I love that Eddie always wants to “help mama cook.” Whether I’m scrambling eggs, stirring tomato sauce, frosting a cake, or throwing chicken breasts into the slow cooker, I always hear him sprinting into the kitchen, climbing up into his kitchen stand, and asking if he can help me.
I learned quickly that kids in the kitchen isn’t the heartwarming, relaxing, picture perfect moment that you might think it’s going to be. It invariably ends up with flour all over the floor, a bit of egg shell in the cookie dough, and my shirt covered in the batter that he stuck his hand into before he decided that it was gross and wiped it on me.
But I want to foster his healthy relationship with cooking, so here’s how I try to make it easier for everyone:
1. Pick a relatively simple recipe and do all of the prep work possible. This means we’re making chocolate chip cookies, not a buche de Noel. If the recipe calls for the dry ingredients to be premixed, I do that during nap time. I put the butter and sugar into the mixer bowl. I get the cookie sheets out and line them with Silpats.
2. Crack the eggs into a separate bowl. When I bring Eddie into the kitchen, I set him up with the eggs and an empty bowl. I pre-crack the eggs before I hand them to him, so he can just shove his thumbs through the shells and empty the yolk and white into the bowl. After all of the eggs are cracked, we then add them to the batter (and this gives me an opportunity to fish out any errant shell bits.)
3. Don’t wear anything fancy. If you are still wearing actual clothes, 7 months into the pandemic, God bless you. But in case you’ve never seen a 2-year-old in action, it’s going to get messy. Don’t wear black.
4. The iPad is your friend. Or the TV. Or stories. Or whatever distraction they like. After they’ve helped you mix the dough, get them out of the way so you can scoop the cookies onto the sheet and get them into the oven. If you’re going to get crazy and involve sprinkles, gird your loins and lay out newspaper to mitigate the effects.
5. Dig in. Eddie and I have made “fresh cookies,” as he calls them, at least weekly for the past few months. I try to add healthy ingredients like flax seeds, oats, or pumpkin just to get some nutrients in him, but hey, it’s a cookie. Chocolate chips aren’t hurting anyone.