Thursday, May 22, 2014

6 Ideas for Cooking with a 1 year old

I spend hours of every day cooking. Yesterday my sweet Chinese neighbor saw me outside at 6:00PM. She looked at me really confused, "But don't you usually cook dinner inside now?" I laughed. It's true...every stay-at-home-mom seems to go inside at 5:30 to cook. It just happens that yesterday we got dinner at the chemistry building. :)

So what do I do with Madeleine during these hours that I spend cooking? Well, sometimes I let her scream at me the whole time. Sometimes I put on Curious George. Sometimes she'll "cook" at her kitchen, but frequently I have her cook with me. She started helping me right before she turned 1. From my own googling, I know that there isn't a lot of advice for cooking with a 1 year old, so here is mine. 

1.  When baking, substitute bananas for eggs if possible.
 Madeleine is really good at smashing bananas with a pastry blender. When she gets sick of that she uses her hands.
*Bonus: Without eggs, the dough is safe to eat!*

2. Have your toddler hand you the produce out of the bags. 
I prewash as much as possible when we get home from the store. She loves this, especially if there is a rubber band she has to get off.

3. They can peel off the skin of an onion and rip apart lettuce and celery.
Madeleine is awesome at ripping things up. She rips up mushrooms too. 

4. Make a sample plate of as many ingredients as possible.
While I'm chopping, I put aside a few pieces of each thing and place it on her plate. While I'm on the stove,  Madeleine sits on the counter or her stool and tries the different foods. I love this for several reasons. 1. It gets her out of the way when I really can't have her around. 2. It keeps her from screaming while I'm ignoring her. 3. It introduces and exposes her to foods more times. Isn't there some rumor that after you try something 20 times that you don't like, you'll learn to like it?  Well, if that's true, there is two exposures to each food. Once while cooking, and again at dinner. 

5.  If you're really patient, you can let them wash the veggies.
I've only done this a few times, but you can put a big bowl on the floor and let them "wash" the fruits and veggies. It's a mess, but it keeps them quiet.

6. You can let them pour stuff in.
I don't usually let Madeleine do this yet, since she's only 16 months, but I do let her pour in less messy things like chocolate chips. (And if she misses the bowl a bit, I know she'll find the ones she drops and eat them.)
She helps me enough that we made her own apron.

I definitely don't have her help with every meal, but I do aim for one meal a day.

Do you have any tips or like any of these ideas?