Some time ago I discovered a website – MyDaddyCooks.com – which features videos from a dad who includes his toddler (aged 2-3 depending on the age of the video) in the cooking of the meals he cooks for his family. I loved the idea, but thought there was no way I could keep Izzy’s attention long enough to be able to cook anything edible with her. I also had obvious concerns about the safety of a toddler in a kitchen.
Despite my misgivings I was keen to give it a go, especially as Izzy was starting to take more of an interest in the goings on in the kitchen. The first thing I cooked with her was a simple sausage casserole. I prepared all the ingredients (including browning the sausages) in advance and laid them out on the kitchen table. Everything was done cold and safe. I sat Izzy down on her booster seat and we started.
She soon got the idea of putting everything in the casserole dish, and only put one piece of carrot in her mouth. She was a little over-keen with the water, but it was generally edible (unfortunately Izzy didn’t east any, but that’s always a risk with a toddler!)
After the promising start we decided to invest in a FunPod. If you’ve not seen one of these before it’s basically a small tower with an internal platform which keeps your child enclosed and lets them reach the work surfaces. Izzy doesn’t like to keep still for long so we were a bit worried she would hate being restricted but our fears were unfounded and for the first week or so we couldn’t keep her out of it. One tip we found was that giving her a cloth is a great way to keep her entertained as she will wipe the worktop while we do something else.
We’ve tried cooking lots of things, some more successful than others. As we both got bolder I’ve done less rigid preparation, as quite often cooking is a spur of the moment thing. Sometimes Izzy will just want to help with the cooking we hadn’t planned to involve her in, which generally we can do. Our favourite recipe is one from the My Daddy Cooks site – No Bake Chocolate Tiffin Cake. There’s lots of mixing, bashing, mess and it’s a great spoon-licking recipe.
Eventually we decided to let Izzy help out with food on the hob. This obviously takes a lot more supervision than other cooking, and you will have to use your judgement as to whether your child can safely do it. Keeping the FunPod at a distance can help, and we have an electric hob with no flames. I had Izzy helping with omelets (mainly just pouring the egg into the pan), and also rice crispie marshmallow squares (a very low heat meant the pan wasn’t too hot). Izzy’s very aware of hot things and is generally very good. I think letting her near hot cooking under supervision makes her generally safer when not helping out.
If you’re interested in cooking with your toddler I’d say go for it. It will be a lot of mess, and not all results will be good, but it’s a lot of fun and you may surprise yourself how much they can do. Izzy’s not yet 2 and can’t say more then the odd word, but can help make rice pudding!