Most afternoons at my house go like this: my daughter is playing wonderfully all by herself so I slip away to the kitchen to start making dinner. Perfect! Then, juuuust as I get into the real mess of things, I hear it. Chair legs are slowly screeching from the dining room into the kitchen. Within thirty seconds, I have a very eager and chatty 14-month-old sous chef by my side waiting for her assignment! Having to learn to share and entertain a toddler in the kitchen is definitely not one of the most important things about motherhood. But, cooking is now one of those daily repeated tasks that is just so much different than before!
It has truly taken me a serious amount of patience and creativity to adjust to cooking while being interrupted and tugged on. Don't get me wrong, I love my girl and her extreme curiosity and desire to learn. BUT I also love getting dinner finished in less than an hour. So here are the things that have helped me be better about sharing my kitchen! They aren't anything new or profound per say, but they help!
Create a Toddler Friendly Cupboard
This probably goes without saying, but man oh man it helps! I have found that changing the dishes or items in that cupboard should happen frequently. At least for my little lady, things get boring fast! She usually wants whatever I am holding anyways. If I have an extra spoon just like the one I am using, that goes in her cupboard for the day! Showing her what I am doing, and then showing her she can do the exact same thing helps keep her engaged longer. When everything in her cubby gets boring, the cupboard itself can keep her interested a while longer!
Snacks, Snacks, Snacks!
My daughters favorite and most used word is SNAAAACK! If your little is anything like her, this option is a real winner! My key here isn't so much the snacks, but rather how the snacks are being served. I like to pull out three or four small bowls or containers and put a different snack in each one. Cheerios, cheese, fruit, crackers or whatever your usual snacks are. Somedays I line them up, and somedays I put them in different spots in the kitchen. She either plops right onto the floor and zones in on the assembled buffet of snacks, or cruises from place to place pooling from snacks as she goes. Of course, pretty much every time some or all of the snacks end up on the floor. Such is life with a toddler, right? The broom makes quick work of that mess later!
A Learning Tower
I spotted one of these handy dandy learning towers on Pinterest a while ago. I instantly knew that it needed to be the next piece added to my kitchen. It is basically a safer option than just standing on a chair, and helps your child feel involved. There are quite a few variations out there, but I liked this one best. It was a fairly quick little project and now my little sous chef has her own little cooking perch! She looooves it! You obviously want to make sure you test it for tipping, and never place it where they can grab or touch objects that will cause them harm!
Let There Be Messes
Though it is such a 'simple' thing to do, letting them help is just so hard sometimes! Let them
pour and stir, crush and spoon. My daughter is only 14 months old, so anything she does to help in the kitchen needs close monitoring. Even with my help, we usually end up making quite a large mess. Some days it takes everything in me to let go and allow her to spill. But, these moments are such wonderful times to teach! Just try to breathe deeply, and embrace the time you get with them this little.
Let them be little, let them learn, let there be messes! The curiosity that tests your patience is a deep desire to make connections and learn. On top of all that, they will probably cook you a meal or two in the future! You might as well start training them to cook 5 star meals now, right?!
Featured Image PC: @happygreylucky