I stifle a laugh as I watch my 2-year-old son, Jack, crack an egg into a blue glass bowl. He’s concentrating hard, and his tiny hands are completely crushing the eggshell. He then shakes his hands up and down, trying to get the rest of the farm-fresh egg to ooze out.
Small shell fragments are fished out of the bowl, eggy hands are wiped clean, and Jack sits a little taller, notably proud of his work.
Every morning, we make scrambled eggs together. And every morning, it takes approximately 12 times longer than if I were to make them myself.
When Jack first started cracking the eggs for his breakfast, it took us even longer, and I was more hands-on.
But now? I give him two eggs and a sturdy bowl, and let him be.
tap, tap, tap tap… crack! crunch.
We finish off the eggs by sprinkling in some sea salt. Jack scrambles them with a fork, and I take care of the rest.
Toddlers are Capable
As we’ve slowly added more kitchen skills to Jack’s repertoire, I’ve realized just how much he enjoys helping—not to mention how great having a little responsibility has been for his developing character.
Yes, kitchen tasks take longer when you have a tiny sous chef helping out. And yes, the messes multiply.
But when your child is working on a special kitchen task you’ve given them to do, they’re also not getting into mischief or repeatedly asking you to pick them up or to play.
Don’t get me wrong—I enjoy playing with my son, but sometimes (okay, a lot of the time) there’s work to be done!
By helping you, they’re learning valuable foundational skills that will serve them their whole lives long. And they’re having a blast in the process!
High-energy toddlers often don’t know what to do with all of that intensity, so it helps when they have a way to funnel all of their excitement and movement into something productive and fun.
I want to encourage my son—and any future kids we have—to love learning, to enjoy working, and to not be afraid of trying new things.
Toddlers are naturals at all three of these, but we can easily squash their growth by doing absolutely everything for them. Toddlers are smart—and capable of so much more than we typically give them credit for.
Cooking is a gateway to learning a wide variety of skills, including responsibility and independence.
Learning Little by Little
The following list of 25 kitchen tasks for toddlers is what we’re currently working on with our 27-month-old.
He isn’t able to perform most of them very well yet, of course, but he’s learning and taking on bits of responsibility, which is what’s important at his age.
As long as we’re consistently bringing our children into the kitchen to cook with us, they will learn and make progress. It just takes time—and a lot of patience.
Many of these kitchen skills will take toddlers while to master, but they’re a great place to start!
I love having this list to refer back to so that I’m able to find ways to include my son as often as possible. I hope you find it helpful, too, as you work alongside your little ones in the kitchen!
25 Kitchen Tasks for Toddlers
- Tearing lettuce (helping with the salad spinner is bonus fun!)
- Snapping green beans
- Picking fresh herb leaves off the stems
- Mashing soft fruits and veggies with a fork or a masher, such as sweet potatoes, butternut squash, avocados, bananas, etc.
- Dumping ingredients into a bowl
- Cutting soft things with a butter knife, such as bananas, watermelon, ripe pears, strawberries, boiled eggs, butter, etc. (You can start with wooden toys that velcro together and can be cut apart with a wooden knife. We have 3 Melissa and Doug sets that Jack loves: the food cutting set, the fruit cutting set, and the sandwich-making set.)
- Cracking eggs into a bowl
- Spreading things like mayo, soft butter, nut butter, and jelly on bread
- Layering a sandwich
- Stirring, mixing, and whisking
- Putting muffin liners into baking cups
- Sprinkling spices, dried and fresh herbs, shredded cheese, etc. (as well as shaking out salt and pepper)
- Peeling bananas and clementines (and separating the segments)
- Peeling boiled eggs (you’ll likely need to help them get started)
- Squeezing lemon and lime wedges
- Kneading a small piece of dough
- Scrubbing potatoes
- Washing fruits and vegetables—and hands!
- Emptying silverware from the dishwasher
- Washing silverware and plastic dishes with a sponge (you’ll probably still want to throw them in the dishwasher!)
- Throwing away trash (veggie peels, packaging, etc.)
- Helping to set the table
- Putting their dishes in the sink
- Bringing you items they can reach in low cabinets and drawers
- Starting to learn how to pour with a small water pitcher
Tips for Cooking with Toddlers
As you’re working on these kitchen tasks for toddlers, here are a few things that have helped us to have a more enjoyable time in the kitchen!
Have a damp dishcloth nearby for wiping hands and little messes. I use this all. the. time.
Use a sturdy chair or invest in a toddler learning tower stool. There are lots of adorable styles, like this one and this one. You could also save some money by building one yourself, which is what we’re doing for Jack.
This DIY toddler learning tower stool looks pretty easy to put together because it uses an IKEA stool as the base!
Currently, I often use my son’s booster seat on a chair and attach the tray so that he has a workspace right in front of him. It’s been working great, and he’s safe and contained in one spot!
Safety is one of the top concerns when cooking with toddlers. Early on in our babies’ lives, when they first become mobile, we start teaching them that the oven is hot and should not be touched.
Then, they start walking and reaching their little hands up onto the countertops, so we train them not to touch the stovetop or reach for items they cannot see because they could hurt themselves.
So really, we’ve already been teaching them about kitchen safety. I think it’s wise to continue those conversations regularly to help instill the importance of kitchen safety in their little minds.
That said, I also try to encourage a little independence in Jack by not always hovering over him. I stand close by, keeping a watchful eye on what he’s doing, but I try to give him a little space.
And I think that makes him feel a little more grown-up.
I hope this post has given you some helpful ideas and encourages you to bring your children into the kitchen more often! Cooking with toddlers can be such a fun time of bonding and learning.
What are your favorite kitchen tasks for toddlers?