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"Cooking" with a toddler?

I'm trying to figure out how to "cook" with my nephew, who is 2 1/2 years old. By far his favorite play activity is cooking... he has a toy kitchen and many toy food and utensil sets, and will spend hours "cooking" for us. Last night I was babysitting him, and I found an Easy Bake Oven app for my phone. He played with it until the battery died - picking out different flavors of cake mix, adding it to the bowl with water, stirring it (all the while singing "stirrin, stirrin, stirrin...") filling up the little cake pans, baking them, then decorating them... it was the most fun I've ever had with him!

With all the interest he's showing, I want to start cooking with him now, since I love it so much and I think it would be a great thing for us to share. My sister doesn't really cook; my brother-in-law loves to (and is good at it) but he works long hours, so often cooks in such rushed fashion that he doesn't have time to do so with my nephew. I don't want to buy him an Easy Bake Oven (because he's too young, plus I'd rather start him on "real" cooking.)

I know it sounds silly, but I'm not sure how to start. I don't have kids, and this is the oldest child in the family, so I have absolutely no experience with toddlers, other than what time I'm spending with my nephew now. What works well for someone his age? I don't want to just have him watch me, because I think he'll feel like he's not part of the process. Should I try with "play" stuff right now? Meaning we measure and pour and stir things, but don't really cook anything? That way he can gets his hands dirty without worrying about ruining an actual recipe? Or should I have him help me by pouring stuff I already have measured into mixing bowls?

Those of you with experience... how should I start this with him? Thanks for any advice!

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  1. I don't have any children either, and have very little experience with toddlers, but I remember learning to cook at my parents' sides when I was around that age. They would do the hard stuff -- the chopping, the measuring, the recipe reading etc. -- and explain to me what they were doing as they went. I'd get to do easy stuff like stirring and pouring. Then, as I learned what to do, I'd get to try out more and more of the hard stuff until I could make whole recipes. They also let me invent my own recipes (I remember making everyone eat a "pepper cake" when I was 3 or 4). One time, my dad got a chef friend to come in and teach my sister and I how to make won tons, because we loved won ton soup. I was a bit older, then (4 or 5, maybe), but my sister was still definitely a toddler.

    In your case, I would just ask him what he wants to make, then make it with him. You do the hard stuff (and explain it as you go), he can do the easy stuff. Then you get to eat what you made (and isn't that the best part?)

    1. Maybe plastic knife to cut up ingredients for a smoothie. Bananas would not be difficult or dangerous. He could drop those in along with some ice cubes and berries and sugar, you add the milk, he pushes the button and you both get to enjoy. Maybe a buttermilk dip done the same way and he gets to arrange the crudites on the plate. I found the most difficult part with young kids was they had short attention spans and wanted it finished and ready to eat right away which is why I suggested things that didn't need to be baked. Of course, you could do a mise en place for other dishes, like cookies and such, and he could add them as you told him to since I've found kids that age aren't good at stirring unless it is a thin batter...which makes pancakes a good option because they are done pretty quickly.

      1. Aw, I think that's just great, and I can appreciate for him that you want to do "real" cooking instead of just baking with an EZ bake lightbulb.
        Obviously, anything sharp or hot is off limits. Pre-measuring ingredients and then supervising his additions and stirring is a GREAT start. Adding thing to other things is another. One huge success for us was Penny Soup, just basic stock, to which we added all manner of veg. that could be cut into coins. A kiddo his age can toss some salad and shake the dressings in a jar. He can spread peanut butter onto celery and sprinkle with raisins for ants on a log, and he can surely make his own PBJ's or cheese sandwiches, with a dull butterknife or a plastic knife.
        Here's a GREAT one that fascinates kids - Bake some easy biscuits w/ him helping you. Now, pour a pint of whipping cream and a tot of salt into a clean jar with a tight lid, and get to shaking. After about 10 minutes, you'll have....butter! Recipes w/ few ingredients are most welcome, and most suited, to kids' tastes. Think about cinnamon toast with him, and meatloaf that he can mix with his (nice clean freshly-washed) hands. He can help make mashed potatoes.
        The best thing about what you're doing is demystifying food. Kids are so much more willing to eat what they help fix. And this way, little man will be comfortable in there from an early age, which is a great great thing.
        Oh - and don't forget the humble peanut. Blender homemade peanut butter is great stuff, and freezer jam is easy.

