Thanksgiving is a wonderful time for families and friends to come together and enjoy each other’s company over the experience of a beautiful meal and all the love and appreciation that goes into having and hosting that meal.
But what about when you have a “helpful” toddler underfoot who just so desperately wants to “help” Mom and Dad every step of the way?
Well, why not start incorporating your toddler into the kitchen activities? It’s a great way to show him or her what being a family is really all about. Sometimes we can tend to lose sight of the big picture because of the small details – we might get so wrapped up in doing all the things to put on the “perfect” meal for a “fun” family time, that stress overtakes the best chances to experience exactly those things.
This doesn’t have to be the case. Whether you are ready (or willing) to have Junior “help” you with your big Thanksgiving feast or not, the kitchen can definitely be a place where you can start making memories together even from the early days.
Remember to always take a look around for the “big picture” as you buzz through the busy daily tasks of day-to-day living (sometimes just surviving!) when you have kids. Remember the best part of having these wonderful little creatures in your life is to enjoy being with them, teaching them new things, and helping them have a wonderful life experience in this world.
Yes, cooking with them will turn a 5-minute project into a half-hour one, with a lot more clean up to boot. Yes, you will inevitably end up with spilled bowls of raw egg and an exploded bag of flour everywhere, eventually.
But don’t fear the chaos – embrace it! The payoffs are real, and long-term.
Cooking with your kids instills in them a lot of both “soft” and “hard” skills – it teaches them about nutrition and diet (so make sure you’re teaching them what you want to be teaching them in those respects!), healthy eating and establishing good habits for life, and that they play an active role in all of those things. The more new ingredients they’re exposed to, the more they’re expanding their horizons and developing relationships with newer and broader things.
Additionally, being involved in kitchen activities with you exposes them to other life-learning skills and concepts, laying starting foundations in: math, science, reading, chemistry, art, vocabulary, colors, shapes, textures, smells, opinions, and more. Even if your child is very young and can’t yet read the words or understand the numbers, he can learn from you reading recipes with him that reading works from left to right, these are numbers not letters, etc.
And best of all, of course – it means more meaningful, quality bonding time with you!
Fine motor skill practice also gets useful real-life application in the kitchen – so put your helpful toddler to “work” with things like stirring, pouring, and tearing packages open. Even small tasks make a difference when a little one is learning.
So as you’re making your Thanksgiving feast, let him turn the crank for your cranberry grinder, stir the cornbread batter, rinse some vegetables, or mash some potatoes for you this year!