When Ameli was 10 months old, I had a visit with a health visitor, who told me I had to put a stair gate up on the kitchen door, so that Ameli couldn’t be in the kitchen while I was cooking, because “the stove is hot”. I told her that didn’t make sense, as the alternative was for my 10 month old to be walking around the house unattended while I was making food. Yes, she said. That is the safer option.

I’m afraid I didn’t agree, but taking her ‘advice’  on board, I put the oven on at fourty-something degrees (Celsius) and when Ameli got too close to the oven, I went down on my haunches and explained to her that it was hot – she could touch it but it would burn. She touched it, it burnt and she pulled away. She’s never touched a hot oven since. Of course I didn’t have it on at 200C and I didn’t hold or press her hand on it. I wasn’t trying to hurt her, but teach her.

Welcome to the November Carnival of Natural Parenting: Kids in the Kitchen

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how kids get involved in cooking and feeding. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

That was our first ‘experience’ in the kitchen together – the first of many.  Now at two years old, Ameli helps me stir, season, pour ingredients into the right places and so on. She sits on the counter away from the heat of the stove, unless I have my hands free and can ‘control’ – for example we watched the popcorn pop in a pot, with me holding her.

We talk through everything. “That’s olive oil. It’s healthier for us… we stir it in with a wooden spoon so that it doesn’t scratch the pan… “ and so it goes – whether she understands or not, she’s learning.

One of my favourite things is Ameli in the kitchen with her dad. She sits and watches, he talks. There’s a digital  photo frame in our kitchen and she talks about the pictures as the come up. The point is, she talks. He talks. I talk. It’s a valuable opportunity to share everything, from the smallest tidbit, to hopefully one day the big things.

Sometimes, you just want to get on with the cooking though, and it’s nice to have fun things for your little ones to keep occupied with, while remaining on the topic of food. Here are some ideas for playing in the kitchen:


  • Simple pots and pans – there’s nothing quite as enjoyable or loud as a pot and wooden spoon connecting repeatedly. For babies, anyway.  Make music, sing a song and dance in between stirring and chopping.
  • Rice in a bottle – a home made rattle, rice, couscous or so on in a bottle makes a great rattle. Get creative and make it colourful.
  • Unpack and repack – this one is annoying if you’re an ‘everything in it’s place’ kind of person, but my daughter loved nothing more than getting into the storage containers cupboard and unpacking, repacking and unpacking again. If you have the space, have a play cupboard filled with play food, stackable containers,  tubs in different shapes and sizes – anything that will entertain for hours and that you don’t need to spend hours repacking each evening.
  • Play dough – or salt dough – is great if you have a recipe requiring kneading. Your toddler may want to get in on the action too, and this way they can knead to their heart’s content without it affecting your baking. If you have the dough to spare though, get them involved, making a pattern to top off a pie, or a cookie shape unique to them.
  • Pasta and String – These make for great fun with a slightly older toddler with good pincer skills. Thread some pasta on a string, paint or colour with marker pens, and wear (with pride!).
    An alternative on this is pasta, paper and glue. Either use the pasta to stick to a pre-drawn picture, or just randomly free-stick.
  • Herbs, Spices and Glue – this is possibly on the pricier side of the spectrum of kitchen art, but can be fun too. Pour non-spicey spices onto a tray, look at the textures, feel them, smell them, taste them and then glue them on paper. Coriander seeds, cinnamon sticks and a host of other herbs and spices provide fantastic scents and a wonderful sensory experience.
  • Decorating cakes – if you’re baking or making cakes, why not set aside one for your little one to decorate any way they see fit. Not only does it keep them out of your icing sugar, but gives them a creative and fun activity!
  • Child-sized cleaning equipment – A child sized broom (or a normal broom with the handle sawn in half), a dustpan and hand broom, a lint brush, cotton cloths and so on, in ‘child sizes’ can encourage help with cleaning. My daughter just loves sweeping the floors. Even a handheld hoover is a great addition to child sized cleaning equipment too.
  • Fridge magnets – these can provide hours of entertainment and be educational too. We have magnets from most of the places we’ve visited and they make fantastic conversation pieces (although I’m quite sentimental about those, so we only look and don’t touch!)
  • A chalk board – a chalk board for drawing or writing on will keep your little one entertained while you’re working.