        1. I was raised in the kitchen -- I truly cannot remember a time I was not in the kitchen! One of my earliest memories is standing on a chair stirring a pot of grape jelly with a dish towel tied around me for an apron (my grandmother, two great-aunts, and several 2nd cousins were in the tiny kitchen, too, so I was well-supervised!)

          Start by letting him stir -- and helping him measure small amounts -- but it's fine to let him help make "real" food.

          There's nothing wrong with an EZ-bake oven, by the way -- it's as much real cooking as anything else -- cake batter in a metal pan in a heated chamber is real cooking, even if it's only a box mix heated with a light bulb, he'll be **thrilled** to have that little cake he made all by himself. (with your supervision, of course!)

          When mine were little, I got a lot of mileage out of a plastic lettuce knife like this: http://www.amazon.com/Zyliss-Fresh-Sa...

          and the Safe Cutter from Pampered Chef: http://www.pamperedchef.com/ordering/... With that, they could handle things like carrots and celery (this is not fine knife work, by the way -- rather a controlled breakage!) - but they thought they were hot stuff by having their own kitchen knife. (lots of discussions about how that was their special knife, and not to touch Mommy's knives!


          When my niece came to visit last summer, she was delighted and burst into giggles when I handed that knife to her so she could help make dinner! (she was 16 and able to use the real knife I handed her later, by the way)

          If there's one of these near you: http://youngchefsacademy.com/ they offer classes for toddlers -- I used to be an instructor at one of the locations, and the kids have a great time with the grownup who comes with them.

          1. My granddaughter is almost 3 and cooking with me is her favorite activity by far. A stepladder (2 steps) or a stool is essential so she can see what she's doing. Washing, spinning and tearing up lettuces for salad is a favorite activity. Peeling tangerines is easy, fun and ready to eat right away. We have a small dull knife for her to put cream cheese on a bagel or butter on bread. Eggs that can be cracked into a bowl placed in the sink are great, and it's easy to use a whisk to whip them up.

            The best part is talking and teaching while having fun. Keeping it simple, easy and quick ensures enthusiasm and the bonus is that kids are much more likely to eat what they help make.

            1. Now is a cool time, on a related note, to maybe grow some food w/ him. Cherry tomatoes are easy, as are some milder radishes.

              Everything, everything is a learning experience for this little guy. You can make little fruit cups (a slice of yellow banana, two green grapes, three slices of orange tangerine, one red maraschino cherry). He can put four shakes of cheese on pasta bowls. It's ALL good.

              1. When I was young and learning to cook I loved anything that let me get a little messy and work with my hands. I still do like that, actually.

                One of the first recipes I remember my mom teaching me was to make vegetable lasagna. This could work with stuffed shells or something, too. Use a cheese mixture (ricotta, mozzarella, parm) with a little added pepper and herbs that your toddler can mix together using his hands. Then I also had the easy job of layering the noodles, spinach, mushrooms, cheese, sauce.

                Baking (bread, cookie dough, pizza dough) where you can use your hands to knead or form cookies would be another good idea.

                I love the ideas above of salads and smoothies, learning to crack eggs and child-friendly knives.

                1. Get away from the easy bake oven and mixes. Make real cookies with him. At 2the 1/2, kids can measure (have everything out), crack eggs, roll dough balls. Make basic pizza, even if it's english muffin pizza. Oh, a fun project is to cut a shape out of rolled cookies and fill w/the hard candy. It melts into a stained glass. I add a lollipop stick before baking and they get a cookie lollipop.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: chowser

                    You can still use an easy bake oven to bake real cakes. My daughter used to help me make cake batter, then she'd put some in her easy bake pans and slide them into the slots.

                    I still think those things are magic!

                    1. re: Isolda

                      I never thought to take out batter from a cake to do that and you can't mix up one batch of easy bake cake. OTOH, even when I was younger, once I was allowed to use the oven myself, I never saw the point.

