Thursday, May 16, 2013

Toddlers in the Kitchen, a Room Update, and Simple Lives

Spring has finally truly come and we're spending every possible moment outside, playing in the grass and staring intently at the soil, watching to see if our seeds have germinated. I've started almost nothing from seed indoors this year and have just been throwing seeds into the earth and hoping they stick. Our weather has been all over the place, record highs and lows in the same week, so it's anybody's guess. We planted a few new things this year, including corn, and are excited to see what happens.  I hope things are warm and green where you are.
Today I'm going to talk about how I get my toddler to help me in the kitchen, and then I'll show you some updated pictures of Ellie's bedroom.

It's important to me to teach Eleanor kitchen literacy from an early age. We cook every day and she has been a part of it since she was born. Like so many things with children, it's temping to just do everything myself so it gets done faster and more accurately, but we've made it a priority to involve Ellie in as many household activities as we can.  She has developed some skills that allow her to help more than before, so cooking with her has been so much fun. Here's how we involve her in the fun:

Use her other skills.  We've worked a lot with Ellie's fine motor skills with activities like cutting, pouring/transferring, and sorting. These skills transfer to food preparation so when I sit her down with the cutting board, she has experience with the task.
Observe closely and offer help only as needed. Begin by breaking down each step in the process. Ellie's main job with the muffins we were baking was to cut the strawberries. I set down the bowl of washed berries and demonstrated the process one time for her. I pulled the green top off, cut out the core, set the berry on its end, cut it in half, put the halves flat side down on the cutting board, cut each of them in half, and then transferred them to a bowl.  I then let her try each step herself. After watching her try a few times, I ended up taking over the coring and first cut but she did the rest. It's important to only offer help when they need it so they can do as much of it as possible on their own. It was my instinct to take the leaves off myself since it preceded the two steps she needed help with, but she really enjoyed that part of the process and was happy to do it herself. 
Use authentic and appropriate materials.  Ellie works with her toddler knife from her flatware set or her big cutter. She uses the toddler knife at every meal so she's used to holding it. It's metal and fits to her hand so it's easy for her to cut with.  She uses our small bamboo cutting board with a damp washcloth underneath so it doesn't slip around. It's important to give the child proper tools so they can achieve some level of success. If you've ever tried to do a job with the wrong tools, you know how discouraging and frustrating it can be. 
Switch it up.  We were cutting up strawberries for our strawberry rhubarb muffins and Elle was having trouble using her knife because it was a little dull and slippery. I switched to her cutter and she had an easier time.
Be prepared.  Have as many of the ingredients ready as possible before you start, and have anything prepped that she can't help with.  This way the kiddo gets involved in all the fun parts of cooking without any of the boring or difficult steps slowing them down. As your child gets older, they will be able to help measure but it's a good place to start with just dumping and stirring.  Plan for failure by having extra. Use big bowls so that stirring is less likely to result in spills. These bowls have a non skid bottom and are great for kids.

Pick appropriate recipes.  Eventually children are able to cook with heat, but we've been sticking with simple recipes, especially baking recipes, that have ingredients that she can touch and taste.  She loves strawberries so she was very interested in cutting them.  Muffins are easy to make since they just involve combining dry and wet ingredients.
Be patient. Adjust your expectations. Everything will take longer, and it might not come out the way it would if you'd made the recipe yourself.  Remember that it's the process that's important, not the result, and both you and your child will get better with practice.  Don't set yourself up for frustration and failure by trying to have your child help you put together a dish which needs to be done in a timely manner, and don't cook hungry if you can avoid it.  

Have fun, relax, and enjoy the fruits of your labor. 
Finally, I recently updated Ellie's bedroom and thought I'd share some photos with you. I've become ruthless about what I keep in the house these days, and Ellie's room shows that. In my last room tour, you can see that there's a lot more going on. I've tried to make her room more focused and streamlined.
Right to left this time:
DSC00543 DSC00544
You can see that we've removed the potty (She uses a seat on the normal toilet now. So much better for clean up) and her changing table. I was so glad to see that thing go, especially since I got to hand it down to a friend who is expecting her first baby and will also be using Ellie's old crib.  
She still loves her floor bed. We've added some art to the walls, which I copied and laminated. They are hung with nails and paper clips which are out of reach, so if she pulls them down (which she usually doesn't) she shouldn't be able to get the clips or nails down. Ideally things would be in mounted frames, but this has worked fine for us.  She loves this painting over her bed. (That outlet is non-functioning, by the way.)
Matisse over the dressing area. Those are underpants and training pants in the bucket, so she can get them herself.
She has learned to keep her hands mostly off her cd player, so it's doing fine down on her bookshelf.
I pared down her reading corner just to the things she uses. You can see her dog calendar hanging there. She's obsessed.
Her table is now bare and has a chair from the weaning table in the kitchen. This way it's clear whenever she wants to work on it.
And all the toys that were once stored on it now live in this shelf. It's pressed wood, which I don't love, but it's so great for organizing her toys and reinforcing that everything has a place. The hanging above it is actually a piece of wrapping paper.
We all enjoy being in her room so much and I'm very happy with how it has grown with her.  Hopefully this provides you with a little inspiration for your spaces. I've been feeling so good about cleaning things out of the house and hope to keep the momentum going. I have the kitchen to deal with and am itching to get rid of at least a third of the stuff that's clogging up my cabinets. Maybe a garage sale is in order? Scary.
I hope you and yours are well, and please check out Simple Lives!

and link back to a host blog when you link up,

or here.

 1. 25 Uses for Epsom Salts by Preparedness Mama. "Think its just for bath salts and in-grown toe nails-- think again! This little sprinkle of natural goodness is as versatile as MacGyver." Gluten Free pie dough with baked brie 2. Brie Baked in Gluten Free Pie Dough with Apple Pear Compote by Poor and Gluten Free. "We ate the whole gorgeous, decadent, rich, gooey, flaky round of brie for dinner, using slices of pie dough to scoop it up!" crate-planter
 3. The Straw Bale Pallet Crate Garden- Simple, Attractive- and Cheap! by Old World Garden Farms. "So you have little space, little time, little money and you still want to garden."


Sweet and Savory Eats said...

I just had a garage sale and it was just a breath of fresh air! I love purging an eliminating "stuff". Her room looks great!

Alicia said...

Thank you, Ally!
I'd love any tips you have for making it less painful and more successful. I don't want to make money so much as just get rid of stuff!

Modern Kitchens said...

Agree with you to teach Eleanor kitchen literacy from an early age.

Liz @ Books n' Cooks said...

I really enjoyed reading about how you've engaged Ellie in the kitchen. My little one is still really little (3 months) but I can't wait for the day we're able to be in the kitchen together. You've offered some great tips here - I'll definitely be bookmarking it for future use!

Tiffany @ DontWastetheCrumbs said...

I am the world's WORST cake decorator, but my cakes cannot be beat in taste! This week I shared a recipe for chocolate ganache frosting, made with coconut oil and no refined sugars. Rich and delicious, the easiest and healthiest chocolate frosting you'll ever make. I also shared a post from my current series on carbohydrates as we work through Nourishing Traditions. Enriched flour is found in a huge variety of both homemade and store-bought baked goods and it's not as healthy as the food industry claims it to be. Read the post to find out what you're REALLY eating. And as always, thank you for hosting!

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