Friday 23 October 2009

Where Food Comes From; Teach Your Toddler Tip Two

It is Friday again already and time for another tip to get toddlers learning about food. In our house we have spent much of the week cooking vast quantities of vegetables we dug up at the weekend, so it only seems approriate that I talk a little bit about ways to get your toddler involved in food preparation.

The vast majority of the meals we prepare have vegetables chopped into small chunks and served in a sauce, whether its a pasta sauce, curry, casserole or stew. Most of these meals get wolfed down without a second thought but the trouble with this sort of meal is that toddlers have no idea what the ingredients actually are. When they help to make the meal they get to see the vegetables before they are chopped up and know what they are eating.

One of the things our Little Garden Helpers enjoy doing most in the kitchen is washing the vegetables. I usually put a washing up bowl on the floor with some tea towels underneath to soak up any spills, with a few spare tea towels on hand to catch any larger spills. This is great for their learning as they see the carrots with the leaves on the end and the potatoes covered in soil. They love splashing in the water and chasing runaway potatoes across the kitchen floor.

Garden Girl also loves helping to chop vegetables. She sees it as a very grown up job and treats it as a real responsibilty, which makes her feel like she is contributing properly to the meal making. With the softer things like mushrooms or avocado a blunt toddler knife is sufficient to cut through, but for harder vegetables like carrots I will boil or steam them whole first. Once they are cool Garden Girl will chop them up while I deal with the meat and then I'll add them to the dish a bit later than usual to get warmed through. Don't worry about losing nutrients by pre boiling the vegetables; just use the water for the stock or add it to the sauce and simmer for longer or add cornflour to thicken it.

Another great idea for the older toddler which I picked up from CBeebies 'I Can Cook' is using toddler scissors to chop some vegetables like spring onions or just ripping things like sweet peppers apart. (And if you haven't seen this show, I would recommend it for some fabulous ideas on meals your child can cook pretty much from start to finish).

If you mash potatoes or carrots and swedes, get your toddler to help. Garden Boy loves the opportunity to crush things and he gets to see how the consistency and texture of the vegetables have changed. Garden Boy will also quite happily put peelings and chopped leaves in the bin for me (or on some days he will scatter them over the kitchen floor to create a lovely carpet of greenery) but it keeps him occupied while Garden Girl chops as he isn't yet controlled enough to help her.

Garden Girl takes a lot of pride in her cooking and loves it when she can tell Daddy she made the dinner. She is also a lot more eager to try something new if she has helped to cook it. The kitchen can become a little messy but I have a lot more fun cooking when our Little Helpers are involved. There are so many more giggles than usual and making dinner becomes an enjoyable activity rather than an everyday chore. Only Garden Dad might bear a slight frown when I hand him a broom on his return from work, though our Little Helpers are surprisingly eager to help out with this too.


  1. I fear I may have to start watching 'I can cook'. Unfortunately the strength of the ideas are in stark contrast to the truly appalling songs...

  2. Hello LittleGreenFingers,

    You are right. I have to grit my teeth through it all but the recipe ideas are great for little ones to be fully involved.