Wednesday, September 25, 2013

How to Love Cooking with your Toddler

I have gotten a bunch of mentions recently, mostly in passing, about how I cook with Anna. I absolutely love having my little helper in the kitchen, and although I don't let her help me all the time, I think cooking with me gives Anna fantastic learning experiences. We learn patience, we learn to measure, we learn to follow directions, we learn numbers and vocabulary, and we learn how things taste and smell. We talk about where food comes from, and if we are lucky, she gets to help me pick it straight from the garden. We even learn a little basic chemistry although I'm not sure how much of that she understands, haha. We also learn about service to others, as we often cook dinner for friends and families with new babies or recent hardships. I spend a lot of my time in the kitchen and it's natural for my children to want to share those experiences with me.

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Cooking with a toddler (and especially now with a baby in the background) can be quite overwhelming, so I decided to document a few of my tips that help make the process more enjoyable. Every time I start to herd Anna out of the kitchen, I remind myself that she just wants to be with me and wants to be like Mommy, and I try to take it as a compliment that she wants to be with me and learning everything I have to teach her!

So, without further ado, here are some Cooking with Toddler 101 Tips!

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1) SAFETY FIRST!!!! Extra capital letters!!! I always triple check the kitchen to make sure pot handles are turned around, knives are out of reach, long sleeves are pushed back, etc. before Anna comes in. I coach her on respecting heat and utensils, and the second she starts disobeying me or acting recklessly, she's outta there. Give your child a stool or a chair or something so she can safely reach the counter and make sure she knows the stove and oven are off limits. No matter how valuable the cooking lessons are, it's not worth potential injury, so seriously, safety first.

2) Read and think! Read through your recipe several times and actively think about where your toddler can help. Where can they pour? Where can they stir? What parts should they not be involved in? Think on their level and you will see where they can help...they don't need to be involved in every single step, a little involvement can go a long way!

3) Preparation is key. Have ingredients measured out, have things pre-chopped, have ingredients, utensils, pots and pans out, prepped and ready to go. Anna loves helping me pour into bowls and pans, and stirring things in pans, and that process is so much easier when I have everything ready for her assistance.

4) Break it down. One trick I use with Anna's limited attention span is to do a mini version of the finished product. A few weeks ago, when we made peach hand pies, I had her finish a tray with just three pies on it. Then I said "Okay, all done, big helper!" and shipped her off to the play room. She felt satisfied and confident, and I got to finish the rest of the pies in peace. Letting her put together all the pies would have been excruciatingly slow and frustrating, so why not cut it short where we are both happy? Even if it is less efficient oven-wise, it is much better in the long run.

5) Talk it out. Enjoy the process! Explain what ingredients and utensils are. Let your child smell and taste raw ingredients (if it is safe to do so). Let them try their hand at rolling and stirring. Embrace the mess and inefficiency because your memories of this day are going to last much longer than the flour all over your floor will!

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Happy 3rd Birthday, Banana Bean!!

Our beautiful darling girl is 3 years old now!! We can hardly keep up with how quickly she is learning and growing, and her developing imagination and sense of humor bring so much joy to our family. We love you, sweet girl, and we wish you a very happy 3rd birthday!

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Like last year, we skipped the party this year and invested our time and birthday budget into creating a special family day for Anna instead (not sure how much longer we will be able to get away with that, so we'll take advantage while we can!). We let the birthday girl pick out pretty much everything, so we settled on the zoo in the morning, with pizza and cake and ice cream for dinner.

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 After a nap, I took Anna over to the Publix bakery so she could pick out a cake, just like her favorite Daniel Tiger episode. She also picked out a pack of spider stickers (she is particularly interested in spiders right now) and a birthday balloon. We also made sure to get some party hats, as they were one of the few party elements she seemed to care about!

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Anna was extremely tickled by the entire candle/singing process, so of course we had to do it several times!



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These pictures of Maddie cracked me up - she was so skeptical of cake since it's been a whopping 2 months since her last cake experience, but you can tell she decided she liked it!

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Anyway, back to the birthday girl:

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This was our second lighting/singing. I had a video of our first lighting and also of her present unveiling and I think they both got deleted in my picture transfer - I am so bummed but if I can figure out where they are in ios7 land I will be sure to post them too!

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After cake, it was time for presents! We had given her a couple of Disney movies at breakfast (The Little Mermaid and Aladdin, if you were curious) but the post-cake presents were the highlight! First up was a new book, The Little Red Wagon. We had been teasing Anna about wagons all day at the zoo - every time we would see one we would say "Wow, Anna, doesn't that look like a cool wagon? I bet those kids love their wagon!" Well, guess what was up on the birthday bracket!

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Anna was ecstatic!

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 She spent the next 30 minutes pulling it all over the yard and cul-de-sac. I was so glad we opted for the all-terrain version!

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Anna was thrilled with her presents and her birthday, and she even managed to coax another candle/singing session with the leftover cake the day after! And she has been proudly telling everyone she meets that she is three and that she got three candles and cake. The celebrations are going to continue through this week as she takes treats to school, has a pizza party with some of her music class friends, and gets a visit from family this weekend - she is loving all of this fun and attention!

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Happy Birthday, sweet girl - we love you so much!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Picture Post!

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How cute is this tea party set up? Anna now refers to our neighbor's home as the "tea party house"

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Celebrating Connor's birthday, a friend from Anna's school

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Impromptu naptime

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Snack time while cheering on the Vols

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Our friend Henry came over and they had a jam session

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Isn't Anna's outfit cute? Anna had very few 3T things for the fall so I loaded up at Carter's (you win, Carter's, you always do) and she has been so delighted with her new wardrobe!

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At a music sing-a-long at one of the local libraries

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