12 Things You Didn’t Know A Toddler Can Do In The Kitchen

Would you like to teach your kid to cook but don’t know where to start? Here are 12 things that even the youngest children can do in the kitchen and a free cheat sheet to put on your fridge.

Would you like to teach your toddler or preschooler how to cook but don't know where to start? Here is a list of cooking skills young children can learn. Includes free cheat sheet.

I was 21 years old the first time I stood in front of a stove. I was abroad, all on my own for the first time in my life, and I didn’t know how to boil an egg, cook pasta and forget about complex baking.

Luckily, I was in Canada where you can get all kinds of pre-cooked meals from the freezers at the supermarkets.

I’m not proud of this, but I grew up an only child of overprotective parents. They thought I would chop my finger off, burn myself, or the house if I was in the kitchen.

Like most Colombian kids, I also had a nanny who had the meals ready when I arrived home from school, and my parents would cook on the weekends. I never needed to learn. Once I was in my teens, I got used to this and I was not interested anymore

My parents are amazing, and I know they did this because they thought they had to protect me from everything. I’m sure they never thought I would have to learn to cook by my own while I was living abroad.

Now, years later, I can say I’m a fantastic cook (ask my husband and family), and I love it

It was a true challenge getting to this point. I was  very frustrated at first. I almost burnt my dorm when I was living in Switzerland (I had to cook there because the food was really expensive!).

When I had my daughter and started reading about Montessori, I decided I would teach her to cook from the early years.

12 Ways To Involve Young Children In Cooking

When Tutu turned one year old, my husband constructed a kind of learning tower for her (the best gift he has given me!), and this was the beginning of our adventures in cooking together.

Not only is she learning to cook and learning real life skills but we are creating amazing memories together.

I also discovered that involving her in cooking is the best way to avoid meltdowns when I am busy cooking. Not to mention all the literacy and math development that can be achieved by cooking together with your little one (a subject for another blog post to come).

Cooking together with my toddler has been an incredible learning process for both of us. And it is really rewarding to see how proud Tutu is every time she learns a new skill.

Here are some tasks that you can give a toddler or preschooler in the kitchen. Don’t forget to download the free cheat sheet at the end of this post and paste it to your fridge.

Toddler washing vegetables, juicing oranges and cutting tomatoes.

1. Spreading

Give your little one a butter knife and let him make his breakfast or snack. Spreading bread or crackers with butter, honey, marmalade, cream cheese, etc. is something even a young toddler can do. It takes a lot of practice but they’ll become better and faster over time.

I have to admit that when we started doing this, I wanted to take the knife on my hand and spread the butter myself. I’ve learned to be patient, and it has paid off.

2. Washing and scrubbing

Washing and scrubbing vegetables and fruits is another easy and fun task you can give to your toddler.

I typically give Tutu a bowl full of water and a bit of soap  (my mother is a food engineer and she always recommends using soap to wash off germs and bacteria). We use the bowl to save water because she can wash a tomato for hours, wasting a lot of water. I exchange the water once and let her rinse the fruits and veggies.

3. Juicing

If you want to make orange juice or need lemon juice for a recipe let your kid help you. It helps strengthen little hand muscles and it’s fun. We have this Orange juicer and we love it.

4. Cutting

Start by teaching your toddler how to cut using a butter knife. When you are introducing your kid to cutting start with soft vegetables and fruits such as bananas, strawberries, and avocado.

My daughter loves helping me to cut when we are cooking together. I know it takes her longer than it would take me, but she is developing real life skills by doing it. As your child gets better at cutting, he can move on to cut harder foods and using other types of knives like a nylon knives.

toddler shredding a carrot, peeling and cracking an egg.

5. Mashing

Are you making a banana cake, mashed potatoes or maybe guacamole? Invite your child to help you. Tutu enjoys playing working with different tools in the kitchen.

This is another task that helps strengthen those little hand muscles and prepare them for writing

6. Peeling

Start with peeling fruits such as mandarin orange or hard boiled eggs with hands.
With older toddlers and preschoolers you can try introducing a peeler to peel vegetables and fruits.

7. Shredding

Start with soft fruits like apples and then move on to cheese and harder vegetables.

My daughter is obsessed with the shredder. In fact, I can’t use it because she won’t let me: “I do it, Mama, I do it!” she says to me every time I take it out of the kitchen drawers. She just graduated from shedding apples and started shredding carrots and cheese.

8. Cracking eggs

Let your child help you to crack eggs to make muffins or scrambled eggs. It will be messy at first but they’ll get better with practice. Teach them to listen for the cracking sound and how to open the egg once they crack it.

I haven’t cracked an egg in months! As soon as Tutu sees an egg coming out of the fridge, she starts jumping around and stretches her hands to get the egg.

Toddler mixing, scooping, pouring

9. Pouring

Start with simple pouring like transferring water or juice to a glass.

Once they master the basic motions, let them help you pouring milk and water to make cakes, muffins or doughs.

10. Mixing and stirring

Are you making a batter for pancakes? Do you need to mix some dry ingredients for baking? Invite your little one to help you. They will love it! My daughter has a child sized whisk which is easy for her to use. And she loves doing this job.

Probably you still need to stir afterward, but you can turn this into a learning experience. Just tell your child you are going to take turns mixing which also teach them to share and learn to wait their turn.

11. Scooping

Let your child transfer the muffin batter into the muffin molds with a spoon. It is the perfect chance to turn those practical life exercises into real life tasks.

12. Kneading

Pizza dough, cookie dough or only play dough. We make all kind of sensory doughs and my daughter always loves kneading (do this only if the dough is not hot!).

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Your Turn

Do you cook with your children? What do they like to do in the kitchen?

Note: The activities on this page should be done under parental supervision and discretion should be used to determine if this activity is age appropriate for your child.

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9 comments

  1. Yuliya says:

    These tasks look great for kids to do! My son loves to help in the kitchen, too! It’s amazing what our little ones are capable of, even so young as long as we give them the proper tools! 🙂

    • isabel368@gmail.com says:

      Exactly Yuliya! Before I was familiar with Montessori I had no idea such a young children could do so much. I’m surprised every day with all the things my daughter is capable of.

  2. Brittany says:

    Yes! I have my two-year-old in the kitchen cooking away already and it is AWESOME! She can make scrambled eggs from start to finish completely by herself (with supervision). She has learned to tweak recipes towards her preferences (more cheese, please!) I have also found that she eats more. Like she actually eats if she has had a part in creating it. I love your tips. Great post!

    • isabel368@gmail.com says:

      It is amazing how capable children are. I think it is really nice that at only 2 years old she already can make her own version of recipes according to her taste! And I agree, my daughter also eats better if she participates in cooking.

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