Some emergent lessons that are greatly supported by all of OTB’s inspirations, is cooking. Children usually LOVE cooking. The exceptions I have seen are when caregivers are a bit jumpy about it and are so concerned the child will get hurt that they don’t step back and let the child learn. This post holds some suggestions on ways to get your little one into the kitchen and how to maximize the learning potential while cooking.
Step one: Get the child in the kitchen! “But I have a baby,” you say, “my toddler is nothing but trouble,” you say, “my preschooler wants to help, but they aren’t really helping.” I know. I never suggested that this makes cooking easier or more fun for you (in the beginning) but I promise, it becomes easier and more fun. There is just a short time when there is a learning curve about the rules of the kitchen. This post is about getting your baby into the kitchen.
Careful its hot! But they knives cut.
These are essential lessons for little ones and one that parents are not likely to want to have their child learn by experience. Here are a few tactics for different ages on how to touch on what not to touch.
HOT and HURT:
This is a very abstract concept for babies. But here is one that is NOT abstract…pain. All babies have felt some pain, they’ve all rolled over, crawled, or toddled around and fallen or bumped their head. They may have a pet or older sibling that has bitten, scratched, or pinched them. And please, don’t hide them from these mild injuries. Pain is a part of the learning process and it isn’t a negative thing, its a natural consequence, a lesson built into a circumstance. One way to get started on identifying pain in babies and toddlers is with the sign “hurt”. This sign is easy for babies to see and perform. It takes the two index fingers and brings them together. Head over to Signing Saavy to see it. Whenever your child gets hurt, touch what hurts and then sign hurt. This can also be of great benefit once your baby is teething considerably and you’ll know when to bring out the baby pain reliever.
Expand on the concept of hurt. When in the kitchen show the baby certain things that can hurt. Get down on their level and crawl around with them. Touch the oven and sign hurt and then add the sign for hot. This is a c under the chin and carried away from your body. For babies, I use just holding my hand above whatever the hot thing is. Some more info about the sign for hot is here. When working with a knife show your baby the knife and even guide their hand close but stop it fast and say “hurt” and perform the sign for hurt. This will associate a sense of necessary caution with the object. A good way to approach this with older babies that may have some verbal ability is to say, “This is a mommy/daddy/grandma/nanny job. This is not a baby job. This is a baby job.” and hand your little one an acceptable tool, such as a spoon or whisk. If they are bored with their old well known tools, try and find something new, like a ladle or turkey baster, you may have not introduced before. This may also be a good time to invest in a toy cutting set that has a wooden knife that is safe. Some gourmet kitchen stores may also sell very dull wooden cheese knives that can be alternatives to the sharp scary ones. Now that you’ve got some communication tools (and make sure you speak and sign at the same time) let’s add some ways to get off the floor with baby.
I advocate for baby wearing. Most experts recommend that you wait until they are old enough to ride on back and throw em back there. I am not recommending you follow suit with me, but I did not wait. Although this picture represents the “safe” way to have baby cook with you, I brought my daughter into the kitchen in a front hold at about 3 months old, once she was able to hold her head stable. You may notice that the baby here is holding a wooden spoon. A great tactic for introducing baby to the kitchen is to introduce them to the tools they’ll be using.
A Piaget inspired method may be to bring lots of tools down and spread them on the floor or on the tray of a high chair. This leaves the baby with a chance at open free play. Some ideas for what could be used beyond the wooden spoon and tupperware; whisk, metal spoons, plastic plates, plastic cups, and of the course the pots and pans. I know its loud, but gosh its satisfying to a baby.
Talk with your little one about what you are doing. If you are mixing sauce, you can incorporate a Waldorf inspired technique of signing what you are doing. Don’t worry if you aren’t singing well, your child doesn’t care. And if you don’t know how to make up tunes, don’t worry, use one you already know. To the tune of the farmer in the dell, “the cup adds the flour, the cup adds the flour, high ho, a dario, the cup adds the flour, the spoon stirs the batter, the spoon stirs the batter, nothing else matters, as the spoon stirs the batter” and so on. Get silly with, bring your baby into it. The baby pictured above is hold enough to help stir. Make sure you review hot and maybe even guide baby’s hand down low enough to feel some heat and then remind them that hot can hurt. Give em a spoon and help guide the stirring. “My baby’s name is stirring, my baby’s name is stirring, high-ho-a-dario, my baby’s name is stirring.”
Use this as an excuse to introduce foods. While cooking with a baby that is testing new foods, try ensuring that you are cooking yourself some of these foods too. Seeing you eat the same foods, will inspire baby to want to try it. Have you ever had that experience, “Why do I even serve my baby her own food, all she wants is mine?” (If you are a new parent and not to that stage yet…don’t worry, you will get there.)
So steam up some carrots, pull them off and use your fingers to squish them up and feed a little to your baby’s mouth. While you are cooking the carrots, give a cold one to your baby to gnaw on. Chances are they aren’t strong enough or have enough teeth to take a bite, but they will have a chance to soothe those gums with a flavored chew toy.
Last step – Bring the kitchen out of the kitchen. Melissa and Doug make a great series of play food. These are typically rated for 3 and up. It used to be that Melissa and Doug were dedicated to using safe paints, but that may have changed as manufacturing may have moved out of the United States. This may be one reason for the 3+ rating. Another reason may be that the foods, being wood, are heavy and could definitely result in injury if tossed across the room. This toy may best be supervised with babies but is a good way to bring the tools of the kitchen down to their level. Of course, you don’t need to buy much, just bringing down those same supplies listed above, your baby will find a way to make it entertaining. And if they are engaged, they are learning.
Baby, Let’s Get Cookin’ by Clarissa Jarem is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at https://otbseattle.wordpress.com/2013/02/17/baby-lets-get-cookin/.
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