                    2. I did this with my 2.5 year old. We started with breakfast burritos because it incorporates so many different activities. so he'd use a butter knife to cut the sausage into pieces, break and whisk the eggs, assemble the burritos, add cheese and wrap them for mom.

                      we also did brownies, which to me aren't as exciting. and he wasn't really ready to measure stuff so most of it was boring. but hte cooking breakfast thing was a big hit.

                      1. I have my 3yo in the kitchen with me all the time. One thing that works for us is measuring/mixing/shaping basic sugar cookies - she has her own rolling pin, lines the baking sheets with parchment, does the sprinkles - I don't 'fix' her cookies - we bake what she makes and that helps her learn what works and what doesn't. I try to have a few saved in the freezer from the last batch, for her to frost while we wait for the ones in the oven.
                        We do soup too - almost the same as one PP said, start with stock, toss in the veggies. Homemade pizza - have the dough ready, toppings all set out, let him pat the dough out, add the sauce and toppings - quick rewards for his efforts.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: tacosandbeer

                          " I don't 'fix' her cookies "'

                          I love that hint. I did the same thing w/ everything. It doesn't have to look like a Martha Stewart item and they feel good about it, not like they did something "wrong." We had some funky looking jack o-lanterns when I cut along their drawn lines but it was all theirs.

                          1. re: chowser

                            Definitely! Remember, for kids this age (and quite a bit beyond), it should be all about "process," not "product."

                        2. I take care of my grandchildren once a week and the twin girls (now 5 years old) love to make pancakes with me every so often, they were about three when we started doing that.
                          I place all tools and ingredients on the center island. One measures and adds ingredients, the other girl mixes, taking turns. The other day we made waffles, they learned to separate eggs, whip them and fold into the batter. They really enjoy mixing everything properly and they love to eat the results. I am always amazed how well they pay attention to details. Fun.
                          "Cookie Doodle" was one of their favorite IPad Apps.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: RUK

                            Pancakes are great. I bought shaped cut outs but they had more fun with batter in a squeeze bottle where they could do any shape or squiggle they wanted.

                            1. re: chowser

                              Good idea about the squeeze bottle.

                          2. How about pizza from scratch. Dough kneading then choosing and scattering things on the pizza.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Frizzle

                              My daughter is 4 but we do that all the time. I make the dough then let her stretch it out for her own mini pizza and then let her scatter her chosen toppings.

                            2. My daughter took a toddler cooking class. I can't remember all the things they made, but definitely pizza - knead the dough inside a ziploc bag, roll out and scatter toppings. Make sure to include veggies because he will eat them. I think she may have also made chocolate chip cookies and done the stirring by hand. I think she made butter at daycare in a ziploc bag, and maybe also ice cream once. Jello would work, although not really cooking.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: Pandora

                                Why ziploc bag? For the mess? Invest a a couple of smocks. That's what we do.

                                I make pizza with my toddler and his cousin all the time. They knead, add the toppings, I bake, they eat. I've never seen them prouder than when their pizza is served to them.

                                We also bake cookies using cut outs like some people have already mentioned. They love presenting them to people.

                                1. re: ambra

                                  What's wrong with ziplocs? Who cares about soon-to-be-abandoned smocks?

                                  I make pizza with my toddler all the time, guess what, we just wash our clothing afterwards.

                                  1. re: ambra

                                    Feel free to ignore the ziploc suggestion if you don't want....I think they did do it to contain the mess, and also to make it less frustrating to combine all the ingredients since they are all easily contained in a bag. I thought it was pretty neat. Also, it may depend on how much an adult is helping. In this class, they had pre-measured ingredients and the kid pretty much combined all the ingredients and did all the kneading independently. My daughter was really young at the time - maybe 2.5, 3? So limited motor skills.

                                2. My best advice here is to remember at that age cooking is still magic. When you see a magic show the kids are happy to hold a hat or something that seems trivial to adults. Cinnamon toast is transformational magic. PARTICIPATING is the key. Keep in mind that cooking with a kid will slow you down, not speed you up. Let him find his way. Ask him to do things you know he can do then slowly increase the difficulty. Here, time and attention are the key. Not the recipe outcome. Have a GREAT time. These will be hours you never get to do anew.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. My Dad used to get me up on a high stool and let me have a go at kneading dough for bread. Of course, I made a big mess and also tried to eat quite a lot of the raw dough (even after I discovered that the yeast made it taste bad! It still looked so good!) but it had a positive enough effect on me that I can still remember it, and to this day I love kneading dough.

