There’s a quote in one of my favorite books, “Love in the Time of Cholera”: “She discovered with great delight that one does not love one’s children just because they are one’s children but because of the friendship formed while raising them.”
I’ve found this to be true so far with my almost 3-year-old son, Logan. I’d love him no matter what, but it’s been fun to bond over things we both love, like books.
One of our favorite things to do together is cook.
Cooking with a toddler requires accepting a certain level of messiness. There’s no way around it. But if you’re willing to deal with at least a little flour on the floor, or some egg white on the counter, it’s also a very pleasant way to spend time together.
Through some trial and error, we’ve figured out some tasks he can do without ruining the kitchen — or messing up the dish we’re cooking.
He can stir, even if there’s nothing in the bowl. We’ve gotten to a point now where he knows to stir gently and doesn’t immediately fling batter everywhere. We try to take turns — a good life lesson — which ensures that eventually the ingredients are uniformly combined.
He can help measure. Usually, I measure and he pours. Or he puts his hand on mine to help dump the contents of a measuring cup into a bowl. We count together as we go, which obviously is helping him learn his numbers.
He can drop bread into an egg mixture for French toast and flip it over before I put it in the pan.
He’s great at sprinkling things. If it’s something like cheese, I’ll put it in a small bowl so he doesn’t get too carried away. If it’s something like chocolate chips, I have to make sure he doesn’t eat them. But he loves that job.
He checks on things in the oven while they bake. I try to leave the oven light on so that he can run in and look. And when the timer goes off, it’s his job to let me know (even though I can also hear it).
All of these things are helping Logan with fine motor skills, cooperation, counting, safety, etc. But the truth is, the reason I like to include him in my cooking is his sheer delight. He loves to help. He feels proud of himself. And especially in cold weather, it gives us something useful to do.
I think some people might be surprised that a toddler can contribute in the kitchen. And yeah, that contribution usually means cooking takes longer and is messier. We’ve had a few disasters, and I’ve had to bite my tongue trying not to get angry. But it’s kind of impressive what kids can do if you let them.
In fact, recently I came across a Facebook video in which a friend’s young son was carefully cracking raw eggs all by himself. He wasn’t smashing them or even getting little bits of shell in the bowl. Amazing!
Until then, I hadn’t considered letting my kid handle raw eggs by himself. But, you know, if another child can do it, why not mine? So we started working on it. I’ll let Logan crack a few eggs one at a time over a small bowl, so that if it goes wrong he doesn’t ruin whatever we’re cooking. He hasn’t mastered it yet, but he’s actually quite gentle about it, which I find very cute.
Messy or not, I think the only thing that really matters about sharing a favorite hobby with your kid is that you both enjoy it.