Toddler and Preschooler Tasks in the Kitchen

By Mindy Hermann, MBA, RD
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Looking for new ways to help your young child become a better eater? You may be surprised by this simple strategy — encourage your toddler or preschooler help you in the kitchen. Helping with cooking can make your child more curious about different types of foods and more enthusiastic about eating them. The key to success is to pick simple chores that your child can do. Here are a few ways to get your toddler or preschooler excited about food through cooking:
  • Washing. "Young children love playing in the water," says Sarah Krieger, MPH, RDN, LDN, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "Place a small stool or chair in front of the sink, fill a large bowl or salad spinner with water, and show your child how to swish the lettuce leaves." Remember to dress your child in clothing and shoes that can get wet, and keep a mop handy!
  • Cutting. Krieger suggests seating young children at the table with a cutting board, plastic picnic knife, and a soft fruit or vegetable, such as a banana, peeled melon wedge, peach half, pear half, mango wedge, or mushrooms.
  • Making funny faces. Give your preschooler an assortment of peach, pear, mandarin orange, and apple slices, along with raisins, to use for making fruit faces on dessert plates for the family.
  • Layering. "Put a few clear, unbreakable plastic cups on the table and give your child cut fruit, yogurt, and granola or breakfast cereal for layering into parfaits," suggests Ximena Jimenez, MS, RDN, LD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. It's OK if the layers turn out a bit uneven!
  • Dumping and stirring. Dumping flour and other ingredients into a large bowl, stirring, and helping create delicious muffins, pancakes, or cupcakes is great fun for young kids.

Always follow food safety basics. Wash hands before touching food and whenever they get messy. Keep breakables and sharp knives out of reach. Avoid working with foods that could be a choking hazard for little ones.

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