Saturday, 3 January 2015

Cooking With A Toddler

I recently wrote (and regularly do) about what life's like with an autistic child.
So when the A-Man was born and it was clearly obvious he was nothing like his older brother - we didn't know what to do.
This was exciting!  This was scary!  This was a "regular" (neuro-typical) kid that we could do funner stuff with!
I do not purposely leave the V-Man out of the kitchen - he's more than welcome to join me if I'm cooking and sniff as many spice jars as he wants.  And he has once - stirred food in the pot on the stove.  It's a huge step for him and when he's ready - he'll be warmly welcomed just as much as A-Man.

However, as it stands currently, A-Man loves to cook.  He's 3-years old and just cooked his first meal for us with very little assistance.  He's been helping out in the kitchen before (around 2-years old he showed interest) with little things like mixing, adding ingredients for baking, lining muffin trays with paper liners and so on.  So this was a BIG step up!
What did he cook?

Fajitas with home-made guacamole.

I may as well say it now.  I'm nothing like my mother (who wouldn't let me cook anything more than instant noodles with an electric kettle that automatically shuts off after the water boiled or toast) and am not a super paranoid parent.
Of course, I am cautious with everything we do with the kids (especially the V-Man) but for the most part - I don't scream or cry when my kids hurt themselves or get ill.  Of course if it's a serious accident - I'm very concerned (read: internally freaking out) but I remain as calm as possible because freaking out isn't going to help my kids feel safe or feel like they're going to get better anytime soon (read: "OMG Mommy thinks I'm dying! *scream more* ").

Now, I'll also mention (as kindly as possible) that my husband doesn't cook.  He has 1 dish he makes - "hamburger, macaroni and tomato soup" (not actually a soup) - which some people know as goulash?  That's it.  I don't ask him to cook very often either.  He's my assistant with little things while I change a diaper or use the bathroom or finish a blog post...*cough cough cough...
As with most men in the world - he can work a BBQ, cook bacon, instant noodles... and that's about it.

But lately, he hasn't lifted a finger in the kitchen - other than to empty the dishwasher - and that's fine with me.

A-Man has been stepping up to the plate!  If I'm quickly typing out a blog post as fast as I possibly can - he'll sneak into the kitchen, pull up a chair and start mixing whatever's on the stove.
This doesn't work well with pancakes - just so you know!  And yes, he's tried it!

I was supposed to be cooking up beef stew but my stomach has been acting funky all afternoon, so I opted for fajitas.  Ground beef with spices - too lazy to add veggies of any kind and home-made guacamole.  And yes, salsa from a jar - because:
  • A) I'm lazy like that.  
  • B) Not feeling well.  
  • C) Never tried to make salsa before but maybe some day!
The boys were being a bit grumpy towards each other - so I took this as an oppourtunity to pull A-Man out of the mix and asked if he wanted to cook.

Now, the problem with the word "cook" is that it sounds an awful lot like "cookie".

Once I confirmed that we're not having cookIES - he was still excited and that made me happy.
I really enjoy cooking with him and think of it as a "Mommy & Me" date at home that doesn't necessarily involve me eating a greasy fast-food burger or fry.

I decided today, for no special reason at all, I would let him cook ALL the food.  This meant that the more he spent in the kitchen - the longer he'd be away from V-Man!
Sure he can mix the food no problem and without making a mess.  But today I upped it a notch and got him to cut open the avocados, scoop them out and make guacamole.

I let him use a steak knife and tried to get him to focus on why he shouldn't hold the knife by the blade.
When we cut the avocado together, he stopped and gasped.  He learned that the knife was sharp this way and nobody was hurt! :)

And the food turned out delicious.  I even let him go a bit crazy with the spice jars. :)

Cooking with children:
  • Needn't be stressful or fancy!
  • Can be extremely educational and a great way to encourage healthy eating habits.
  • Great way to bond or just hang out together.
  • Things you can teach a child while you cook:
    • Food safety and hygiene
      • Oven and stove safety
      • Washing hands
      • How to handle various utensils and equipment 
      • (I realize A-Man is wearing underwear in one picture and an apron in the rest.  He's pretty stubborn about wearing clothes at's a work in progress.)
    • Colours
    • Shapes
    • Numbers, measurements
    • New words: "scoop", "mix" etc.
    • Names of food or ingredients
    • Cause and effect (for older kids)
I look forward to sharing more of our cooking adventures! :)
(No offense, but I look more forward to the day V-Man wants to really join too!)

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