How many times a day do you find yourself frowning, and saying to your toddler, “No entry in the kitchen!” When your little one sees you busy in the kitchen, they can’t seem to stay away. All that chopping, cleaning, cooking, baking and even cleaning and organising are way too fascinating for your toddler. But most of all, it’s your company that attracts them the most to keep following you into the kitchen.
However, the truth is that while you’re busy working with spicy ingredients, sharp tools, hot equipment and other factors that you might think are dangerous for your toddler, it is extremely difficult to keep an eye on them to ensure that they are safe while in the kitchen. But instead of trying to find ways to keep them out of the kitchen- a nearly impossible task- how about we explore some fun ways to keep them engaged in the kitchen, thus making the experience safe and significant for their learning and development! After all, it can be pretty fabulous to raise a child who loves offering a hand in every household activity!
What Makes Toddlers In The Kitchen Fabulous?
Trusting little ones with real tasks helps them feel a sense of independence. Knowing that you trust them is important for their self-confidence.
Fine Motor Skills
Handling ingredients and cooking tools like a whisk or spoon work on improving your toddler’s fine motor skills.
Use Of Large Muscles
All that practice of playing with the clay and play-dough will come in handy when you ask your toddler to lend a hand with kneading the dough. This activity will engage their large muscles, making them stronger and aiding their growth.
Your toddler may love playing with many toys that work towards developing and improving their hand-eye coordination. And guess what… helping you out in the kitchen can do the trick too!
Cooking is all about using your judgement to find effective solutions. When toddlers are guided on how to take up independent tasks, you are, in the long run, preparing them to find solutions.
Allowing your toddler to take some charge in the kitchen might not be as crazy as it sounds! Let them decorate the cake with colourful confetti, fritters, toppers and all of their favourite things. Watch how they engage with colours, shapes and patterns, and explore their creative flair.
Language And Counting Skills
Engaging in the kitchen means exposure to a whole new world. As you introduce your child to the things in the kitchen, they get to learn new and unique vocabulary. Not just that, ask them to hand you two cubes of cheese… and there you have a toddler who just practised counting!
The kitchen is full of various textures to feel, a plethora of aromas to smell, a number of sounds from the utensils, the frying pan or appliances, and so many colours and shapes to see. Letting your child sense all of these is a significant experience in their learning journey.
Learning From Observation
Let’s not forget why your child is inside the kitchen in the first place. They just want to be by your side all the time. They’re constantly watching, observing and learning from everything that you do. Your organisation, cleanliness, attention to detail and so much more inspires them to mirror your behaviour not just in the kitchen but in other aspects of their lives too.
Not stopping your toddler from entering the kitchen makes them feel valued and increases their confidence. They will grow up to believe that they are capable of taking responsibility without hesitation. Not just that, they will grow up actively participating in the kitchen and probably knowing how to create a few recipes of their own! So years later when you watch them go off to college or to live on their own, here’s one less thing you as a parent will worry about. Oh, let’s not get carried away… you will always worry! But you will see them off with the comfort of knowing they will do well!
Blessed are the hands that prepare the food
It is indeed a blessing to be able to prepare a hot meal with love. Imagine how happy and proud you will feel if your toddler can claim to have prepared a meal on their own! Even if it’s just a slice of bread with cheese or a tossed salad! Even if they are just a toddler, we bet your child will feel more pride in watching you take that first bite, relish the dish made with love, and praise them for a job well done!
Is It Dangerous?
When you have a toddler, you have a little person who wants to explore all their new physical abilities, but yet requires your guidance and supervision to ensure that they are safe.
- Follow safety protocols recommended for the kitchen.
- Watch out for potential hazards by making sure the toddler is not near the gas.
- Encourage sanitary practices like asking your toddler to wash their hands before touching the food and cleaning up after they’re done.
- Ensure constant supervision and assistance wherever required.
- Keep sharp, heavy and dangerous tools like knives out of reach.
Fun Tasks For Toddlers In The Kitchen
- Talk And Converse: Chat with them about the processes in the kitchen. They will enjoy the attention they’re getting while learning several new things.
- Teach And Lead By Example: Show your child how to manage various processes. Let them imitate and follow the instructions and learn a few simple routine tasks.
- Involve Them In The Decisions: Give them options whenever you can. Which fruit should we add to our milkshake? Should we add some nuts to the dessert? What should we spread on the bread today? These are some simple and easy decisions your toddler can make.
- Let Them Sense: Let them touch, feel sense, and even grab a bite of the raw ingredients to satisfy their curiosity.
- Let Them Clean Up: This will make sure you’re not afraid of the mess that might ensue when your toddler gets exploring in the kitchen.
Chefs And Their Little Sous Chefs
We talked to some of the coolest chef parents to know how their home kitchen looks. Let’s hear from them.
Chef Kelvin Cheung
Known in the world of food for his creative flair for presenting traditional flavours, Chef Kelvin Cheung continues to be one of Mumbai’s favourite chefs even after his move to Dubai. How can someone who loves food so much keep his baby away from the kitchen! He did not; little baby Bodhi was welcome to enter the kitchen even in his newborn days.
“Bodhi first came to work with my wife Andrea at 10 days old, wrapped up against her chest in a Solly wrap for a food photo shoot. He spent his early days snuggled up against me in a carrier sleeping during busy services and started chopping alongside us while preparing meals Montessori style by 12 months old. Life as he’s known it has revolved around food, so it comes as no surprise his favourite activities have to do with cooking and eating. As a three-year-old, he loves the process of making recipes from scratch including the planning phase. Bodhi’s currently in an experimenting phase trying out new flavour combinations- like ketchup and soy sauce (yikes!) in which he dips his favourite bite, salmon sashimi.”