                                    ETA: I was also put on the same high stool and left in charge of watching the porridge in the microwave. There wasn't a single time when I didn't let it boil over! My Dad still teases me about it!

                                    1. I was a day care teacher for a few years and also have little ones of my own. Cooking is one of my favourite activities with little guys. At 2 1/2 he may or may not have the motor skills to cut things with a dull knife (probably will not) but her can certainly enjoy cooking in other ways. if you measure, he pours and helps to stir etc.
                                      Few suggestions:
                                      -have a pizza party with english muffin pizzas. split and lightly toast the and toast the english muffins. you might have to put on the sauce if you don't want a huge mess but let him do the cheese and toppings
                                      -fruit salad is an easy one. if he can't cut it himself put out little bowls of fruit and let him pick and mix it
                                      -i did "pasta sauce" with my guys from as young as 2 1/2 easily. bowl of cold tomato sauce, cooked ground beef, chopped veggies and i would let them choose what to put in and stir it together then I would heat the whole thing up
                                      -sandwiches. cold tortillas spread with cream cheese and they garnish with fruit or veg and help roll it up
                                      -decorating cookies, cakes and you MUST get a gingerbread house at christmas. With my first we did one when she was about 2. It certainly "interesting" but she has a great time

                                      At 2 1/2 making choices as you cook together will make him a part of the process, he will feel like he created something because he did. He makes the choices, you are just helping him with the sharp/hot parts that are too dangerous for little hands.

                                      Good luck and enjoy...

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: rayrayray

                                        Absolutely!Start him now. Cooking is one of the few things I can bond with my sports obsessed son. From a young age (2) I had him standing on a stool and dumping in ingredients I'd measured, explaining as I went about how to measure, the difference between dry and liquid, the chemistry of what we were doing. Stirring is fine for them as long as you put them at the right level (you wouldn't want to stir something at eye level either). I use a Starfrit for apple dishes so he has always been able to do the turning to peel even though I took the apple off and put it on. This year he got a slapchop in his stocking and he loves being able to chop. Breaking eggs he's done from the beginning, just make sure you give him a seperate bowl to break them into and then add to the recipe once they've been checked for shells. He's 8 now and can crack eggs one handed. Last year I had a friend make him a chef's outfit with his name on it and he never cooks without jt.

                                      2. Your post brought back so many memories of when my own son(now in his 20s) was 2-1/2 and wanted to cook. Other posters have already given you good advice: get a good footstool that he can stand on beside you so that he is at the right level. Stirring, pouring, and adding ingredients at that age all count as cooking. And, anything that is tactile, whether cookie dough, pizza, homemade pasta, etc. is great.

                                        One other thing to keep in mind is that children are much more likely to eat new and healthy things if they have helped prepare it. So, while it is great and easy to make cookies and cakes with your nephew, try to think of veggie and fruit dishes where he can help. In a year or so he should be able to help peel carrots and slice veggies or fruits but may not have the manual dexterity to do it now. But as suggested up thread, while you may not think of it as "cooking," something as simple as adding cut-up fruit into a salad, or helping to arrange veggies in a composed salad will not only provide with him pride of helping you out (remember the old Shake 'n Bake commercial, "and I helped"?), but may induce him to try foods he might otherwise avoid.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: masha

                                          Another thing that I remember that my son did at that age: making meatballs - both helping to add ingredients and then forming them. Of course his meatballs were much smaller because of his tiny hands so you could always pick out the ones he made, which he really liked

                                        2. I had an easy bake oven, and I remember wanting to use the REAL oven. I let my kids use it. 4 and 1, and just supervise them all the way. We just made pop corn from scratch last night, and my son LOVED it. I heated the oil then he poured the pop corn in and I quickly put the lid on. We then carefully shook it together until it stopped popping. He LOVED it!

                                          Just make it fun and think ahead of time how to do it safely. My son loves when I tickle him with the beaters to the hand mixer. Try it yourself! Put your palm on the bottom of the hand mixer beaters (fingers have to stay safely together). It tickles!

