by Teresa Kolvek
Even a toddler can wash wash vegetables or put silverware by the plate. Plus the kitchen is a new world to explore.
Anyone who has tried to cook a meal while watching a toddler knows how difficult a chore this can be. I know that if I don't keep my little girl busy and entertained, she's either off in another room scaling the furniture, clinging to my legs and screaming for attention, or grabbing for hot pots and kitchen shears. So, here are some ways I've found to keep her safe and happy while I get dinner ready.
Have a cabinet for her to explore. I keep the bottom three shelves of my pantry stocked with things like boxed (sealed) macaroni and cheese, cocoa mix, small canned goods, dry cereal -- things she can take out, stack, rearrange, sort, etc. We even got her a little plastic grocery cart, so she can shop in the pantry to her heart's content.
Set her up in a high chair with a big bowl of corn meal or oats, and some plastic measuring cups and spoons. She has a ball pouring, measuring, and stirring. Note: This can get messy but sweeps up fairly easily; or you could use a drop cloth if your floor is carpeted.
Play with refrigerator magnets. Toddler-safe magnets can be lots of fun and provide good entertainment. We bought her a barn magnet puzzle kit (as an alternative to potentially unsafe regular magnets) that plays songs when she matches the pieces; it's cute and she enjoys it.
Stickers are always a good diversion...if you don't mind peeling them off the cabinets!
Give her a task that can be done on the floor or in a high chair, like "sorting" the mail. This makes her feel as though she is helping out.
Let her stand on a footstool at the counter and help to prepare the meal. She can do things like tear up lettuce, or place chopped vegetables into a bowl, or put shredded cheese on the lasagna.
Play in water. Position her on a stool or chair at the sink and let her "wash" some plastic dishes or silverware.
Give her a kid-sized broom and let her sweep the kitchen floor (hopefully she'll still enjoy this type of thing when she gets older!).
Turn on the radio so she can sing and dance to the music. Note: This is much more fun (for both of you) if you join in, too!
Offer food. If all else fails, and she doesn't want to go along with any of these activities, I know it's because she is hungry and I give her a light snack. I don't want to spoil her appetite for the upcoming meal, so make it something healthy and not too filling, like diced fruit.
Cooking with toddlers is a challenge and a half. Try some of these tips, and also remember to have fun! They're only this age once.
Teresa Kolvek and her husband, Tony, are the proud parents of a beautiful and spirited toddler named Amelia. Visit Teresa's website at www.toddlerdish.com for great information, tips, and recipes for toddlers.
Copyright © Teresa Koilvak. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.