In our home, we encourage our 3-year-old Valkyrie to be as independent as possible. Often I have a toddler following me in the kitchen as well. As much as I want her to have fun, I also want her to learn simple life skills early. This is why we encourage her as often as possible to help out. One of the easiest ways to do this is to encourage your toddler in the kitchen as well as in any other task they are capable of.
If you saw my post on toddlers and chores, you have seen how helpful my little one can be. Yes, it takes a bit more time. I could do it more quickly by myself. However, there is something rewarding for both myself and her in taking more time. While I have nothing more than my own experiences with the Valkyrie, I feel that this only helps to boost her budding self-esteem. I also feel that it curbs some of the frustration she has in her own limited scope of control.
The Power of A Child
As parents, we know that to some extent our children rule our lives. We plan our events around the sitter and their care. We make sure that they get to events. This is not to mention the way we cook to accommodate those picky little eaters.
None of these are bad things in and of themselves. As we all know, we have to make sure that none of these things take control of our lives. We don’t let our children eat whatever they want. We make them try new things. Families attempt to balance their schedule so that the needs of all family members are met.
For a toddler this is hard. In many cases, they are still learning not to give in to every desire. As parents, we tell them no. Their inability to completely understand or appreciate our desires to help can often leave them feeling helpless. This is an age where they want to do everything and try everything. And we should encourage this so that our children grow and become stronger adults than we are.
Afterall, we all want our children to learn from our mistakes and fly higher than we have right?
While our kitchen isn’t easily accessible to our toddler. We have found many ways to modify or adapt so that she can assist us. As you can see, our kitchen isn’t huge or fancy. We don’t have a lot of space and it is a little cluttered. However, we do have the work table. Our Valkyrie can sit in the chair and work there.
We also have her step stools. We have a purple one for the kitchen, a pink one for the bathroom, and my old silver one for higher things she may want to reach. At her current height, the step stool is wonderful for reaching the counter or helping me mix things in the kitchen aid.
In addition, I try to keep at least some of the kitchen utensils within her reach. We are also attempting to reinstitute a simpler version of Freya’s dish stand. I wish I still had a picture of it. It was just a simple pink table about as tall as her with two levels. We put utensils on one and plates/cups on the top.
I plan on having her both retrieve and put away her own dishes. She used to love this at the old house and I’m sad that it’s taken me this long to revive this toddler diversion.
My girl has a variety of tools we can use in the kitchen. Some of them haven’t been used yet. I try not to introduce her to too many new things at a time. Most of the things we have are from Walmart and were less than $3 dollars each. Just small handheld versions of the tools we are all used to using.
- Egg separator– My Valkyrie helps me crack eggs for breakfast fairly regularly now. She’s still a bit afrid to open them herself, but I’ve started showing her this. I’m hoping that really soon I’ll be able to get her to open the egg and drop it into the egg separator.
- Sifter– I mostly let her play with this as we don’t have a ton of uses for it. We don’t use flour, so don’tn’t really need a sifter. However, I want her to be familiar with kitchen tools. Sometimes I let her sift the splenda or the almond flour for fun and because she likes watching it go through the little holes. Ours is a little tupperware giveaway I received when I was a distributor. It is simple and easy for her to hold.
- Whisk– Right now we don’t have a whisk, but my daughter loves this one. She had a little purple rubber one. She mostly used it to play in the eggs before I cooked them on the stove or to help me mix liquids.
- Grater– We have two of these. The first is for cooking the other is to make our homemade laundry soap. She loves helping me to grate. This is another tool we don’t use often, but when she wants to help I pull it out and let her have at it.
- Melon Baller– Sometimes she plays with this like its a phone, but on the occasion that I buy a watermelon or other soft fruit, my valkyrie will help me ball out little portions for each of us. We also have used this in the past to help her scoop out cookie dough.
- Tongs– Another tool we haven’t used yet, but I plan to introduce soon. While Freya does help me with some things on the stove, she has a healthy fear of burning herself. I’m not sure why, she’s never hurt herself on it, but I’m appreciative of her caution. Often she wants to help me put food on the plate and its too hot. I’m hoping this will give her one more opportunity to help mama.
- Two Spatula– I have both a rubber spatula for mixing and flipping burgers. We have used the green one, but the blue is waiting until she’s a little more comfortable helping me at the stove. And of course capable. I just saw this and wanted to make sure I bought it while they were available.
- Child Chopsticks– The last one is not exactly for cooking. It is a learner set for teaching a child to use chopsticks. I got this at an oriental market, but I know you can find them online. Usually under training chopsticks.
Tips & Tricks
The biggest thing to remember when introducing your toddler to the kitchen is not to go too fast and not to introduce too many things at once. While we want to share our passions or teach our children valuable life skills, we don’t want to overwhelm them. I have to particularly be careful of this with the Valkyrie. She is very sensitive and easily overwhelmed. She doesn’t like a lot of change at once. Moving to Indy was a nightmare for that reason.
As a parent, you also have to be aware of what your child is capable of. Some children are cautious enough to be around a stove. I wouldn’t trust the Valkyrie alone at the stove, but I do let her help me stir the eggs as they are cooking. I do let her push the veggies around in the skillet when I make stir-fry. She knows not to touch the pan, but it took my awareness of her skills, watching her when I cooked, seeing if she went for the stove. All of those observations allowed me to determine that she was capable of doing that. Taking the time to make those observations has allowed me to determine which tasks she is ready for now and which tasks we have to wait to attempt.
PIck one thing that you think your child can do and focus on that for a while. The first thing I ever let Freya do was mix batter. Cracking eggs developed out of a desire on her part. She asked to help me and I let her try. Sure we made a mess of one egg when she slammed it down on the counter, but she learned. The second time, she knocked it so softly that it didn’t even crack. It took a few tries for her to determine the right amount of force, still does on some days. However, she is learning and each time she tries she gets better at it.
And I love to see that look of pride on her face.