Chef Amrita Raichand
Popular among everyone who loves to cook at home, Chef Amrita Raichand knows how to make food fun for little ones. Her popular video series on YouTube called “Toddler Tuesday” and “Thoda Aur Magic” on her channel, Amrita Raichand – Chef & Beyond, are full of interesting, nutritious and healthy recipes that give plenty of ideas to moms. Chef Amrita left her acting & Modelling behind when her son was born and converted from a home chef to a professional chef who was determined to feed delicious & yet nutritious food to her child. The added advantage of that was while all this food was being prepared in the kitchen for her boy, Agastya, he not only thoroughly enjoyed eating it but also spent a great amount of fun time in the kitchen with his mum while she would cook for him!
“One of the fondest memories I have of my own childhood was the day when I prepared food for the very first time. My mother was shocked, surprised and amazed at the fact that I thought of cooking a meal, that I figured out how to do it, and managed so well. I don’t have a count of the number of phone calls she must have made, telling everyone how proud she is of me. Of course, her first reaction was to worry. She was concerned about the safety of a child working in the kitchen. But you see, those concerns are only for the time being. What remains is always the happy memories. I was always happy to let Agastya join me in the kitchen. He used to be so fascinated with the collection of kitchen utensils we had. I would be busy cooking while he would keep himself engaged by banging the utensils together, sorting them, nesting one inside another and playing with them in whatever new way that caught his fancy. While spending time with me in the kitchen and constantly conversing and participating, his vocabulary grew so fast! He was well-versed with the names of all the fruits and vegetables at a very early age. He could also tell his colours apart, and I definitely think spending time in the kitchen surrounded by fresh colourful ingredients has a lot to do with that. My little one is all grown up now, but those days of toddlerhood were so precious, I still have wonderful memories of the time.”
Chef Vikas Seth
Brilliant new ideas and hard work are two traits that define Vikas Seth as a chef. What defines him as a father is how his son looks up to him. When asked if his son Adi likes to lend a hand at cooking, Chef Vikas says he is the one who lends a hand to Adi, while the little one enjoys the feeling of having mastered a dish on his own. With his understanding of how children enjoy passing their time, he introduced some fun ideas and activities at his restaurants too. The chef reminisces the old times when his son was little to share some precious memories.
“Kids have a lot of energy. They love being in action constantly. You know what they don’t love? Ordering a pizza at a restaurant and then sitting idly, having to wait for it. We come up with many DIY activities for kids where children can make their own cookies or other creative dishes. The children are responsible for choosing and gathering their ingredients, assembling the dish and preparing it for the final cooking or baking stage. What gets them totally excited is being able to touch, feel even taste all the ingredients and being involved in making their own meal. And guess what? The excitement is enough to keep them engrossed even while their cookies are in the oven!
For my son Adi’s birthday, we hosted a party with a Make Your Own Pizza station. Oh, what a hit that party was!”
Chef Bhairav Singh
Living a pure life closely attached to the traditions is something that Chef Bhairav strongly advocates. When it comes to raising his son, he takes inspiration from the life of his hometown. He strongly believes that the learning opportunity that a child gets when they are hands-on involved in day-to-day tasks is unmatched. In a family that believes in equal parenting, various responsibilities for little Shivaay are shared between Chef Bhairav and his wife Dr Vaishali. And with a professional chef as a dad, Shivaay spends ample time participating, working and learning in the kitchen.
“I have always believed in being strongly attached to our roots. Even while raising my son Shivaay, I chose the path toward all things natural. So if it comes naturally to him to enter the kitchen while his mother or father is cooking, he is always welcome to join. We maintain a few safety precautions, like keeping sharp objects away from his reach and covering up all the electric sockets. What we like to encourage is for him to watch and even join in the cooking process. Toddlers have a lot to learn while being in the kitchen. They don’t need to master a recipe. Simply imitating actions, touching groceries, and exploring the utensil cabinets can teach them a lot. It is said that babies should be exposed to lots of vibrant colours. What better way to surround your child with colours than by letting them hold and explore natural ingredients like fruits and vegetables used in your kitchen! Kitchen utensils too are very attractive for toddlers. Shivaay used to enjoy banging plates with spoons. One day when we were praying, he related the ringing sound of the bell with those banging sounds and ran to get his special instruments from the kitchen to join in with us. A mess in the kitchen is temporary, these learning opportunities are forever.”
Dr Vaishali Rajput
A management and marketing professor, Dr Vaishali brings the management skills home as she takes charge of managing her family and finances. And when you talk about her skill with food, not only does she whip up what’s the most nutritious and delicious for her family, but also takes a stand behind the camera to click some wonderful food photographs. Keeping her family close to her is her priority. Even in the kitchen, the company of her son Shivaay is always welcome.
“Seeing his mother and father give so much importance to food and cooking, our son Shivaay’s curiosity about the kitchen is always at its peak. But right from the beginning, we have encouraged him to get hands-on with various activities in the kitchen. I can positively say that he has learnt a lot spending time in the kitchen with us. There are times when he will do nothing except bite into raw ingredients or dip his finger to get a lick of some batter. He may even spit it out after tasting it, but I liked that he independently explored his options. Look at him making a dosa! It comes easily to us, but for a little child to be able to manage such hand-eye coordination is all the practice he needs to master his motor skills. Most of all, I like that he watches his mother and father work hard towards putting a meal on the table. That would make him respect the food he eats and that’s a very important value I want to instil in my son.”
Now that you’ve heard it from eminent chefs and professionals, you might be encouraged to try some fun kitchen activities with your toddler in the kitchen. We hope these tips here help you in making your cooking time fabulous!