If home is where the heart is and the kitchen is the heart of a home, figuring out ways to get Baby involved in the kitchen also get them participating in the heart of family life. It can be tempting to worry about the mess if you’re thinking of inviting your family’s littlest member to play in the kitchen, but the more you can take a step back to let them make mistakes and spill everywhere, the more they'll learn from the experience.
Before you get started
Getting a toddler cooking stool set up can make easier for Baby to walk right up to the counter and work alongside you. Toddler stools allow for a little bit more independence for tots in the kitchen, and offer safety features a simple chair or step stool might not. And while you’re thinking about safety, now is the time to start introducing the concepts of heat and danger in your kitchen to your toddler. If you haven’t already, explain in detail the dangers in the room, like the surface of the stove, hot water, and sharp objects.
Lastly, find a fun way to protect your clothes with aprons or smocks that make time in the kitchen fun. There are plenty of ideas for specific ideas to try with toddlers in the kitchen, but ultimately, what Baby wants is to be close to you and do what you’re doing, so the mundane kitchen prep can be fun too!
Fun with measuring
Trying out some activities with measuring cups, bowl, and spoons is a great first stop on your kitchen adventure. Take bowls of varying sizes and fill them with different ingredients that create a range of textures. Bring out the measuring cups and measuring spoons and move the ingredients around from bowl to bowl. If Baby is starting to count already, this is a great exercise for practicing counting, but even if they isn’t, it’s great for honing their coordination, it’s a fun sensory activity, and it gives them some practice starting to think about proportions.
Learning colors and sorting skills
Baby may be doing this using any number of different activities these days, but using the kitchen as somewhere to learn these things adds a tasty new twist. One especially sweet method involves placing many small bowls on the counter and having Baby sort a bag of colorful candy into the different bowls. The two of you can say the names of the colors or shapes as you sort.
Guess the taste
This yummy game will teach Baby new words and new ways to describe the tastes they may already be familiar with. Fill small bowls with salt, peppers, lemon, honey and any spices and tastes you can think of. As you dip your finger into each one, make it a game to guess the taste. “Salty!” “Sweet!” “Spicy!” “Sour!”
Making bread dough is the ultimate craft project – a unique sensory experience that you can do a little art with, and then eat! For beginners like Baby, there is a two-ingredient recipe and it couldn’t be easier. To make this two-ingredient recipe you’ll need 1 cup of self-raising flour and ⅔ a cup of Greek yogurt. Put these in a bowl and let Baby mix and mash and roll and squish. This sensory experience is also a chance to get their hands dirty. Once the dough has formed, you and Baby can roll it out and cut it into any shapes you’d like. If you have fun-shaped cookie cutters, those work well, or you can let them use their imagination. From there, you can bake as is, or add toppings of any kind. You’ll bake at 150 degrees until the dough starts to brown.
It’s a classic in any location, but in the kitchen, it can be fun to play the variety of the game that focuses on teaching Baby common words that are specific to the room. Where else could Baby spy a stove? Or a frying pan? Or a yummy dinner coming their way? You can play this while Baby is eating meals, or while you’re cooking.
Get the band back together
But be careful – once Baby knows what fun making music with pots and pans is, they may never go back. Other tools like wooden spoons and blunt, light metal instruments can also add to the fun and make a nice racket. Play music and interact with Baby by tapping metal and wooden spoons on a variety of pots, pans, and plastic bowls. Talk about the different sounds you hear. Introduce words like “same,” “different,” “soft,” and “loud.”
There’s plenty of serious business that goes on in the kitchen – as the place meals are prepared, it may be one of the most important rooms in your home. But that doesn’t mean you and Baby can’t have a blast there, too, now and then.