Our Food Revolution Starts Here: Cooking With My Toddler

food, Little Aussie

headercookingIt’s just like me to always have food on the brain, so it’s no surprise, really, that when it comes to kid-rearing, our relationship to food has always been in the forefront for me. By the time she was 8 weeks old, I was obsessing on baby-led weaning. There was a period, during her particularly grabby-touch-everything phase that I was tempted to put a gate on the kitchen door to save myself a pile of sanity, but decided against it because I felt strongly that I wanted her to feel welcome in the kitchen. Even before her first birthday, I was looking forward to her reaching an age when she could work with me in the kitchen.

That day came not long after her second birthday. Delighted hardly begins to describe her joy when I pull the stool up to the kitchen counter and she goes “up, up, up!”. Cooking together has become one of our favorite activities. It often begins a little something like this:

Me: “Shall we make some pancakes for breakfast?”

Hushpuppy: “Cancakes! Up! Up! Up! Flour! Sugar! Eggs! Stirring!”

And, before she’s even finished her monologue, she’s whipping her apron and chef’s hat out of the drawer.

I’m writing this post about our love of cooking together in honor of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution Day. If you know me or have read this blog for awhile, you know that Jamie Oliver is pretty much an honorary family member around here (he doesn’t know about it, but he is), and I couldn’t possibly be more in favor of the idea of his Food Revolution Day. In short, he’d like to bring food education to all children to make their lives healthier and better. I agree with this so much. I can’t think of anything more connected to our health, security, and personal empowerment than food, and yet it’s not part of the curriculum in most places.

I’m so grateful that I learned to cook and make positive meal planning choices growing up. I don’t remember my Mom ever “teaching” me to cook. I was just always in the kitchen with her and picked it up, as children do. In that spirit, I wanted Hushpuppy in the kitchen with me as early as possible, and in recognition of the marvelous initiative Jamie (may I call you Jamie, Jamie?) has come up with, I present just a few of the reasons I love having my toddler in the kitchen with me.

A Lesson in Where Food Comes From

The most obvious reason to have a child in the kitchen is so that they learn to cook. Now, I don’t think Hushpuppy is going to be whipping up dinner while I sit in the sun with my Pinot Gris anytime soon, but she’s already getting the idea about the different components that go into various dishes that we make from scratch. It doesn’t just appear mysterioulsy on her plate fully prepared.

It’s a Science Lesson

See what happens when you add the wet milk to the dry flour? And if we add a little more?
We can look at the changes in texture, color, temperature, size and so forth. I love making pancakes with her because after we’ve made the batter, I let her watch while we put them in the pan. She can see that when the liquidy mixture goes into the hot pan (“Hot! Don’t touch it!”), it becomes solid. Every step is a science lesson.

Vocabulary

Cooking together is a great time for us to talk to each other, and I share with her every step that we take. From this, she’s picked up an amazing number of new vocabulary words. She can identify all of the basic ingredients in baking. She knows utensils and dishes. And, she has a whole compliment of fantastic action words – on top of stirring, she knows “mashing,” “mushing,” “squishing,” “squeezing,” and probably a few other fun to say onomatopoeic gems I’m forgetting. It’s also great practice with her numbers, as we’re always counting out scoops or time.

All the Cool Kids Are Doing It 

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…as you can see. She loves dressing the part and lately has been saying that she’s a “chef.” It’s great imaginative play.

Teaches patience

Oh, this is such a big one, and it works both ways.

Cooking is not an instant gratification sport, and that’s a challenge for a toddler to understand. She has to wait while we clear the kitchen counter, wash hands, and get our ingredients ready. She’s usually so keen to get going that I have to remind her of our kitchen mantra, “first thing’s first!” She’ll even say it to me, now. That doesn’t mean that she never gets impatient, but it’s small steps towards growing her patience for embarking on a process. First thing’s first!

The art of patience when it comes to cooking with a toddler is at least as big a lesson for me. I know you’ll be shocked to hear it, but she doesn’t actually perform every task with perfect grace. I have to remind myself to keep a calm tone when asking her for the seventh time to keep everything in the bowl as she stirs or the eleventh time to stop eating all of it. The other day, she spilled a cup of buttermilk all over the counter and floor in an act of toddler clumsiness. I was so frustrated, both about the cleanup and having wasted so much milk. It was a perfect teaching moment for me about literally not crying (or screaming) over spilled milk. I got her in on the act of cleaning up and poured out another batch. In the end, no harm done. Deep breaths all around.

Pride

At the end of every project, I make a really big deal about the fact that “we made this!” I want to be certain sure she puts it all together – that this yummy thing we’re eating is the same one we were working on in the kitchen. We can both beam with pride, even when our project looks as amazing as, say, our Christmas cookies…

 

…Nailed it!

Being Together

Big time Mom Confession: I’ve recently allowed myself to admit that I hate doing crafts with my kid. I know I’m supposed to love it, and we should be romping together in painty-gluey-cardbord-tubey fields of Pinterest-worthy-glee, but the thought just fills me with dread. Cooking and baking, however – that I can do. We both get so much joy out of our projects, we get plenty messy, and maybe even learn a few things along the way. We chat, and high-five, and in the end, we share a meal or snack together. I’ll take that over cleaning up finger paint any day. IMG_3745

It’s seriously a blast working with this little chef in our kitchen.

 

My Bored Toddler

8 thoughts on “Our Food Revolution Starts Here: Cooking With My Toddler

  1. Yvette

    I heart your little chef. I love your honesty. And what do you mean hushpuppy doesn’t do everything perfectly? Those cookies are the bomb-diggity!

  2. Tina

    I definitely agree with all your reasons for cooking with a toddler! My kids love helping in the kitchen too. Truly priceless moments 🙂 Thanks for sharing at #ToddlerFunFriday

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