hands and quickly incorporated the shells into the batter as if to hide the evidence .
Feb 5 - Pita bread. Rolled out 10 pieces of dough super thin ready to fry. Went to put rolling pin away. Return to find perfectly rolled pieces squished into a big ball and covered with rice Chex cereal.
March 3 - Waffles. Ruthie sprinkled powered sugar over everyone’s waffles, her very favorite task to date. Also hid a waffle in the drawer under the oven. Just found it today.
The truth about cooking with kids is that it is a little inconvenient, sometimes gross, and often requires a beer for mom. BUTTTT the even bigger truth is it is necessary as heck.
You’ve heard it a thousand times: kids are more likely to try something if they had played a part in its creation. I've seen it with my own easy-to-please tots, but I've also worked with older kids as a school dietitian and it's completely true with that age as well. My thinking is: get toddlers involved with cooking now and there is a damn good chance they’ll love it in the future.
With school aged kiddos, participation in school meals looked like helping with gardens, voting for menu items, playing a role in coming up with a menu item names (kickin’ Kale salad)...if given the chance to participate in school lunches, kids had a much greater chance of actually eating their lunch (even the kickin’ kale salad, I swear).
Starting with toddlers is simpler. You don’t have to go to great lengths to get them interested. One of the benefits of BLW is that there aren't really any toddler specific foods - most foods are toddler foods. The recipe doesn’t have to have a crazy name or be shaped like a lizard or have a decorative face on it - toddlers are super into anything that can make a giant mess. Cooking with them just requires parental patience and the ability to withstand the occasional sneeze into the bowl. Allowing toddlers to make a mess with you in the kitchen from time to time might be enough to get them interested in cooking and trying more foods.
Ruthie's Fave Toddler Tasks:
- Cracking eggs
- Adding ingredients to bowl
- Measuring ingredients
- Rolling out/smashing/squishing dough
- Grabbing handfuls of ingredients and squeezing
- Pouring juice/smoothie from measuring cup into popsicle molds
- Breaking bananas into chunks before freezing
- Rolling energy balls (into super non uniform oval-ish shapes)
- Taste testing everything
- Adjust expectations for toddler. I may get one cracked egg and one stir of the spoon before "OK, I'm done!"
- Adjust expectations for recipe. I don't usually use different toddler-specific recipes when cooking with Ruthie, it is typically what we're having for dinner or snack later and it might not turn out picture perfect.
- Make sure Ruthie can see/reach into bowl.
- No funny business while standing on a stool.
- Get out all ingredients first (so I can stay near her on the stool).
- I say (shout) "Hands in pockets" if I’m chopping or using the stand mixer (or if I sense the imminent threat of peppercorns entering my mixing bowl).
Involving toddlers in the kitchen definitely slows things down and doesn’t have to happen everyday. Sometimes I want nothing more than to be alone in the kitchen, and sometimes Ruthie has no interest in helping. Like all things toddler, her interest kind of ebbs and flows and I just go with it.
So, the main reason I love having Ruthie in the kitchen? Cooking is an important part of forming a healthy relationship with food - watching food go from ingredients to something totally different and often delicious. Some level of respect for food goes into cooking and respecting and caring about the food we eat is respecting and caring about our bodies.
I'm also totally immune to messes at this point - let me know if you need help becoming immune to messes too ;)