My toddler is also my sous chef. The truth is, having him prepare dinner with me is easier than having him hang on my leg. Not only can toddlers be helpful, but they can also learn a whole lot in the kitchen. Research shows that toddlers learn best through incidental learning. Incidental learning is learning that happens naturally in the environment.
So…learning that happens without anyone even knowing that it is happening…pretty sneaky, huh?
Flash cards? Carefully planned Pinterest activities? Not examples of incidental learning. Although these things can have value as well–we know that toddlers should be learning by doing. And when possible, this learning should take place in their natural environment–the home.
During the quality time we spend cooking together, we are working on math. Without even knowing it, we are building on basic skills by measuring and adding ingredients as we pour them together. As we discuss new words and practice following simple directions we are building language and communication skills.
Perhaps most importantly is the boost toddlers get socially from helping in the kitchen. Teaching them to use real kitchen tools to make real food allows them to demonstrate that they are capable little humans. They can celebrate small accomplishments and be proud make every time they chop, peel, and measure a vegetable.
To get your kiddo started in the kitchen, it is important that you have the right tools to fit the small hands of a toddler. The following 11 tot-sized items allow our little guy to really get his hands dirty and be a helper in the kitchen, after all–he had to earn that title of sous chef.
Reminder: All cooking and food preparation should be very closely supervised at all times.
This is where is really begins. You have to get the kiddos up to the counter-height in order to do real cooking. We love our Learning Tower and were able to find it second hand on Craigslist. They are fairly easy to find used and have good resale value when your kids grow out of it. Alternatively, you can attempt a hack to make it cheaper if you are crafty. We even added a ship wheel to ours to make it more fun.
These rubber bottom bowls prevent the bowl from slipping off the counter when small hands get
aggressive excited about stirring.
Speaking of stirring…”stir” was one of my son’s first words. This whisk is still one of his top requests in the kitchen.
This chopper allows small children to use two hands and lean their body weight forward to chop harder foods (think carrots, apples, potatoes…that sort of thing).
This chopper is another fun way to get some chopping done. It works great for small items like nuts.
I am constantly on mission to find the best toddler knives. Right now, a favorite is from this cheese knife set–in particular the knife on the right side. The handle fits perfectly into my two-year-olds little hand and allows him to have a good grasp. It works best for soft, small slicing–like a banana for examples. He also enjoys this knife from Pampered Chef. It’s bigger and a bit reminiscent of a pumpkin carving knife. Considering it is longer, we find it works best for cutting soft, larger foods–like bread. But for the harder foods, we rely on the two-handed chopper.
The size and orientation of this peeler are ideal for toddlers. Physically they are able to exert more force by pulling down on this horizontally-orientated peeler, as opposed to swiping side to side with a vertically-orientated one. The 4 inch size is great for small hands…and it comes in a lot of fun colors.
Making orange juice is very popular in our house. It is easier to do with small juicy oranges like clementines or cuties. I suggest this juicer that allows the juice to collect in a clear glass or plastic container. Otherwise, you are going to have the toddler taking it all apart every 6 seconds to see their progress.
The Cherry Chomper is not super useful during most parts of the year–when fresh cherries are hard to find…but ridiculously fun and popular when cherries are in season.
This perfectly sized cheese grater is useful for grating cheese, carrots, zucchini, or any other fresh fruits and vegetables.
We don’t have one of these spiralizers yet, but it is on our Wish List. Our toddler also loves this little PlayDough set that involves a similar crank and turn function…except the bonus here is that you can eat the fruits of your labor (although we know most toddlers eat PlayDough anyways, right?).
Do you have any favorite tools that you use with your kids?
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