How to promote cooking skills with toddlers
Children under two years old love to get messy and this can in turn provide the opportunity for some fun cooking experiences. Although babies and toddlers are less mobile or fully coordinated, there are still plenty of ways for them to get involved with cooking!
Children love to get stuck into a new activity so it is important to make sure you have everything ready and to hand before introducing the activity! Promote good hygiene by washing hands and surfaces before beginning the activity. Ensure each child has a clear area to work on, allowing them some independence and ownership of the activity.
Toddlers learning about safety;
Toddlers are very curious and are unaware of danger. Make sure to keep any sharp items such as knives or tip openers out of reach. Anything you can pre-cut, do so prior to the activity. Talk to the children about safety whilst cooking, explaining if items are “sharp” or “hot.” Children should be kept away from heated appliances such as ovens and hobs. Once again explain to the child that it is “hot” and supervise at all times. It is a good idea to show the child the product before and after the cooking process, this helps them to understand change and effect.
Toddlers washing fruit and vegetables;
Children as young as twelve months can take part in washing and preparing food. Give the children a large bowl of water and show them how to rub to fruit or vegetables under the water. Explain to the children that the food needs to be clean so we can eat it and stay healthy. Cleaning the fruit gives adults the opportunity to talk to the children about where the fruit and vegetables have come from. This supports a child’s early knowledge of the world in which they live.
Fine motor skills;
Carrying out tasks such as sprinkling flour or decorations on cakes and biscuits develops a child’s fine motor skills. It promotes the pincer grip, a skill needed later in life for refined mark making. Toddlers may begin holding the materials in a palmer grasp; however lots of opportunities for practise will develop the child’s hand and finger movements. Activities such as transferring grains of rice or small beans into a bowl will help support these movements.
Gross motor skills;
Gross motor skills can also be developed through cooking with young children. Mixing ingredients using a wooden spoon and rolling out dough with a rolling pin will support and promote gross motor movements in the arms and shoulders. Babies can be encouraged to practise these skills with a large mixing bowl and wooden spoon, ensuring the mixture is thin enough to stir easily. Adults can hold the top of the spoon helping the child to mix the ingredients if the mixture is too stiff; but the adult should not take over.
As you can see cooking with toddlers can have its advantages, incorporating cooking into your routine would be beneficial to children of all ages. Why not invite parents or grandparents in to bake with the children and make a recipe book to share at home and nursery.