3 Simple Meals My Toddler Loves to Prepare with Me

simple toddler meals
Source: @alainakaz

When my oldest son was just 2 years old, he would race into the kitchen and beg to help me cook. I locked in on his interest because I come from a big Italian family full of chefs and restaurant owners. I’ve always felt at home in the kitchen, and I wanted to pass that connection down to my son. It seemed like a wonderful way to bond, help him learn valuable lifelong skills, and hold on to his grandfather’s legacy, who he loved dearly. And while we both were very enthusiastic about cooking together, I still was a little nervous about letting a 2-year-old near a hot stove, sharp objects, and other potentially dangerous things in the kitchen.

So despite him wanting to dive right into cooking with me, we started with simple rules that prioritized safety. First, he was not allowed to cook or be near the stove unless his dad or I was helping him. Second, he needed to show me that he knew how to listen when I told him something was hot. Third, he would ask to do something before shoving his hands into ingredients or picking up potentially dangerous tools (of course, I kept the knives out of reach).

We started with simple snacks like butter on toast, and I allowed him to help me stir or pour in ingredients. It was surprisingly easy to reinforce the rules by allowing him to help with the simplest of tasks where he could succeed in a fun and educational way. Still, there were times when we did need to step back to the basics and take a break if he was becoming frustrated. At the time, I was worried he might get discouraged and become disinterested, but he is now 5 years old and still loves to cook with me a few times a week.

Here are a few easy meals we started cooking together when he was a toddler.

 

family in the kitchen

Source: August de Richelieu | Pexels

 

1. Scrambled Eggs

This is a go-to breakfast meal for my family, so it was one of the first we worked on together. When my son was really little, I would crack the eggs and place them in the bowl but would have my son hand them to me so he would feel included. Then, as he got older, he helped me add seasonings to the mixture in the bowl.

 

Remember, cooking is going to be messy for a while. But as they get older, it gets easier, and these will be memories (and skills) you both have forever.

 

After a few mishaps—like when nearly half the bottle of garlic powder went in the eggs—I learned it was easier for me to shake the desired amount in a small cup and give it to him to pour in. We’ve now worked our way up to where my son can crack eggs almost perfectly and stir. Remember, cooking is going to be messy for a while. But as they get older, it gets easier, and these will be memories (and skills) you both have forever.

Try This: Pinch of Yum's Life-Changing Soft Scrambled Eggs
GET THE RECIPE

2. Pancakes

While pancakes are another breakfast food, they’re a kid-favorite and a great starter meal for little ones to help make. Whether you’re cooking them from box mix or from scratch, you can adjust the difficulty level to what you feel comfortable with. As your child gets older and their hand-eye coordination improves, you can include more advanced skills like chopping bananas with a blunt butter knife or measuring the water in a measuring cup.

Try This: Celebrating Sweets' Oatmeal Pancakes
GET THE RECIPE
child and mom cooking

Source: Mikhail Nilov | Pexels

 

3. Tuna Sandwiches

Toddlers can easily help plop turkey and cheese onto wheat bread, but my son and I slowly worked up to making homemade tuna salad.

When he was little, he used to find joy in mixing the ingredients and haphazardly scooping them onto the bread. Now he loves jazzing up his tuna with mayo, balsamic vinegar, and various seasonings. He can help grab each item from the pantry when I prompt him with the ingredient name and can even toast bread (with supervision).

Recently, we’ve practiced cutting his finished sandwich into small triangles. Sometimes he grows frustrated with his failed attempts, but by giving him the opportunity to try, I’m hoping to build the foundation for more skills down the line. And with all of the practice over the past few years, I know it’s only a matter of time before he can make lunch for himself without needing my help at all!

Try This: Isabel Eats' Avocado Tuna Salad
GET THE RECIPE

 

Now, you might have noticed a theme with these meals—they’re super simple. But they work as building blocks to help your kids grow comfortable and confident in the kitchen. Plus, making meals together gives them special bonding time with you. Then, with the skills you both have gained from making scrambled eggs or sandwiches, you can move on to more complicated dishes. Maybe at some point in the future, they’ll be making you dinner for a change. A mom can dream, right?

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