Obviously Ameli is only two, and as she gets older, I’m sure we’ll find more activities to involve her and more specifically, recipes that she can do more than just mix, stir, and lick the bowls, and I thoroughly look forward to that. In the meantime, the kitchen is a fabulously fun spot where learning and most of all, communicating, takes place.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Baking & letting go — Cooking with kids can be a mess. Nadia at Red White & GREEN Mom is learning to relax, be patient, and have fun with the process.
  • Family feeding in Child of Mine — Lauren at Hobo Mama reviews Ellyn Satter’s suggestions for appropriate feeding and points out where her family has problems following through.
  • Children with Knives! (And other Kitchen Tools) — Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy teaches her children how to safely use knives.
  • “Mommy, Can I Help?” — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment writes about how she lets her kiddos help out with cooking, despite her {sometimes} lack of patience!
  • Solids the Second Time Around — Sheryl at Little Snowflakes recounts her experiences introducing solids to her second child.
  • The Adventure of Toddler TastebudsThe Accidental Natural Mama shares a few things that helped her daughter develop an adventurous palate.
  • A Tradition of Love — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy looks forward to sharing the kitchen traditions passed on from her mom and has already found several ways to involve baby in the kitchen.
  • The Very Best Classroom — Alicia C. at McCrenshaw’s Newest Thoughts reveals how her kitchen is more than a place to make food – it’s a classroom!
  • Raising Little Chefs — Chef Mike guest posts on Natural Parents Network about how he went from a guy who couldn’t cook to a chef who wanted to teach his boys to know how the food we love is made.
  • In the Kitchen with my kids — Isil at Smiling like Sunshine shares a delicious soup recipe that her kids love.
  • Papa, the Pancake Artist — Papa’s making an incredible breakfast over at Our Mindful Life.
  • Kids won’t eat salad? Try this one! — Tat at Mum in Search is sharing her children’s favourite salad recipe.
  • Recipe For a Great Relationship — Cooking with kids is about feeding hearts as well as bellies, writes Hannah at Wild Parenting.
  • The Ritual of Mealtimes — Syenna at Gently Parenting Twins writes about the significance of mealtimes in her family’s daily rhythm.
  • Kid, Meet Food. Food, Kid. — Alburnet at What’s Next? panicks about passing on her food “issues” to her offspring.
  • Growing Up in the Kitchen — Cassie at There’s a Pickle in My Life shares how her son is growing up in the kitchen.
  • Harvesting Corn and History — From Kenna at School Garden Year: The kids in the school garden harvest their corn and learn how much history grows in their food.
  • My Guiding Principles for Teaching my Child about Food — Tree at Mom Grooves uses these guiding principles to give her daughter a love of good food and an understanding of nutrition as well as to empower her to make the best choices for her body.
  • Kitchen Control — Amanda at Let’s Take the Metro writes about her struggles to relinquish control in the kitchen to her children.
  • Food — Emma at Your Fonder Heart lets her seven month old teach her how to feed a baby.
  • Kitchen Fun? — Adrienne at Mommying My Way questions how much fun she can have in a non-functional kitchen, while trying to remain positive about the blessings of cooking for her family.
  • Kitchen Adventures — Erica at ChildOrganics shares fun ways to connect with your kids in the kitchen.
  • Kids in the Kitchen: Finding the Right Tools — Melissa at Vibrant Wanderings shares some of her favorite child-sized kitchen gadgets and where to find them.
  • The Kitchen Classroom — Laura at Authentic Parenting knows that everything your kids want to learn is at the end of the ladle.
  • Kids in the Kitchen — Luschka from Diary of a First Child talks about the role of the kitchen in family communication and shares fun kitchen activities for the under two.
  • Our Kitchen is an Unschooling Classroom. — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle explores the many ways her kitchen has become a rich environment for learning.
  • Montessori-Inspired Food Preparation for Preschoolers — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares lots of resources for using Montessori food preparation activities for young children in the kitchen.
  • My Little Healthy Eater — Christine at African Babies Don’t Cry shares her research on what is the best first food for babies, and includes a healthy and yummy breakfast recipe.
  • Two Boys and Papa in the Kitchen: Recipe for Disaster?MudpieMama shares all about her fears, joys and discoveries when the boys and handsome hubby took over the kitchen.
  • Food choices, Food treats — Henrietta at Angel Wings and Herb Tea shares her family’s relationship with food.
