10 Ways My Toddler Helps in the Kitchen

Our little Mad Hatter, Mackenzie, is at a stage where she LOVES to help us do anything and everything she possibly can…but it can be a little bit challenging to find tasks that a 2-year-old can complete in the kitchen without making a mess or burning down the house. I try to let her explore new tasks as often as I can, especially because she tends to get a rather cross with me if I can’t find some way to let her help, and I am often really surprised at just how much she is actually capable of.

I for one love help in the kitchen, even if I’m not so great at asking for it most of the time. So I’m pretty thrilled to have discovered by trial and error, these 10 ways my toddler can lend me a hand.

  1. Putting away silverware
    I was totally impressed that Mackenzie, when given a stool to stand on, can totally identify where the different forks, spoons and butter knives go in the drawer. She places them all in the correct direction and everything. I’m not so thrilled about putting the silverware away anyway.
  2. Adding ingredients to bowl/pot/KitchenAid
    Obviously I am careful to make sure she won’t burn herself or get caught in the KitchenAid, but she’s pretty good at adding ingredients to things. And when she does happen to spill a bit, I try to remind myself that it’s nothing a few swipes with the sponge won’t clean up. And she really enjoys being a part of the cooking action.
  3. Stirring ingredients
    I generally just let her stir the dry stuff but I do sometimes give her a spoon to stir things while I’m cooking dinner in a pot or frying pan. Again, there are sometimes small messes made — but at least no instances of more dinner ending up outside the pot, or in her mouth!
  4. Tearing up lettuce
    You cannot believe how good she is at this! Like she’d been doing nothing but tearing up lettuce for salads her entire life. And there’s really no way for her to do it wrong.
  5. Drying plastic dishes
    After watching me do it a hundred times, Mackenzie grabbed herself a towel and started drying off plastic stuff from the dishwasher. And then she hung up the towel afterwards. I’m telling you, we have one good kid on our hands!
  6. Taking out glasses and dishes from the dishwasher and giving to me to put away
    I always freak out a little bit when she goes to grab a glass or bowl — but so far she’s been very careful and we’ve had no mishaps. Not even I manage to keep from breaking things every now and then. My biggest concern is that she might get hurt.
  7. Unwrapping a dishwasher tab, putting it in the machine and closing the door
    She so loves those little tabs. She used to take the box out of the cupboard when she was little and play with them. I guess it’s no wonder that she enjoys using them for real, now. And we were both pretty surprised when we realized that the wrapping around them is flimsy enough for her to tear. She’s always ready and waiting to get the dishwasher going for me!
  8. Helping to put away groceries
    We’re still going through some training for this one, but much like unloading the dishwasher, she’s definitely good at taking stuff out and giving it to me to put away. Since most of the shelves are still too high for her to access, it will be a little while longer before she’s truly unpacking groceries. But we’re off to a good start!
  9. Helping make her own bottle (start hot water machine, scoop formula into bottle)
    Another task that tends to get messy and she thankfully cannot yet push the button to start the water herself (oh the messes we’re going to have then), but she loves scooping the powder out of the container and dumping it into the bottle.
  10. Wiping down the table
    Mack is a table-wiping professional by now. She’s been doing it since she was big enough to reach over the edge of the coffee table. I think it’s probably one of her favorite chores to do around here. Maybe I can even convince her one day that dusting is just as much fun! ;)

How do your children help in the kitchen?

  • nadine

    Alex loves to put away the dishes! And he always closes the dishwasher door for me…whether or not we are done !

    • Tiffany

      lol Mack loves to close the dishwasher door too. What is it about those doors that are so fascinating?

  • Charlie Sommers

    I was in Japan serving with the Air Force when both my children were born. I used to eat dinner on occasion at my supervisors house, a crusty old WW-2 veteran with four children. He impressed on me the importance of giving children a “work ethic” at a very young age.

    Each of his four children had a cleanup task to accomplish after meals before they could return to their play. The youngest child, Monica, was charged with wiping down the table. She sometimes made quite a mess on the floor and Ike, my supervisor, admitted cleaning up after her was probably more work for he and his wife than just doing the task themselves would have been. The important thing was that Monica was learning responsibility.

    That was many years ago and Ike and I still correspond, he is now 83 years old and his children all grew into very responsible adults.

  • http://www.studiomailbox.com TJ

    This feels very Montessori to me, “help me to help myself.”

    I’m so on board with the idea that if you are patient with your kids and give them tasks they can actually accomplish then you will help them to develop a strong sense of self esteem.

    Best wishes from ochsenfurt, tj

  • http://www.miskellany.com Kelly

    My toddler also likes to wash plastic dishes in the sink!

  • http://ohamanda.com oh amanda

    My 2.5yo does the silverware! I LOVE IT.

  • http://www.eco-novice.com/ Betsy (Eco-novice)

    We do some of these, but I got many ideas from this list. I think it’s best to involve your kids as much as is practical b/c otherwise they are just underfoot making you miserable. I know this is about the kitchen, but my 3.5-year-old loves to help with the laundry too. Take the willing help while you can get it!