Choosing recipes with a toddler in the kitchen

Recipe suggestions for cooking with toddlers tend to focus on scooping and sprinkling, but I think young kids can do much more. A- was happily cracking eggs at 17 months, and she even sometimes managed to leave the yolks intact. She’s now a little over 2 years old, and she loves helping in the kitchen. We picked up a second-hand Learning Tower to bring her up to counter height, and it’s one of my favourite pieces of toddler gear.

I think toddler-friendly recipes should:

  • accommodate variations in quantity (A- sometimes wants to keep scooping!),
  • have weight measurements (great for quick corrections once the toddler is done scooping),
  • be forgiving about time and attention during cooking (to accommodate potty breaks, playtime, impromptu dance parties, etc.): for example, zucchini muffins are easier than spinach pancakes
  • be easy to clean up both during prep and eating: for example, we tend to not do tomato sauces
  • be grown-up friendly: we prefer family portions, not just kid-specific meals

Bonus points for:

  • permitting play and sensory exploration, like the way A- likes it when we make breadsticks because it’s just like playdough, and salad is good for tearing and spinning
  • allowing more independence: things that can be cut with butter knives, etc.
  • short ingredient lists using mostly common ingredients that are easy to keep in stock (since I sometimes find it hard to shop for groceries with a toddler)
  • ingredients that are safe to handle raw and don’t require constant cleaning/handwashing: cheese is easier to work with than raw chicken
  • being easy to pack for lunch or snacks
  • recipe collections that gradually introduce new skills, tools, and tastes
  • being easy to make ahead or prepare in short stages: for example, I can chop a few carrots while A- is napping, and it’s okay if they sit on the counter a bit if A- wakes up crying
  • being easy to manage with multiple kids: division of labour, minimal choking/eating hazards, etc.
  • individually identifiable portions: for example, making pizza

So far, A- likes helping us with scrambled eggs, pizza, breadsticks, spinach smoothies, zucchini muffins, rice, and anything that involves cheese or cucumbers. Of course, she’s involved in cleaning up, too. Working on expanding our repertoire!