Picture this: it’s 4:30 (or 5, or 6) and you are finally getting ready to make supper. But your baby or toddler wants to be with you wherever you are! So what’s your solution? Read on so that you don’t have to fall prey to this conundrum!
I recently came across a great resource I received when I was working for my local school district that had an amazing list of kitchen activities for toddlers. It is wonderfully imaginative, and I hope you will find it as useful I do!
Why you might want or need kitchen activities for toddlers
If you are anything like me, your beloved little toddler sometimes can’t stand being in a different room than you. (My 2-year-old has recently started yelling, “I’m alone!” as soon as I walk out of the room.) So when I am trying to make supper, I just need something for her to do (other than touching the stove, spilling the oil, or using a knife). Sometimes I try to have her do something in a different room, but most often she comes wandering back into the kitchen. Thus, I need some kitchen activities for her to do.
The other great thing is that you can use this time for your child to learn new things. A lot of the following activities could be used to help your child learn about counting, colors, and shapes. It’s definitely a big benefit for you to have a child that is occupied, but if you do it right, it can also be beneficial to your child!
When to use these kitchen activities
Have you heard of the “witching hour”? It’s this high-stress time that usually occurs right as you are getting supper ready.
Picture this: you are boiling something on the stove, cutting up something else, and the timer is going off. If that weren’t enough your toddler is crying because they want the toy their sibling is playing with (or maybe they are really crying because they are tired and hungry!).
This is the exact time you need some great activities for your child to do independently while you are getting dinner ready.
The best kitchen activities for toddlers during meal prep
Matching lids and tupperware
If you are anything like me you have too many Tupperware containers and not enough lids (or is it the other way around?). Either way, I keep my Tupperware in a low drawer so my kids can play with all of the containers and lids. It’s a safe kitchen item, and my toddler loves taking them all out, and sometimes she even puts them back in the drawer.
Sorting spoons (and maybe forks)
I think sorting spoons is a cute idea because you can help your child really organize them by color or size, or you can just let ’em go wild with spoons. If you want cute, colorful spoons and forks for your kids check these out. And since they are specifically for children, you can let them sort between the forks and spoons. If you don’t opt for kid-specific utensils you can just let them use what you already have on hand. Use the mixing spoons, and regular tablespoons to add some variety.
Wearing rubber gloves
This idea is as simple as it sounds, but if you give your child rubber gloves, they might be entertained for quite a while. Let them try to put them on by themselves, and then let them just play around the kitchen using them. Here is a cute little pair of gloves that is nice and colorful. If your kid is like my little toddler, they might even enjoy trying them on their feet or putting the gloves on a favorite stuffed animal. When you are a kid, the possibilities are truly endless!
If you have plastic cups that nest inside of each other, let your child have a few and experiment with nesting them together. You can give them different sizes of cups, too (a good reason to keep those silly plastic cups you get from random restaurants or events). Your child can do some problem-solving and play with the cups as they try to put them inside of each other.
You could also show them how they can try to stack up the cups too. It might be a little topsy-turvy, but it’s all about the experimenting.
Sorting with muffin tins
I love the idea of using little muffin tins to let your toddler sort things into them. You could give them beans, coins, marshmallows, pom poms, googly eyes, or anything else you can think of. If you are worried about a mess (which is completely legitimate), consider putting the muffin tin and the supplies you are sorting into a bigger tub.
If your little one is still prone to putting everything in their mouth, be careful you don’t give them anything too little to sort that could be a choking hazard.
Watching snow or ice cubes melt
Watching snow or ice melt almost sounds like a joke, but it can be borderline magical for toddlers. Last winter I brought in a little tub of snow for my toddler to play with and it was so entertaining. When she was extra little, I just put snow in a bowl for my little one to explore the first time. When she got older, I put the snow in a tub and gave her a spoon, and a cup, and I think I even included a little plastic toy.
If you don’t have easy access to snow for whatever reason, you can put some ice cubes in a bowl or tub. They can still watch the magic of ice melting into water while they play.
Checking out grocery adds
Ya know those silly grocery ads you are still getting, even though you may not want them? Put them to good use and let your child look through them, tear them up, or even color them. As you are making the food, you can talk to your little one about the pictures of food they see. You could even make it into a little “I Spy” game, and ask them to find certain foods as they look through the ad.
Making a food collage
You can use those same ads or maybe even a magazine to help your little one make a food collage. If you trust your toddler with kid-safe scissors, let them work on their cutting skills while they try to cut out the foods and put them in a collage. These are Crayola toddler-safe scissors. They even have different patterns they can cut.
If you aren’t ready for them to cut on their own, just cut a few things out ahead of time and let them do the gluing. (It might get messy, but it will be okay.) As you cook (or do the dishes, or clean up) you can make little comments about the color of the food, the shape, which foods they like the best, and more. This will help them feel like you are doing the project with them.
Do you know what is absolutely crazy? My toddler thinks “cleaning” is so fun. (I have to put that in quotation marks because, at this point in her life, nothing she does is actually helping me clean.) If I have to sweep, I have my toddler get her little broom out, if I am wiping something up, she gets a rag and wipes up, too. She thinks this is fun! Y’all, I hope she ALWAYS likes to clean this much!
One of the reasons my little one seems to enjoy cleaning is because she has her own little cleaning set. It’s cute, and I store it in our closet where my cleaning supplies are, too. And I do love the idea that she is learning about cleaning from a young age.
Sensory bin with kitchen supplies
Before working in a school, I didn’t even know what a sensory bin was. However, I was introduced to these magical little things and it has come in super handy as a mom. Basically, it’s a container you fill with any number of things that your child can explore.
According to Lumiere Children’s Therapy, sensory bins allow children to explore using many senses-sight, touch, smell, sound, and sometimes even taste. Children can learn new language, work on their fine motor skills, and problem-solving.
So to make your own sensory bin choose a “main ingredient”. It can be rice, marshmallows, beans, sand, cotton balls, straws, water beads, cereal, popcorn, or anything else you want to try. Then add some tools your child can use. This might be a spoon, a truck, a funnel, measuring cups, or a little rake. Then you just let your child play in it!
My little one loves these so much. She will spend a lot of time measuring, sorting, spooning, and just feeling the different materials. And just a little expert piece of advice, put something else under the bin because when your child inevitably spills, you will have less of a mess to pick up.
This hardly needs an explanation. I just let my little girl have some colors and some paper or a coloring book and go wild with it. Sometimes, if I need to keep her contained, I will even have her sit in the high chair while she does this. Our favorite crayons are these twistable crayons because they don’t break very easily.
Again, I don’t feel like you need a big explanation about having your child play with play dough because it’s pretty basic. But I will say, my toddler has played with play dough, in her high chair, for hours at a time. So it’s worth the investment to get some cool playdough toys. Our favorite thing is this awesome Minnie Mouse kitchen set for play dough. And if your kid isn’t into Minnie Mouse, check out this cool kitchen set.
I am a bit of a nerd when it comes to magnets because I think they are so stinkin’ cool! And since we probably all have a refrigerator in our kitchen, it’s the perfect place to let your little one explore with magnets. You can buy some great Melissa and Doug letter magnets here or they have cool animal magnets right here. Your child will have a grand time playing with these.
Well, I sure hope you try out some of these ideas the next time you need to get something done. You and your child will be happy and content doing your own thing, but together in the kitchen. Let me know in the comments what you do with your little ones when you are working on making food.