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Food Prep with Toddlers- Let's get Cookin'!

I am surrounded by toddlers every day, and since I see them in an environment made for them with independence in mind, I am often surprised when people do not believe in their capabilities. They're just so capable! I have parents balk at the idea of their child changing their own clothes, sitting at the table while using a fork, spoon, and napkin, and even at the idea of them preparing their own food. However, with a little patience and preparation on our part, our children can be in charge of their own snacks, or even some dinner prep in no time!

As a lover of food, I am thrilled to share food knowledge and food preparation with children. Their curiosity and desire to help are a perfect mixture for bringing this practical life job into their daily routine. Children, especially toddlers, enjoy some responsibility, so providing them with the task of helping with a fruit salad for their friends, or peeling carrots for a meal provide that sense of self-worth and confidence through hard work.

My toddlers often start with banana slicing and end the school year peeling hard boiled eggs and chopping up cheese with a toddler safe knife. Their abilities in the kitchen are amazing! Bringing your child into the kitchen and into the cooking process allows them explore their environment, gain confidence and connection to food, to feel a connection to the meals you and your family are eating, and can even get picky eaters to try new things! It's amazing what seeing, feeling, and experiencing a whole fruit or vegetable can do for them.

This hard boiled egg slicing job is set up in the usual way, from left to right, with a natural progression for completing the job cycle.

Here are a few food prep ideas for you and your toddler to try at home:

  • Lettuce Tearing: Will you be making a salad tonight? Have your child help tear lettuce leaves, and rinse the lettuce in a colander!

  • Potato or Beet Scrubbing: Hand your child a scrub brush, a bowl of water, and a potato or a beet to scrub!

  • Banana Slicing: This is one of my favorite jobs to do with my toddlers! I place on a tray, from left to right, a small plate with a halved banana (peel on), a small cutting board, and a banana slicer pictured below. I show the child how I peel the banana, place the banana on the cutting board, throw away the peel, and then use the slicer on top of the banana. Move to a whole banana when they feel ready.

Banana Slicer

  • Orange Peeling: On a tray, provide two small bowls and one small cutting board. In the bowl on the left, place a clementine with the peel slightly lifted. Show your toddler that they can peel the orange, place the peel in the bowl on the right, place the orange segments onto the cutting board, and then put the peel in the trash.

When you want to graduate to more intense food prep, introduce apple slicers for apples and pears. A good apple slicer with sturdy handles helps a lot. I slice pears and apples into rings for easier chopping. You can also use a wavy chopper, as pictured, for chopping carrots, cucumbers, melon, zucchini, and more!

The wavy chopper is used with two hands on top for chopping a number of fruits and vegetables.

Food preparation is such a wonderful part of the toddler classroom, and should be just as fun at home! Go with patience, confidence, and an open mind. You might learn a thing or two about preparing food. Enjoy!

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