Let’s be real, cooking with kids isn’t always fun.
One of our goals has been to cook with our toddler more. There’s a lot of reasons for this, but let me share just a few.
1. It teaches independence and gives children a sense of control.
2. Following directions yields a quick result of success or failure. Also, teaches kids to be resilient when things don’t turn out the way they expected.
3. Opens a natural dialogue for counting, measuring, fractions, temperature, and observations of color, texture, size, and more.
4. Using items like an egg beater, spreading creams, and peeling vegetables can be excellent heavy work for sensory input and self-regulating.
There are so many more reasons to cook with kids in the kitchen but, these are the ones that honestly, matter most to us.
There are really three schools of thought on this.
1. Teach kids to use adult size tools so they learn to adapt to their surroundings and they start off using heavy items that give more feedback, but do carry a risk of “safety” (I say it in quotations, because technically, if any tool isn’t used correctly for any age without proper training and supervision, it will be unsafe). In my opinion, this wasn’t an option I was interested in. My child is a small 3 year old, and I wanted her able to use tools without needed excessive help to hold them in her hands or to lift up tools herself.
2. Give toy style tools, usually plastic and wood, and stay away from knives or other items that could be considered to carry a larger risk with use. For us, this was route that didn’t feel like the right fit. The items we were finding were mostly for activities like making cookies, or just mixing with a spoon, or kneading, and we had already started those activities when she was about a year old. We were ready to graduated to another level of cooking.
3. For us, accessing child sized utensils and cooking appliances that were fully operational and could be used for multiple purposes were the quintessential Goldilocks’ option.
Once we decided what we were looking for, I took to scouring the internet to find those options. Surprisingly, I found quite quickly that Ikea had most of what we were looking for. In this post I’m going to give you a quick overview in how we assembled her kitchen tools for roughly $25.
Our Favorite Utensils
Our favorite find, has been this $13 hand held whisk from Ikea. She has used it to whip pancake batter, eggs for scrambled eggs or omelets, cake batter, and maple butter. It’s incredibly versatile and easy to clean. While my husband is carefully holding her bowl still, this would easily be remedied with a silicone mat. But, why do things the easy way? One of my favorite features of this item is the fact that it’s light enough for her to hold by herself, but the cranking motion is great for coordination, creates some resistance for heavy work, and she gets instant feedback from her work. I cannot recommend this tool enough.
Another simple to use, but well made tool is this $3 egg slicer from Ikea. This was a fun lesson for us because we cracked one egg open to cook it over medium, and then hard boiled a half dozen eggs. We put them in an ice bath and we practiced peeling the eggs and talked about how boiling made them solid, and then she sliced them and we put them over toast. While this is a bit of a unitasker, for a kid who hates egg to eat egg? It’s worth $3 in my opinion.
Another quality yet affordable find from Ikea is this $5 bamboo chopping board. It’s the perfect size for chopping fruit, vegetables, spreading toppings on toast, peeling eggs, preparing sandwiches, and so much more. We love that it’s the same color and quality as our other cutting boards. It’s easy to clean and $5. I mean, what more can I say?
Now, the knife had me perplexed for a while. I wanted something that was functional, but also something that wouldn’t dismember my child if I turned my head for a moment. We found the nylon knife a perfect option. While they’re incredibly popular in Montessori kitchens, we had never owned one before. I found this chef’s knife size one as an “add-on” item for $3.99. I appreciate the green non-slip grips on the handle, and it has a thick edge along the top of the blade for little hands to get even pressure. She has used hers on toast, cheese, fruit, vegetables, and eggs. While it does cut just about anything we throw at it, we have no cuts or marks to show for it. In my opinion, it’s a game changer with kids in the kitchen.
While our tool collection isn’t massive, we’ve found that just these 4 items have really opened up our world of her helping in the kitchen. We’ve also learned how to make toast in the toaster, how to pour water into cups, and how to set the table.
How do you approach kids in the kitchen? Do you have any favorite recipes? What do you find most helpful as tools in the kitchen? Let me know in the comments below!