Cooking takes time and can be a burden if you are really busy or the children are particularly demanding. So why not make quality time with your child in the kitchen and still get the food prepared?
Firstly – put an apron on your child, this is exciting for them to start! Allocate them a special place to stand in the kitchen, away from the hot hob/oven.
1. Playing with food containers.
This is a fun activity for the youngest children whilst helping to develop their co-ordination at the same time! Give your child some tupaware or plastic bowls or cartons and tell them they can help Mummy with making dinner by mixing different foods. Give your little one a wooden spoon too to make the mixing feel more real!
2. Picky Pasta
If you have 2 types or shapes of pasta in your cupboard, mix them up and ask your child to put one type in one box, the other type – in another. This one really gets your little one to focus you’ll be surprised how much attention they’ll pay to this as well as it developing their fine motor skills! If you have a slighter older child they can count the pasta which will help develop their mathematical skills.
3. ‘Cook’s assistant’
Give your child a pack of dry food and ask them to hold really tightly until you use it. Example, pack of cereals, pasta. This may seem simple but its teaching their attention and memory as well as patience, whilst making them feel special for being Mummy’s little assistant!
4. Pouring Game
Find a spot you don’t mind a few splashes in the kitchen, or lay down a mat. Get two bowls – and fill one half-way with water. Give them a plastic cup and ask them to transfer water from one bowl to another, which actually helps focus their attention and co-ordination at the same time. You can use your imagination here and say it’s to help the dinner cook, as they really will love this one!
5. Wipe Down
Let them Wipe the table… of course no detergent, just a damp cloth. Tell your child your making it clean and tidy ready for everyone to eat. This type of activity also helps to reinforce the dinner time routine for your little one, which is great for their reasoning skills.
6. Prep & Wipe
Wiping fruits and vegetables with a napkin after they’ve been washed is an enjoyable activity for your child in the kitchen, as they appreciate eating the foods if they have cared for them themselves.
Enhance the development of your little ones 5 senses by talking about what type of fruit or vegetable they are wiping dry, smell the food with them and get them to pay attention to the textures of the food by rubbing and feeling the different shapes,which will really develop their attention and memory skills! If your child is 3 or over, you can ask them to wash those vegetable and fruits before wiping them.
7. The stones!
More challenging work for your little helper – teach them how to take stones out of the fruits and vegetables – like an avocado stone! This really requires attention and a bit of strength in their hands, using their fine motor skills well!
They’ll probably feel quite pleased with themselves after this challenge as it’s a bit harder, so let them wash the stone afterwards and have a look at what has come out and praise your child for this one especially! Whilst your little one washes the stones, why not take 5 minutes to get in a quick & easy FitMama workout against the kitchen top?
8. Wiping Bowls
Ask your little one to wipe the bowl you give to them from inside and out. If you have reward chart at home, here would be a great point to tell them that they may get a treat or a star on the chart for being such a helpful Cook’s Assistant for Mummy!
9. Guess what?
Now lets play more of a game that will help your little ones social skills and five senses! Cut off little pieces of the vegetable and salad items you’re chopping, ask your little assistant to close their eyes and then try little pieces of the food and guess what it is!
10. Sandwich making
Now you can let your child make their own sandwich as they’ve been so good in the kitchen. Why not make a surprise sandwich for Dad or someone else later, or just a little one for themselves. Encourage their speech development by getting them to try and talk through what they are doing as they use a great deal of co-ordination to make a (hopefully!) delicious sandwich!
11. Make their own pizza!
This is a brilliant activity for your youngest child to do with siblings or friends and it also helps them develop most of the 7 key skills important in young children, like Fine Motor, reasoning, co-ordination and 5 senses.
Have lots of little ingredients prepared and depending on their age, they can sprinkle and arrange their toppings as they like! If you’re making the dough at home, letting them have a go with the rolling pin will be exciting for them too.
12. Table Laying
Ask you toddler to count the napkins and put them on the table in front of each chair. Placements and drinks coasters too. A good development activity for their co-ordination.
If Baking with your child:
13. Ask your child to count the number of spoons of the flour you are putting into a bowl
14. Let them stir the flour with a wooden spoon (deep bowl needed)
15. Give your child a little piece of dough to flatten while you are flattening the bigger one.
16. If you’re a baking somethings like a fruit pie with your kids, then ask your child to distribute the fruits across the tray.
17. Now they can enjoy the fun part and make shapes in the dough with the plastic shape cutters!
18. Get yourself a glazing brush and dip into your preferred glaze and give this job to your little helper they will love brushing the food.
19. If you are baking, there is often a chance to put a pretty pattern in the top whether its pastry or mash potato going in the oven – give your little one a fork (not to sharp!) and tell them to make their own pattern in the top! This should be interesting!
20. Picture the moment
Ok so Mummy’s little cooks assistant has been really patient and well behaved if they have managed to help you in the kitchen all this time. This will help them use their 5 senses and attention skills to feel proud of their achievements, so why not give them your phone or camera so they can take a picture of dinner they have helped with! Mark it on their weekly home chart or reward chart too.
These activities done regularly however little and often will all help your child develop and learn an array of key skills like co-ordination, fine motor, use of their senses, reasoning and listening. Who’d have thought such simple tasks could help them learn and grow and spend quality time with you too!
Like these ideas? Head over to our PlayMama App for Learning Games for Babies 2-23 months with games for older children coming soon!