Do you have a “helpful” toddler? In case you missed it: I’ve got two. They love to be of assistance, even if what they think they are helping with is actually not helpful at all, lol. So instead of refusing the help, or politely thanking them and shooing them away, I thought, “Why not put their helpfulness to good use?”
Thus began the H2 Cooking School (that’s H squared, btw).
Toddlers in the kitchen are not for the faint of heart or for the OCD clean moms. It is messy. Very very messy. It’s also really fun, once you allow yourself to let go of the stress of the mess. So put down an old sheet or drop cloth, get out extra paper towels and newspaper, and allow yourself an hour of parenting magic. (Fully knowing that it’s 20 minutes of fun and 40 minutes of cleanup.)
When incorporating my kiddos in kitchen activities, I love to use eggs because they are the perfect teaching food for the twins’ age. They’re also the perfect food for eating. Packed with nutrients like iron, folate, B12, and 13g of protein per 2 whole eggs, there’s no limit to creative ways you can use eggs. Eggs can be used as the focal point of a quick and easy meal, like omelettes, quiche, strata, or frittatas or as a boost of protein and flavour in family-faves like French toast, pancakes, muffins, or sandwiches. You can find tons of other recipe ideas here.
The best time of day for the Twins’ Cooking School is usually mid-day so we can prep their lunch together, or even after their midday nap. It’s super easy to whip together a team French toast, which is as delicious as a 4 p.m. snack as it is as an 8 a.m. breakfast. Here’s a breakdown of our day:
1 // Food Handling
Skills Practiced: Hygiene and Hand Washing
We start our kitchen adventure going through proper hand-washing techniques. Don’t stress yourself out with the “proper” part of this; getting your toddler to turn on the water and acknowledge soap is a great starting point. It just so happens that the twins are obsessed with washing their hands thanks to the tiny sinks and soap dispensers at daycare. They actually get upset when I tell them they can’t have any more soap (after we’ve washed approximately 7 times).
2 // Recipe Prep
Skills Practiced: Counting, Identifying, Sorting
Once we’re as clean as two toddlers and their chaotic mama can be, we turn our focus to the ingredients. I like to break things up into small chunks of time (like 10-15 second blocks), to capitalize on that two-year-old focus aka lack-thereof. We start by naming the foods we’re using: eggs, broccoli, cheese, milk, etc. as well as basic kitchen tools they recognize: bowl, spoon, cup, etc. I will try to throw in one or two new words – today it was pancake and mixer (yes, I know that’s not the right name but it worked for them, lol). We focus on each word for the allotted 10-15 seconds, then move on, coming back to our favourites.
hen we count the eggs, out of the carton, back in the carton, and separate the ones we will use. They totally get a kick out of removing the eggs and then placing them back in the carton.
3 // Basic Kitchen Skills
Skills Practiced: Stirring, Mixing, Pouring
Time to get your hands dirty, mama! This part is a great exercise in releasing control and letting your kids really experience the magic of cooking. We practice cracking eggs into the bowl and today, I showed them how to separate egg whites. Spoiler alert: the skill did NOT translate well 😀 By far their favourite part of the whole experience was mixing/beating/whisking the eggs. We could have “mix-y mix-y mix-y”d All. Day. Long. (Fun fact: they now ask for bowls and mixies for pretend play. My work here is done.) Sorry, I digress. So, we mixed. We added in our shredded cheese and chopped broccoli, we mixed some more. Then we poured into an unheated frying pan and baking pan.
Finally, we tidied up the leftover ingredients, moved to another round of handwashing, and then I plop them ever so lovingly behind the baby gate to the kitchen and let them whisk themselves silly while I actually cook an omelette, french toast or pancakes.
4 // Plating
Skills Practiced: Creative Direction, Cutting Shapes, Serious Art Skillz
Invest in a set of cookie cutters in basic shapes and you’ll thank me later. I got a set with hearts, circles, triangles, and stars and my kids basically looked at me like I was a rock star when I showed them how to cut recognizable shapes in their pancakes. The texture of French toast made it the easiest option for this, though they were equally as excited to shove the extra pieces of a broccoli and cheese omelette into their mouths (definitely my children).
I don’t mind the snacking because I know that they’re getting a good dose of veggies and protein. Studies actually show that our bodies better absorb nutrients from veggies when eggs are eaten with them! The high-quality protein in eggs also helps to build and maintain muscle and to keep a healthy immune system – super important when you have two growing minds and bodies! We then use whatever food survived the snack attack to place artistically on their plates. Finally, we sit down and enjoy an alfresco style lunch together on the play mat.
5 // Clean Up
Skills Practiced: Tidying Up, Dishwashing & Drying, Wiping the Counter
This is the least favourite part of the process, but the most necessary for your sanity, and to teach your kids they can’t just cause the mess. They have to clean it up, too. The OCD in me wants to do this right after the food is made, but the twin-mom in me knows that if I deny my hangry terrors any food that they can see and smell, it’s my own funeral. So we eat first, then we clean.
Luckily, they both seem to really enjoy wiping things with cloths. Not sure why as they do NOT get that from me. But hey, I’ll take it. Once everything is toddler-clean, it’s usually time for a nap. Then it’s time for me to make it mama-clean, and FINALLY, sit down to the glorious piece of French toast I managed to ration for myself.
Note to self: need to stock up on more eggs.
Be sure to visit Eggs.ca or visit Get Cracking on Instagram or Facebook for a collection of quick, easy and nutritious egg recipes that you can create for your family, anytime.
Tell me, how do you involve your kids in the kitchen? Have you tried any of these ideas, or maybe have some new ones to share with me? Let me know in the comments!