Favorite Kitchen Tools for Cooking with Kiddos

This post was originally published on my old nutrition-based blog. A rough afternoon this week trying to bake with my kids reminded me of the post, and I thought I’d republish to share again.

When I was pregnant with my now preschooler, I fantasized about the gourmet meals I’d make for dinner once I was no longer working full time in an office. My reality is pretty much the opposite of that, and I’m guessing I’m not alone. Dinnertime is chaos. But I’ve found that my best shot at succeeding is keeping things crazy simple and involving my kids in the process.

(For the simple part, check out my Instagram account  where I’m always sharing what super easy meal we’re having.)

Some of you may find that it’s easier to distract a little one for meal prep, which I support 100% and sometimes that’s exactly what we do. God bless Daniel Tiger. But my daughter is a people person and does not need any alone time. As an extroverted introvert, I don’t understand this AT ALL, but I’m learning to work with it. And my son is currently in a stage where he must be within 3/4” of my body between 4pm and bedtime.

Including them in my dinner prep speaks my daughter’s love language, keeps my son close by, and is the best way for me to get dinner on the table without opening a can of Pinot Gris (yes, it’s a thing – you can find it at Trader Joe’s). Plus, they tend to eat more when they are involved in making a meal. And a full kid is a much better sleeper than a hungry one. #amen

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Favorite Kitchen Gadgets for Toddlers

Over the last few year (my daughter is 4 and my son is almost 2), we’ve collected a few items that make our time together in the kitchen easier. The first two are specialty kid items, and I get if you don’t want that. The rest are normal kitchen tools that I find particularly useful when working with them in the kitchen.

Learning Tower – A learning tower (or a kitchen helper) is an enclosed platform that raises a kiddo up to counter level. Also to fridge opening, sink turning on, etc level. You’ve been warned.

Unlike a stool, kids can’t fall off this (or the chances are lower). It also helps as a place for wiggly toddlers to stand during meals as they can be active while still being contained and not tracking food everywhere. But most importantly, I think it’s the sense of ownership. It is THEIR tower, and they will (almost) always happily jump in for a kitchen activity. I’m not sure I’d get the same cooperation if we were just pulling out the old kitchen step stool.

On the down side, a learning tower is large and takes up space. Even so, I recommend 100%. I’ve linked to the one we use above and this tower is the one I wanted but couldn’t justify the extra $50. There’s also a budget-friendly IKEA hack option that several friends use.

Kid Safe Knives – My daughter was gifted these knives and we love them. She will happily work away at chopping long enough for me to get the basics of dinner ready. I set her up with a non-slip cutting board and a piece of produce that will go with our meal (or not if the fridge is slim pickings). The most usual suspects are carrots, celery, and fruit. The key is that I always incorporate her work in our meal somehow, which makes her task feel important. So long as you’re cool with serving mangled strawberries with your curry, it really doesn’t matter what your child is chopping as long as he is busy.

The recommended age is 4+. We started using them around 2 and have had zero issues, but use your own discretion.

Big Bowls – With little ones, the bigger the bowl the better and I love this 4 quart pyrex bowl. Some of the best times to include kids in the kitchen is when pouring ingredients and stirring. The larger the bowl they have to pour into, there’s a better chance most of the contents will make it in. And with stirring, I always use a bowl several times larger than needed. All that extra space is for when food goes flying around due to a vigorous toddler or preschooler stir.

Spouted Measuring Cups – I have much better luck with ingredients landing in a bowl when the toddler uses a spouted measuring cup than when we use a regular set of measuring cups. I’m thinking it’s because with this sort of cup you’re not filling it all the way, so there’s a lot more room for error. I have two so we can do wet and dry ingredients without having to wash and dry.

Spiralizer – My daughter loves to use the handle of our spiralizer when we’re making ‘noodles’. Of course, this requires that you are paying close attention until all sharp blades are out of reach. It’s a great way to get your kiddo to try more varieties of veggies, too. I’ve tried pretty much every spiralizer and this one is my favorite.

Blender – Toddlers love buttons, and buttons on blenders are no exception. Blenders are great because they can first help put ingredients into the pitcher and then they can press the button(s) and watch the food become something. We currently have a Vitamix, though any blender will keep a toddler’s attention for a few minutes.

Aside from other staples like wooden spoons and serving ware, I think that’s a wrap on what I use with my toddler in the kitchen.

P.S. Grandparents, aunts and uncles: This makes a great gift list for little ones. But make sure to check with parents before purchasing a learning tower. Not everyone wants a castle in their kitchen.

Any kitchen gadgets you love to have on hand when cooking with your little one?