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: Main Line Tracey

                                            My mom said "Why would I pay the same for an Easy Bake mix as I do for a real cake mix? If you want to make a cake just tell me." She had mini versions of all the regular pans,so if she was making a cake we could put some of the batter in a little cake pan just for me. Ditto pie plates and teeny tiny cookie cutters. We loved them.

                                            1. re: dianne0712

                                              good heavens -- NOBODY buys the Ez-Bake refills, do they?

                                              Jiffy makes a one-layer cake mix that neatly makes nice little cakes (2, IIRC - it's been a long time) for an EZ bake.

                                          2. I'm loving the other suggestions as my little guy has just started getting obsessed with the kitchen - I think he likes climbing on the stool more than anything, but honestly, dishes are his favorite thing in the world! He literally cries when I make him stop doing dishes to go to the park - to the park! So I recommend: dishes.

                                            Other things he loves:
                                            - He helps me scoop the dry ingredients, I measure them off, he pours them into the mixer. For wet ingredients, I do the measuring, but he loves to hold the handle of the measuring cup and pour them in. I often measure in smaller increments so that there's more to do (use 1/4 c measure 4 times to get a cup for example, instead of using the 1 c measure).
                                            - He tries to help stir. He's only 20 months, so he's a HUGE messmaker at this, but if it's something that's not a big deal, I let him; if it's already measured, etc. I guide him so it's neater.
                                            -He loves to hand me the ingredients, especially things like eggs that he can pick up easily. I'll put the bags of flour, etc. on the floor even so that he can go get them and bring them over. Loves it.
                                            -Obviously, if it's sweets, he loves to taste the dough - I always let him have a lick of the spatula or spoon when we're finishing up so he gets what we're doing. Licking the bowl was always my favorite part as a kid!
                                            -He is "in charge" of the timer and checking the oven. I set the clock, he presses start, and then he turns on and off the oven light for a good ten minute stretch. When the timer goes, he often yells "done!" and gets me the oven mitts.
                                            -Turning on and off the appliances is always a big hit - he's in charge of the mixer, the food processor, etc. For the food processor, he gets to stuff the food down the chute as well, which he giggles at every time.
                                            -Lastly, a good mortar/pestle is a great distractor for when you're doing things that require a little more care than you want to entrust. I put herbs or nuts in there and let him bang around for 5 or 10 minutes while I do the delicate work on the real recipe. He's happy as a clam and I can toss the herbs into something else later or the nuts into his granola.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: thursday

                                              Dishes! I love that suggestion!

                                              The mortar / pestle is another great idea!

                                              I don't have wee ones anymore but I love cooking with my great nieces and nephews. The hungry caterpillar (fruit threaded onto skewers are always a big hit, as are using small ice cream scoops to measure out cookie dough.

                                            2. My oldest, who is now 9 going on 19, started "helping" at that age. To this day our favorite project is baking cookies! She started out stirring and pouring measured ingredients into the bowls. My other children now like to help too. Last weekend they made cookies just about by themselves! I would say for a toddler that age, you're on the right track. Be creative, let them try to crack eggs, or measure ingredients, turn on the light in the oven so they can watch things cook. And don't forget that the cleanup is part of the cooking, most toddlers love to get their hands wet in sudsy dishwater.

                                              1. I have a 4 year old who is a picky eater. Very picky, funny he loves to pretend cooking but only eats 4 or 5 foods and if not given one of those will actually not eat to the point of him being faint.

                                                Cookies are good, along with any baking stuff where overstirring is not a big deal

                                                Another thing is when I make pizza, I have him help spread the sauce and drop cheese and pepperoni. Also sometimes we give him a tortilla and a can of sauce (unopened) and a roller and a plastic cutting board, and have him "roll out dough" for a pizza, he loves it.

