A 2-year-old sits, quietly spreading jam on a cracker. He’s concentrating very carefully on completing this task. Then, he eats the cracker with great satisfaction. This is a typical scene in a Montessori classroom and household, where even toddlers prepare their own snacks.
Can toddlers really cook? If you provide appropriate tasks, even little ones can help in the kitchen. Children are much more skilled than we give them credit for. So, why not try some of these practical cooking activities that will build your child’s confidence, independence, and fine motor skills?
- Cutting: Don’t worry! I won’t suggest you hand your little one a butcher knife and wish them luck. Instead, give them a butter knife or something similar. Have your toddler slice bananas, peeled cucumber, long slices of papaya, and other soft fruits and vegetables. Then, ask your child to arrange the slices on a plate and enjoy their snack! For an extra step, have your child place a toothpick in each slice of fruit. This way, they can offer fruit to family members and friends.
- Using Cookie Cutters: Cookie cutters are another fun kitchen tool that doesn’t get nearly enough use. You can use them to make everyday foods exciting and fun! As a bonus, your child will also build concentration and fine motor skills. Off your child items like sliced bread, large, evenly-sliced pieces of watermelon and cantaloupe, and similar foods. Then, demonstrate how to use the cookie cutter to make a shape.
- Stirring: Little ones love stirring when they get the chance. So, allow your child to practice this skill when making a dip or spread for a snack. Or, invite your child to help you stir the dry ingredients when you’re making pancakes or baked goods. You can even add some honey to plain yogurt and let your toddler stir it up on their own before eating it as a snack. Stirring is a perfect way to get your toddler interested in cooking.
- Ripping: Getting a salad ready is the perfect time for your child to practice their ripping skills. Ask your toddler to help you rip up lettuce and spinach for a salad. They’ll love handling the foods with their hands and helping you make something.
- Spreading: Peanut butter on graham crackers or apple slices, cream cheese on a bagel, jam on a cracker: use whatever you’d like so that your toddler can practice spreading! Try using different spreads and spreading surfaces so that your child practices using different amounts of pressure and strategies for spreading. The best part? They get a yummy snack out of it.
For the best experience, provide a quality, sturdy stool for your child to use in the kitchen or have them work at a child-sized table. In addition, remember to teach your child routines such as washing their hands before and after eating, leaving dishes in the sink, and more. Many Montessori families also leave child-appropriate dishes and snacks accessible in lower cabinets so that their children can practice cooking whenever they’d like!