Cooking with Your Toddlers and Preschool-Aged Children

Our lives today seem to be a whirlwind as we get back to work and the kids get back to in-person learning.  Once again, we find ourselves consulting our calendars to check and double check where we are supposed to be and at what time we need to be there.  After spending so much time at home, it can seem overwhelming as we re-learn to juggle our responsibilities.  

But life doesn’t have to go from 0 to 60 in a blink of an eye.  You can choose to slow down and enjoy some special activities with your young children.  One of the best activities to do with your children is to cook with them!  Cooking the Montessori way is one of the best sensorial experiences you can offer your child and is a wonderful Practical Life activity as well.

Cooking teaches basic life skills

Taste, smell, sight, sound and touch are all used when you cook with your children.  It also teaches them a range of basic life skills that we all need.  Fine and gross motor skills; early math knowledge; language, learning to follow directions — these are just some of the skills that are developed as your child chops, slices, measures, and combines the ingredients to make delicious treats that you and your family can enjoy.  Giving your child an opportunity to feel he or she can be an important part of your family’s life is one of the greatest gifts you can give your child as they develop their self-confidence and discover their place in the world.

Preparing the kitchen

The first step in Montessori cooking with your children is to prepare your kitchen for both you and the child.  Have a safe step stool for your child to safely reach the countertop so he or she can work independently.  You will also need to find child-size and child-safe cooking utensils for him to use.  It is best to store these utensils in a place where the child can access them independently.  Some basic tools to start with include child-size whisks, spatulas, rolling pins, as well as child-safe knives.

Time to get cooking

Now that your kitchen is prepared, you are ready to cook with your child!  If you aren’t ready to tackle an actual recipe, your child can still be helpful in the kitchen.  She can help you slice fruits and vegetables; toss a salad; pour ingredients into a bowl, and she can help you set the table.  If you and your child are ready to prepare something to eat, the following are two easy recipes.  You can either assist your younger child with preparation, or leave it in the hands of an older child with your supervision.

Yogurt Parfait with Fresh Fruit

Cooking with Your Toddlers and Preschool-Aged Children

Ingredients:

Easy to cut fruits (we like bananas and strawberries) 

Any flavor yogurt

Toppings such as granola or other favorite cereals

Directions:

Let your child place the berries in a colander and rinse in the sink.  For quick drying, have your child place the berries one at a time on a clean towel.  You can count the berries with your child.  Let your child peel the banana then remove the green off the strawberries.  Allow your child to chop and slice the fruit however they would like.  Set fruit aside.

Have your child place a spoonful of yogurt at the bottom of a glass.  Top the yogurt with the granola/cereal and some of the prepared fruit.  Add another layer of yogurt and top with more fruit.  Sprinkle with the granola or cereal.  Serve immediately.

Mini Apple Pies (no roll dough)

Equipment:

6 cup muffin tin

Saucepan

Whisk

Wooden Spoon

Bowl

Ingredients:

Apple Pie Filling

Cooking with Your Toddlers and Preschool-Aged Children

2 apples peeled and diced

½ cup cold water

½ cup sugar

3 T cornstarch

½ t cinnamon

1 pinch salt

Pie Crust

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ t salt

¼ t baking powder

½ cup vegetable oil

3 T cold water

Cooking spray

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  Spray muffin tin with cooking spray and set aside.

Assist or supervise your child in peeling and chopping the apples into small cubes.

Cooking with Your Toddlers and Preschool-Aged Children

Combine the apples, water, sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon in a saucepan.  Heat over medium heat until the liquid begins to simmer, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 10 minutes until liquid has thickened.  Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder.  Add the oil and water and stir with wooden spoon until the dough begins to form.  Knead with hands until the dough is solid.  

Make six golf ball-sized balls of dough from the bowl and press each ball into the muffin pan forming a hollow for the apple pie filling.  Set the leftover dough to the side. 

Fill each pie crust cup with the apple pie filling then top with crumbled pieces of leftover pie dough.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until the pie crust is golden brown.

Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before removing from pan.  

Cooking with Your Toddlers and Preschool-Aged Children

Cleaning the kitchen

Cooking is never complete until the kitchen is clean!  After cooking, your kitchen will likely be a mess, but never fear!  Most toddlers love to clean-up!  It is important to let them take part in the clean-up, so they learn the full sequence of preparing a meal.  In Montessori, a task is never completed until it is tidied and replaced on the shelf in its rightful place.  Your child can help you wash dishes or load the dishwasher.  Give them a child-sized spray bottle and cloth for wiping down the counters or even a small bowl filled with soapy water will do the trick.  Your aprons or some articles of clothing may likely be covered in something, so have your child place the dirty clothes in the laundry basket or start a load in the washer.

Hopefully, you can see all the benefits of cooking with your young children.  At the very least, you will have a wonderful bonding experience!  Expand the experience by having your child serve their creations to the family and enjoy their proud, beaming faces!  Good luck and Bon Appetit!

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