Recently my most avid kitchen helpers have been the toddler and the five year old. Partly this is a matter of interest and partly it is a result of the bigger two consistently having either chores or schoolwork to finish up when I’m making dinner.
Unfortunately, supper making time coincides with “We’re tired and cranky and need attention” time for toddlers and five year olds so supper making is often interspersed with tears, snuggles and time in “the whining chair”.
Still giving them something to do helps quite a bit. Here are a few of my favorite jobs for preschool and kindergarten age helpers!
- Peeling: Potatoes and carrots are good candidates for preschooler attention. I’ve also had them do garlic and sometimes onions. Garlic is pretty easy but having them do onions works better if I remember to put the onions in the fridge around lunchtime. Chilling them seems to cut down on the juices and eyes don’t “get spicy”.
I really like this peeler. It’s easy to hold and because you peel away from the hand holding the vegetable accidentally peeling their fingers is much harder!
- Chopping/Slicing: I give them a somewhat dull, serrated knife for this. Bull is able to cut most vegetables with this although the thickest parts of a carrot can be too much for his hands. Some of the rounder vegetables I will cut in half first so that they have a flat side on the cutting board. Precooked meat is also an easy item for them to cut.
The serrated knife makes it difficult to cut themselves and I stay fairly close by until I’m sure they understand to keep their fingers away from their blade.
Having Bull cut things up can actually be quite a time saver for me and it’s good practice for him in paying attention and precision.
- Measuring: Counting and the sizes of things are skills that kindergartners learn in school. Measuring the rice and water into the rice cooker or the flour into the bread dough are good ways to reinforce those skills at home. Since we use a rice cooker almost every day, that’s a logical job to have the little boys do together. Bull does the measuring, they both count and Jack turns the cooker on. I do keep a little eye on them but they can pretty much do it on their own.
None of these are particularly difficult skills but they are foundational to other cooking skills and they can be a big help once they are mastered. Some safety precautions need to be taken of course, but with consistent training and application preschoolers can be quite helpful in the kitchen!