If you’re like many parents, just the title of this blog post is conjuring up images of spills, various sticky splotches all over the counter, and powdery white flour covering every surface and every inch of your toddler after she knocks it over. Combine this with sharp objects and hot surfaces, and it’s easy to see how cooking with your little one might not yet seem like the best idea.
But while there will most likely be some messes along the way, studies show that children who are involved in preparing their food tend to make healthier choices and are less likely to be picky eaters. Toddlers imitate behavior more often in their stage of life than at any other stage, providing a perfect window for beginning to teach them the basics of food, kitchen safety, and self-confidence in making healthy choices.
Here are some simple ways to get your toddler involved in the kitchen!
Start with a spoon. Stirring dry ingredients, liquids, or batters is one of the easiest tasks for a toddler to try. Your steady hand may be needed to keep the bowl from tipping, but offering a spoon or whisk with a thick handle will help your toddler achieve better coordination.
Work with water. Younger toddlers who love playing with water will enjoy this tip. Show her how to hold fruits and vegetables under the faucet, scrub them with a produce brush, then gently dry them off. (Also model the importance of hand-washing before cooking!)
Try hands-on recipes. Baking recipes like breads and cookies offer a fun opportunity for toddlers to use their hands directly. Show him how to make little balls to put on the cookie sheet, or how to knead bread dough. The results won’t be perfect, but your little one will be so proud of his handiwork!
Remind them of dangers. This one’s pretty obvious, but reinforce that certain kitchen tools go “ouch” and that it’s not time yet to eat certain foods until after they have been in the oven.
Give them choices. Older toddlers will love making “big kid” decisions about their food, especially if they get to help prepare it. For example, ask if they would like banana slices or blueberries with their lunch, then help them use a butter knife to make the slices, or show them how to rinse blueberries under the faucet before putting them on their plate.
Start a simple routine. For cooking multiple recipes with your toddler over time, start a routine to give them something to look forward to and gain confidence in the kitchen. For example, mommy/daddy may always measure the ingredients, but your toddler can always dump the measuring cups into the bowl. Another routine can even be as simple as getting your little one a children’s apron. Besides keeping her clean, this can help serve as a cue for getting ready to cook together, and give her something of her own to use every time in the kitchen.
Have fun! It’s normal to be nervous about letting a toddler into the working areas of the kitchen for the first time, but as you watch out for his safety, try to relax and allow you both to enjoy the experience. Afterwards, you can even hand him a paper towel to help you clean up!
What are some ways you like to spend time with your little one in the kitchen? Let us know in the comments below!
Written by: Lauren Mesaros
Photo credit: Skanska Matupplevelser
We’re already a few weeks past the official beginning of fall, which means there are lots of delicious, seasonal fruits and vegetables stocking the shelves at the grocery store and farmer’s market. One of these fall favorites are apples!
There are over 2,500 different varieties of apples grown in the United States, contributing to the average American’s consumption of 50 pounds of apples each year (with about 19 of those pounds coming from fresh, whole apples). Before Pilgrims brought over more varieties in the early 1600s from Europe, the only breed of apple native to North America was the crabapple. By the time the first commercial trade of apples began in the United States in 1741, they had already been an excellent food source for settlers due to their easy storage and long shelf life.
Apples are a great source of soluble and insoluble fiber, Vitamin C, and antioxidants. Unfortunately, they’re also a good source of residual pesticides. If you haven’t heard of the “Dirty Dozen,” it’s a list compiled by the Environmental Working Group showing the fruits and vegetables with the highest levels of pesticide exposure. Of the 700 apple samples tested, 98% were shown to contain pesticides–up to 48 different types! This makes apples number one on the Dirty Dozen list, thus also making them one of the best types of produce to buy organically in order to avoid exposure to pesticides that, in some cases, have been proven to cause health problems in humans.
So what’s a nutritious apple recipe for the whole family to enjoy?
Try Organic Homemade Applesauce!
1. Take a selection of organic apples (feel free to mix different kinds), wash them thoroughly, then peel and core them. Cut into chunks.
2. Put apples in boiling water and let cook for about 10 minutes until tender, being careful not to overcook in order to retain as much of the vitamins as possible.
3. Rinse the apple pieces in cold water before putting into a blender or food processor. Blend until your desired consistency is reached, adding water as needed.
4. Add a little cinnamon (if your baby is not allergic), some other pureed fruit or vegetables (like mango, berries, carrot, or even pumpkin), or just enjoy plain!
