Thursday, March 6, 2014

Munchkin Meals: Cooking with a toddler

I'm linking up once again with Brittany from A Healthy Slice Of Life for Munchkin Meals! I love this monthly feature because it gives me some really great food ideas from lots of other mamas!
This time I thought I could focus on one meal and how I involve Ben in the meal making process at almost 2 1/2 years old. 

I was making Mama Pea's "meaty green bean casserole" (I wanted to include a link here but sadly, she has left the blogging world so this recipe is no longer available online. Sadface... Her amazing cookbooks ARE available on Amazon here.)  This vegan casserole is a favorite in our house, and if you have never made her Cookie Dough Balls you seriously don't know what you are missing!

Now where was I? Oh yes, cooking with a toddler. So Ben LOVES to help mommy with dinner and asks to do it frequently. I try to not get too involved with the hot stovetop or sharp knives but if it's pouring or mixing or other safe activities I love my little sidekick to get in on the action! I originally thought I would have him help me trim the green beans (breaking off the ends that can get a little tough during cooking) but quickly realized  that expecting that kind of precision from him was a recipe for frustration for us both. I adjusted my expectations several times throughout our dinner prep. First I would trim the ends off a bean then give it to him. He then broke it in half and put it in a bowl. 
He then told me he was going to eat one, which of course is fine. I honestly didn't expect him to like it because he has had a pretty intense aversion to them since starting solid foods, but he gobbled it up and asked for more! All in all he probably ate 25 green beans while we sat together getting dinner ready. An extra serving of vegetables before dinner even started?!? Awesome!
Because I was able to trim much faster than he could break in half, I was also able to cut up the mushrooms and "sausage" (we used light life brand but I've done it with tofurkey and field roast brands and all are delicious). I also got the ingredients for the mushroom sauce out and let him pour them from the measuring cups into a bowl and mix it up. My child is obsessed with measuring cups so he really enjoyed this part! Since everything moves more slowly with a toddler in on the action, almost a half hour had passed and he was ready to move on at this point which was perfect because it was time for the cooking part anyway. 
We had so much fun making this meal together, I can't wait to do it again! My favorite part was when he would hold up one green bean and say "it's a BIG one mommy" then break it in half and with a huge grin say "now it's a LITTLE one!" Then eating them of course! So cute! 
Have you tried involving your toddler in the cooking process? Any tips or tricks?


  1. What a cutie! I love getting my son to help, but he's not doing very much at the moment. He mixes and pours, and that's about it. He loves to mix and can get very, very enthusiastic if he's allowed to. We do occasionally let him mix hot foods, while my husband or I, also hold his hand to make sure he does so gently, but the majority of the time, he is my helper when it comes to baking.

    1. Yes Ben loves helping with baking, but his all time favorite thing to "help" with is doing the dishes! He stands on a chair and I stand next to him and wash items and put them in the sink and he rinses them off for me! Is it too wishful to hope that he will still want to do this when he is older and can do it himself?!

  2. Adorable! Love the idea of helping at meal time! I have my toddler help with baking-because who doesn't love cookies and cakes?- But with sides for dinner and lunch? Great idea! Will definitely be putting my little helper to work in the kitchen- I think he will love it!

  3. My kids LOVE green beans because of the "babies" inside haha. They love to peel them apart, eat the little beans, and then eat the big bean. I recently discovered that mama pea isn't blogging anymore. What a bummer. She's an amazing inspiration and I love reading about her kiddos :/

  4. omg! Peasandthankyou is gone?? NOOO! So glad I have one of her cookbooks... I shall be making more recipes from it now that you remind me