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Cooking with Your Toddler

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Don’t worry. I’m not about to tell you how easy it is to include your toddler in the process of pulling together a complicated meal by giving him a bowl and merrily singing catchy nursery rhymes. Anyone who has ever tried that with a toddler knows that the bowl winds up thrown across the room and the nursery rhyme quickly morphs into something along the lines of, “One-two-three-four-five, once I caught a fish alive, six-seven-please-stop-grabbing-the-cat-so-I-can-slice-this-eggplant….”

Toddlers Just Want to be Part of the Action

What do toddlers want in the kitchen? They want to be a part of the action. If your toddler is anything like mine, the whole empty bowl and nursery rhyme thing is going to wear thin quickly and you’ll wind up not getting anything done unless you either ignore your toddler or do all of your cooking with your toddler on your hip.

The Meal Solution

The trick is to find recipes that you can prepare that will give your toddler a sense of participation and accomplishment. Both of my kids love to cook, but they don’t want the mundane tasks assigned to them. It dawned on me that there were certain meals I could pull together -with the help of my toddler- that required a little prep time but then were a lot of fun for everyone involved.

Pizza Night: Buy some small pizza crusts, sauce, cheese, and a variety of toppings. Put all the toppings in bowls and allow your toddler to build his own pizza. This was a surefire way to get my toddler to eat his entire dinner.

Sandwich Night: Bread, cheese, and a bunch of different deli meats and other toppings spread out allows your toddler to make his own yummy creation. You may be surprised by what kids will choose when given the option; I had no idea my son liked olives until he grabbed a handful and joyfully piled them on his sandwich.

Pasta Night: Make a few different types of pasta, a couple different sauces, and add some bowls of cheese in grated and shredded varieties. Your toddler gets the choice of pasta, can dish up his own sauce (with a little help from you, of course), and can choose his own cheese to pile on top of the pasta.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that every night should include a veritable buffet where your toddler can pick and choose what he wants to eat. On the other hand, if you are looking for a way to get your toddler interested in cooking and pulling meals together, try one of these simple solutions and be sure to have a camera on hand. There is something incredibly cute about a toddler joyfully choosing toppings for a pizza, after all.

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