My first-time cooking with a toddler

When my three-year-old toddler son first asked me if he could help me cook dinner, I was quite nervous. I was afraid that something would happen to him, he might cut himself or burn his sweet little hands. What if I wasn’t diligent enough to keep him safe? All because I was focused on trying to not burn or ruin dinner. So, when I did decide to allow him to help, I figured we would start easy. I tried giving him a butter knife and allowed him to cut some of the easier vegetables.  He was doing all right for a little bit until I realized that the knife really couldn’t even get through those. So, I let him hold the handle of my knife while I cut the veggies. He loved it and was very happy to help. I also made sure he understood to keep his other hand out of the way and to just place it away from the cutting board.

We were finally at the stage where I would start turning on my burners and start cooking. I was even more nervous; I have a gas stove and was worried about him touching something he wasn’t supposed to. However, I pushed his chair up to the stove and told him why he couldn’t touch it and let him help me stir the ground beef around the pan. I let him add in the seasonings. He was doing great, but then it was time I needed to pour out the excess grease and he didn’t understand. He thought that I was trying to take it away and not allow him to help me anymore. This wasn’t the case I just didn’t want him to get hurt by hot grease.

In doing this, he grabbed out his little hand and touched the pan, and tried to pull it back to him. He did end up burning his hand and we immediately put it under cold water. I felt so bad, and I was discouraged to have him help me cook any other meals. He didn’t want to cook anymore that day but the next day there he was asking me if he could help make dinner. Even with his little fingers all bandaged up he wanted to continue to help me. The same day that he had burned his hand, I had cut the tip of my finger off. I got a new bread knife, and it slid right through my finger. So, when he came to me the next day and asked to help me make dinner, I assumed that he wouldn’t want to because he got hurt, but here I was making dinner with my bandage on my hand. If I wasn’t afraid to go back to working in the kitchen, why should I expect that he wouldn’t want to either? 

I think that it is important to let him help me and know that even if something is to happen that it shouldn’t discourage him from wanting to cook or do something that he wants to do in the future. Like the old saying goes “Don’t go in the kitchen if you are afraid of getting burned”. I went to school and got my certificate in baking. At the same time, I was getting my certificate I was working in a bakery at night and working in the school’s catering company in the little free time I did have. I had many experiences of getting hurt and wanting to stop but I knew that it would pay off in the end and I would love to do the work again. 

I hope to continue cooking with my son and teaching him new things in the kitchen. I am hoping to pass down everything that I have learned over the years from my family to him. I hope that one day he will want to pass on what he learned from me to his children and that the tradition continues. I just want him to look back at our cooking adventures with the same joy that I have looked back at learning how to cook with my mom and grandma. I want him to look back and remember that we took breaks while cooking to dance together like my dad used to do with me. That he wants to do this with his own children when he has them.

I encourage you to get into the kitchen and try new recipes. I have been enjoying the time I have learning recipes from the multitudes of people in my family. We have such an eclectic group of people that I am often surprised by the recipes they have been holding on to. I found that my husband’s family compared to my own is drastically different. They are mostly English and have many recipes from there, whereas my family is a melting pot. We have German, Norwegian, Dutch, Puerto Rican, Southern, Mexican, and more. I have been delighted to find the differences in our cooking and am excited to share them here with you.