  • learning to eat — Catherine at learner mummy reflects on little M’s first adventures with food.
  • The Night My 7-Year-Old Made Dinner — Melodie at Breastfeeding Moms Unite! shares how her 7-year-old daughter surprised everyone by turning what started as an idea to play restaurant into pulling off making supper for her family.
  • Cooking With a High-Needs Toddler — Sylvia at MaMammalia describes how Montessori-inspired activities and a bit of acceptance have helped her overcome hurdles in cooking while caring for a “high-needs” child.
  • Kids in the Kitchen – teaching healthy food choices — Brenna at Almost All The Truth shares her belief in the importance of getting kids into the kitchen using her favorite cookbook for kids to develop healthy food choices now and hopefully into the future.
  • Make Milk, Not War — Tamara at Tea for Three remembers the daily food fights as she struggled to feed a picky eater.
  • teaching baby birds about good food. — Sarah at Small Bird on Fire writes about the ways in which her family chooses to gently teach their son how to make wise food decisions.
  • 5 Ways to Enhance Your Baby or Young Toddler’s Relationship with Food — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares simple ways to give your child a healthy beginning to her lifelong relationship with food.
  • Toddler at the Table: 10 Creative Solutions — Moorea at Mamalady shares tips for preventing meal-time power struggles.
  • How My Child Takes Responsibility During His Mealtime… — Jenny @ I’m a full-time mummy shares how she teaches and encourages her 32 months old son on adopting good manners and responsibilities during his mealtimes…
  • Kids in the Kitchen: 6 Tips Plus a Recipe — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings shares six tips for overcoming some of the the difficulties of cooking with multiple young sous chefs, and a recipe they all can agree on!
  • How BLW has made me a better parent — Zoe at Mummykins shares how baby-led weaning has changed her approach to parenting.
  • My Budding Chef — Jenny at Chronicles of a Nursing Mom is no cook but is happy that her daughter has shown an inclination and manages to whip up yummy goodies for their family.
  • Kids in the Kitchen: An Activity for Every Age — Gaby from Tmuffin describes how she keeps her kids busy in the kitchen, whether they are one week old or two years old.
  • The Phantastically Mutlipurposed Phyllo — Ana at Pandamoly shares how Phyllo is used to create enticing dishes at home! Anything can be made into a Struedel!
  • Kitchen Kids — Laura from A Pug in the Kitchen shares her children’s most favorite recipe to make, experience and eat.
  • Independence vs. Connection in the Kitchen: won’t you please get yourself your own snack already? — Lisa at Organic Baby Atlanta wishes her daughter would just go make a mess in the kitchen. But her daughter only wants to do it together.
  • Grandma Rose’s Kitchen — Abbie at Farmer’s Daughter reminisces about her childhood and dreams of filling her kitchen with people, love, noise, and messes.
  • Healthy Food Choices for Kids — Jorje offers one way to encourage children to make their own healthy food choices at MommaJorje.com.
  • Cooking food to thrive rather than survive — Phoebe at Little Tinker Tales is trying to foster a lifetime of good food habits by teaching her children about the importance of avoiding junk, cooking healthy meals, and learning about the whole food process.
  • Evolution of a self-led eater — Sheila at A Gift Universe shares the story of how her son grew from nursing around the clock to eating everything in sight, without her having to push.
  • 10 Ways Tiny Helps In The Kitchen — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama explores the ways in which her toddler actively participates in kitchen-related activities.
  • The Complexity of Feeding a Child — Feeding children a healthy diet is no straight-forward task, but Lisa at My World Edenwild shares some general guidelines to help your child thrive.
  • Lactation CookiesThat Mama Gretchen shares a fun recipe that will benefit both mamas and babies!
  • 50 of the Best Books, Websites, & Resources to Inspire Kids in the Kitchen — Need inspiration to get your kids in the kitchen? Dionna at Code Name: Mama rounds up some of the best books and websites that can serve as a source for ideas, recipes, and cooking with littles fun.
  • A 4-year-old’s smoothie recipe — Jen at Grow With Graces and her son set out to make a smoothie without the usual ingredients. She let him improvise. See how it turned out.
  • Independent Food Preparation (My Toddler Can Do That?) — Megan at Montessori Moments shares simple ways for children to prepare their own healthy snacks.
  • Follow Your Gut — Amy at Anktangle shares her philosophy about intuitive eating, and how she’s trying to foster her son’s trust in his own inner wisdom when he feels hungry.
  • A TODDLER-STYLE LUNCH + RECIPEManic Mrs. Stone photographs how to have messy fun during lunchtime with a helpful toddler.


