NL (3.5) loves to help in the kitchen! Since she was a little baby, who sat in her high chair while I cooked, she has spent a lot of time in the kitchen with me. Sometimes, it is a huge headache for me, but the benefits tend to outweigh the hassles. Children who are involved in grocery shopping, helping in the garden, and preparing and serving meals are often more willing to try to new foods. Her sense of pride and excitement over “helping” Mommy cook are heart-warming.
At 3.5, she helps
- make choices at the grocery store (Do we want the apples or the pears?)
- remember items on our grocery list (Help me remember to get carrots, NL!)
- take groceries out of the bags and put them away
- decide what we are going to cook (Do we want to have tomato sauce or pesto tonight? Do not offer a choice you aren’t okay with!)
- add measured ingredients into the bowl or pot (Just be careful with adding items that might splash hot liquids.)
- stir ingredients (We do not let her stir boiling ingredients or anything frying in hot oil, but we let her watch from her learning tower pushed back a few feet.)
- tear ingredients like bread for croutons or lettuce for a salad
- cut softer items with a plastic knife
- take her plate to the table and put it in the sink after dinner’
- help me make her lunch each night or morning
Beyond making meals and snacks for her family, she has also helped me when we have made treats for her preschool class or muffins to take to a Sunday school friend who had surgery or dinner to a family with a new baby.
She loves to “help,” and she sometimes is truly helpful! It might be hectic at times, and it may take a bit longer to prepare dinner, but letting your kids in the kitchen may make mealtime a lot smoother and help model how you and your family care for others. Start thinking about ways you can get your little ones involved, regardless of their ages!