While a lot of Daisy’s play and activities centre around toys and play equipment we’ve recently started to involve her in some basic food preparation activity; encouraging her to join in when we’re preparing vegetables for a meal, letting her stir milk into a drink and to use a small butter knife to butter her toast.
These activities help a toddler to practise hand-eye co-ordination and developing their dexterity. By 20 – 24 months a toddler has the skills to try some simple cooking activities that last 5 – 15 minutes, depending on the toddler’s attention span and level of interest.
Wherever possible select an activity that the child can complete and participate in themselves. They will learn more by doing than by watching an adult. Planning and simple preparations are required for a cooking activity to be successful so that once you start a cooking activity you stay with the child until all is complete.
For our first two cooking activities with Daisy we used a sheet of ready-made puff pastry. The first activity involved Mummy, Daddy and Daisy all cooking together. To keep Daisy interested we had already cleaned the surfaces, prepared all of the equipment and the ingredients so that the activity would be quick.
Together Mummy, Daddy and Daisy unrolled the pastry and spread Marmite across the its surface. Then, using her painting skills, Daisy spread beaten egg around all the edges with a pastry brush.
On top of the Marmite they all sprinkled the grated cheese. Together they the rolled the pastry to a long roll. Rolling something was a new technique so Mummy and Daddy did the majority of this but Daisy did join in. The roll then needed to be cut into portions to make cheesy whirls. Mummy demonstrated and Daisy copied, Daddy helped Daisy and the portions were put onto a baking tray ready to cook.
A quick hand washing and Daisy wanted to go off to play with her farm animals. But before she did, Mummy showed Daisy the oven and explained that the cheesy whirls were going to go into the oven to cook. Daisy signed ‘Hot’ and knew that she had to stay away from the oven while the cheesy whirls were cooking. As they emerged from the oven we shared with Daisy that sense of achievement experienced by all cooks (well, most of the time). Once the cheesy whirls had cooled we let Daisy investigate them and we all enjoyed tasting them.
Building on this start, Mummy did a second activity with Daisy, again using a sheet of ready-made puff pastry. Daisy had a circular pastry cutter and a bun tin so she enjoyed cutting out circles of pastry and putting them into the bun tin. This time Daisy worked more independently and then helped Mummy to add savoury toppings. Again the activity lasted just 10 minutes.
Another time we will vary the fillings and the cutters or use these skills to make a pizza. From an early introduction to cooking, it isn’t long before a young child has a longer attention span and wants to make batters and bake cake mixtures.
Through cooking experiences a toddler will develop their basic skills, build confidence, stimulate their senses while we can enhance their vocabulary as we talk to them.
Cooking activities are also ideal for including some early mathematical understanding when we count, talk to them about more and less, large and small, even one-to-one correspondence.
Granny Smith Says
Remember that at this age the process is more important than the outcome; things probably won’t go according to plan (or recipe), the important thing is to have fun.