Kids in the Kitchen

  1. Your kitchen journey sounds very similar to mine. My children have always been in the kitchen with me and never burned themselves on the oven. They are just 2 and 3 years old and are so aware of the oven when it’s on…slightly less about the stove top but we are working on that! We’ve also incorporated most of the ideas you have about keeping them entertained in the kitchen although there are definitely a few more things I want to add. My 2 yo has just started using a small grater and a citrus juicer which he finds amazing! I look forward to reading more about your kitchen adventures.

  2. What wonderful ideas! I love that your husband gets involved, too! Not only are you helping your daughter develop important skills, but you’re creating amazing memories as well. And I love the idea of kitchen art using herbs and spices – great sensorial experience! 🙂

  3. The child sized cleaning tools are fantastic. It’s also great that when you can, you have her helping you. I know a family where the youngest child would help stir a pot on the stove top at three years old – because he was involved from the beginning, just like Ameli 🙂

    1. @Megan, Yes, my granny always remembers me standing on a chair to make food for my baby sister/feed my sister/wash dishes. Not an acceptable health and safety move, nowadays, but I was involved from before I could reach too! I agree – Ameli just loves the child sized tools!

  4. I just love the pictures of her sitting on the counters! And I love the way you just talk about everything as you cook. I like that way.
    Thanks for reminding me about pasta necklaces. I wouldn’t have thought of using markers but that makes it so much easier.

    1. @teresa, My pleasure! Hope you have fun making the necklaces! I love having Ameli on the counters with us, and while it make not be ‘safe enough’ for some, its worked for us! As for the talking, my hope is that in years to come, it’ll be a ‘natural’ time for her to share her life with me. Thanks for the comment!

  5. Lovely activities. Jesse already plays with pots and pans, and also loves packing and unpacking but I am excited to let him try a few more of your suggestions… 🙂

  6. What lovely ideas! We too have a drawer and a cupboard that the kids love to empty and refill!
    For the oven we always played a game since my first was little – if I had to open the oven everyone had to sit down on the other side of the kitchen – even hubby played along many times and now it’s just a tradition practically – I say ” hot oven opening” and all three little bums land on the floor!!!

    1. @mudpiemama, That’s a really good idea, with the oven. I love that Ameli just isn’t ‘interested’ in it now. It’s not ‘forbidden’ so there’s no mystery. She knows that it’s hot though – when the light is on, she’ll say ‘hot, mommy’… as if to remind me too. It’s very sweet.

  7. Lovely ideas for kitchen fun and harmony. How will children learn if they’re not involved in cooking from the moment they can be..they won’t learn much from behind a safety gate! All my four have been involved from the moment they could wash a carrot and hold a spoon, and the rewards are that my 12 year old regularly cooks our evening meal alone…yay!

    1. @Angel Wings and Herb Tea, Nope, not going to learn much from behind the safety gate. I tried to make the point that having an 8 month old roaming a house alone is possibly more dangerous, but the health visitor just did not get it. I love that your 12 year old cooks for the family. I used to do the same from a very young age – often making my brother be the waiter! lol. Must ask him if he remembers that 😉 Thanks for the comment!

  8. Awesome ideas Luschka! I remember someone who commented on one of my gentle discipline posts long ago that “the only way to teach a child that the stove is hot is to smack their hand.” Noooo – I taught Kieran by having him in the kitchen with me and involving him in the cooking process. He never had to burn himself (or be hit) to learn that we don’t touch the stove!

    1. @Dionna @ Code Name: Mama, My dad’s mom complained after our first visit with a 12-month old Ameli that she fiddles with ‘everything’ (she messed with some coasters on the coffee table) and that when my dad was that age, he used to fiddle too, but one day she smacked him so hard on the hand that he cried and it made him quite frightened as a person, and he never did anything without asking permission again. She was thoroughly pleased with the outcome, and suggested I do the same. I can’t fathom how as a mother, that’s an outcome you can be happy with 🙁

      Just for the record, the oven when Ameli touched it wasn’t much hotter than a cup of coffee, and it was just a finger-tip touch. I wasn’t trying to get her to burn herself! (In case that wasn’t clear!!)

  9. Yesterday I let my 3 year old niece help me with stir the flour and milk for a pancake. She was thrilled on this and she love doing it. Exposing kids to the kitchen is worthwhile, we are programming their minds that task in the kitchen is not work but a fun thing.

  10. What great ideas! Mikko has taken over a whole drawer in our kitchen with random things he’s sure belong there. 🙂 He loves to pull out all the mixing bowls he can get to, along with assortments of utensils. It’s funny what will keep them busy. I love your ideas and am making mental notes of them all!

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