Ahoy Thanksgiving! With turkey day around the corner chances are you’re starting to plan the big meal. Don’t be afraid to include the youngest household members when it’s time to prep. Yes their participation could slow things down, but the lifelong benefits are worth those extra minutes in the kitchen.
Hands-on cooking, especially in young children, develops muscle control and eye-hand coordination. Additionally when children see their kitchen efforts make a meaningful contribution, confidence, competence, and self-esteem are reinforced.
If you’ve been meaning to get your kids more involved in cooking Thanksgiving is the perfect time. The National Institutes of Health created a great handout on tasks young kids can do in the kitchen (starting at age 2).
Here are some of the kitchen tools I’ve found helpful for youngster kitchen success:
Spreaders: Have a special holiday spread? Have your little one spread it on crackers before the guests arrive. Or they can spread cream cheese on breakfast bagels for those staying overnight. In general spreading is a great way to introduce a kiddo to the kitchen.
Small Nylon Knife: (4 years and older): Peppers, cucumbers, cheese, bread and hard-boiled eggs are just a few of the foods my eldest has chopped and sliced. There’s also a Wavy Chopper, which she’s using on carrots in the picture below.
Apple Slicer: My daughter not only slices apples, she’s also does pears. If your child isn’t quite strong enough to push the slicer down all the way, offer to do it with them. Making an apple pie? Have them use the slicer then the knife to make smaller pieces.
Separate Measuring Cups: Having the cups separated makes pouring for tiny hands easier because the cups are traditionally smaller than larger ones with all measurements listed on the side. Pouring is a great activity, especially when children are helping with baking.
Learning Tower: We purchased a tower when my oldest turned two, an amazing investment. Now a kindergartner she still uses it for helping me in the kitchen (my youngest is also a fan). There are several models on the market, we chose the one manufactured by Little Partners.
A Note On Table Setting:
Kids are smaller than adults so their portions should be smaller. Consider using plates, cups and silverware sized for smaller mouths and hands. Personally I use porcelain plates and cups so my girls learn to treat breakable objects with respect. I’ve found great buys at resale stores, estate sales, outlets and the sale shelf at home good stores. A broken plate still hurts, but this way it won’t be from the set Aunt Sharon gave for our wedding.
Minus when a bag of flour was emptied all over the counter, I cherish the times my children and I have spent cooking together. I’ll end with a quote by chef David Chang that sums things up nicely, “Food, to me, is always about cooking and eating with those you love and care for.”
Do you have a favorite tool(s) your children use in the kitchen? Share below, I’d love to read about them!