Written by: Lauren Mesaros
We all love ice cream, but most that you find in the stores are not only highly processed, but very few are dairy free. This is why I started making my own last summer and it has slowly become something I make during the year! Here is my recipe for raspberry ice cream, however, you can swap out the raspberries for any fruit of your choice (I have even swapped the raspberries out for Oreos).
2 (13oz) cans chilled coconut milk (works best with chilled, full-fat milk)
3/4 cup granulated sugar, stevia, or other sweetener of your choice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup raspberries (fresh or frozen) or other fruit of your choice
1. Place the coconut milk, sugar, and vanilla in a blender. Blend until combined, about 30 seconds.
2. Freeze using an ice cream maker, according to manufacture’s instructions. During the last few minutes of churning, add in the fruit. You can serve immediately for a soft serve texture or you can place the ice cream in a container and freeze for a firmer texture.
Now that the warm weather is FINALLY here, you and your toddler must be craving some light refreshing springy snacks. Popsicle are a spring and summer favorite, they’re a great way to quench your thirst and keep cool, but the store bought variety are loaded with all sorts of chemicals and sugar. But don’t fret, popsicles are fun and easy to make at home, and your kids will love to help you make them!
These delicious frozen treats have endless flavor options. Here is a general recipe that you can follow with any combination of fruit, berry, or vegetables. To make 8 ice pops, take about 3 cups of your favorite fruit(s), and a tablespoon of lemon juice. You can also add sugar, syrup, honey, or any sweetener if you prefer your popsicles sweeter. Next take your fruits, lemon juice, and sweetener and use a blender on high speed to mix them until the mixture is smooth. Pour the mixture into ice pop molds, insert the sticks or handles, and place them in the freezer until they are firm, do this overnight as it takes several hours for the mixture to really freeze. If you don’t want to purchase ice pop molds you can use small plastic cups and popsicle sticks, just spray them with a little non stick cooking spray or wipe the insides with any type of oil, so the ice pop can slide out easily. If want to avoid the oil all together, you can make wash your cups or molds with hot water prior to pouring the mixture in, in our experience however, the nonstick cooking spray or oil tend to work better.
This is a great, healthy, and versatile snack that your entire family will love! What are your favorite ice pop flavors?
Admit it, growing up fruit roll ups were one of your favorite childhood snacks. However, store bought fruit roll ups are loaded with sugar and chemicals and probably don’t have a single actual fruit in them. Here is a healthy homemade and all natural alternative to these sugary treats that your little one will go crazy for!
Homemade Strawberry Fruit Roll-Ups
1-pound strawberries, stems and leaves cut off
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (about half a lemon)
¾ cup granulated sugar (Optional) This is just to sweeten your fruit, if you think it is naturally sweet enough, you don’t have to add anything. I always add a little somethin’ somethin’ to mine. You can use granulated sugar, honey, or even splenda or agave syrup.
- Cut the strawberries in halves or quarters, depending on their size. Mash them roughly with a potato masher in a large bowl to yield about 2 cups of mashed berries.
- Stir in the sugar and lemon juice and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to break down the berries. Stir once or twice while they sit to dissolve sugar.
- Pour the strawberries and their natural syrup into a blender and blend until a smooth puree forms, about 1 minute.
- Pour the puree into a high-sided pan (the wider the better to help the liquid evenly evaporate) and bring to a low boil over medium heat.
- Cook the strawberries for 20-25 minutes, stirring often. The liquid will foam and then become clear as the bubbles slow and the puree thickens. When it done cooking the puree will be consistent, thick, and almost opaque.
- While boiling preheat the oven to 175˚F
- Lines 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and divide the cooked strawberries between the baking sheets. Use a spatula to spread the mixture evenly into as think and wide a rectangle as possible.
- Heat in oven for 5 to 6 hours, or until the fruit feels slightly tacky but no longer sticky. The timing depends on your oven’s strength as well as the humidity level, the more humid the longer it will take to cook.
- Transfer the parchment paper on to wire racks, or just the kitchen counter, and cool completely.
- Use clean kitchen scissors to cut the fruit roll ups into square or strips. Store them at room temperature in airtight containers for up to a week.
- Enjoy these healthy treats with your family!
This recipe is for strawberry fruit roll ups, but feel free to substitute the strawberries for your favorite fruit or berry, or for an even easier recipe just use apple sauce and start at step 7!