                                                1. It's so great to get kids involved with preparing meals at this age! Research actually shows that kids involved in the process are more likely to eat better and be less picky.
                                                  A stool is essential! Maybe a matching apron just for fun.
                                                  I think mixing and kneading are good kid-friendly activities.
                                                  I remember making pizza too... we used the pop tin of biscuits, flattened them out, put on our sauce and toppings then baked them in the oven or toaster oven. Good memories...
                                                  Decorating cookies or cupcakes with different color icings and toppings can be fun too.
                                                  What about an omelette or crepes? Then you can help him flip it and he can put all the fillings in it.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: G8ornurse

                                                    yes -- I had a big stepstool with a wide step, so it was easy to stand without losing their balance (a wider, but shorter step later...)

                                                    I bought an apron at a craft shop and decorating it was an afternoon's project in itself....

                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                      We have one of those Ikea ones which are great, because we have a Victorian house and double height cabinets.

                                                  2. you can wash the kid's hands and bare feet, and perch them safely on the counter w their feet in the sink (or *in* a really huge farmhouse sink, sitting on an overturned pot), give them a plastic colander and a veg brush, and have her/him scrub all of the garden/farmer'smarket/csa produce, as you chop and prep. the conversation can be about the names of all the veg, the colors, favorite ways to eat the veg.

                                                    just stirring some chopped herbs and garlic into greek yogurt or sour cream, or honey (for fruit)-- "i made a dip" -- then watch the kids eat fresh veg/fruit.

                                                    1. Do you have an old crank style egg beater? I used to love making whipped cream and meringues. I was older, so you would probably need to take turns to ensure the whipping actually works . Meringues are so fin since they keep the shape of however one lays them out.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: calliope_nh

                                                        OMG - I *loved* making meringue with a hand-cranked egg beater. I've thought about buying one now just for the fun of turning that crank again.

                                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                                          My 2 yr old and I made French Toast last week -- i cracked the eggs, he helped whisk them with the milk and sugar. I poured, he stirred. And he was super excited to eat the French toast once it came off the griddle.

                                                          I think any dinner can be modified to have a toddler help -- just have to let them!

                                                      2. You can measure stuff and have him dump in the bowl, but honestly, I've found from cooking with my daughter that what she really loves is getting her own pastry to play with if I'm making a pie or a yeast dough or something. She rolls it out and cuts it up and it gets a little too grubby to eat but I pop it in the oven anyway.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: Savour

                                                          oh yes - pie crust crispies-- roll out the trimmings, sprinkle with a little cinnamon and sugar -- the prize of the day for kids.

                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                            my mom makes jam turnovers with the leftovers - still my favourite.

                                                        2. muffins are a good source, if you don't mind cleaning up flour. My kids both like weelicious berry muffins and the chocolate banana version. My 2 year old loves to make potatoes au gratin.

                                                          1. Few more ideas:

                                                            A chair works better for us than a stool since when my daughter steps back - the back of the chair is there.

                                                            She loves to rinse beans - and picking through beans or rice can take a lot of time!

                                                            Dumping ingredients for baking is a hit-or-miss activity. If you need the dough or want to decorate edible cookies, do the dough before hand if your helper is wound up. Same with anything cracking eggs related.

                                                            I've also had great luck with the "decorating" pizzas idea. Same for building layer dishes like a casserole or enchiladas.

                                                            But I would not assume that you need to dumb anything down and I would not assume that you have to pretend. I would assume that you will make a mess.

                                                            1. Loving all these suggestions about ways to help!

                                                              Also: At 2 1/2, Ditdah's nephew (and many of the the other kiddos in this thread) will still be using and enjoying their play kitchen for a long time. It's very fun if you haunt yard sales and thrift stores to pick up the smallest size of intriguing real cookware that you may see. Little kids love "serious" materials (i.e., not plastic) and it's all great pretend play, small motor practice, sensory input and of course, *fun!*.

                                                              Sometimes it can be fun to drag the pretend kitchen outside and give them small quantities of real ingredients to make messes with. They will mix dry rice with leaves from your bushes, sniff the cinnamon, and use up any old non-perishables you have laying around. Great fun. And remember, the more "I-do-it-myself" there is in the kitchen, the less picky-eating/food battles there will be (not that this is the sole factor, but all other things being equal, it helps). HAVE FUN!

                                                              1. My daughter is now 7 and I had her in the kitchen from birth (as an unwitting observer). At 2/12 I had her snapping green beans, stirring, measuring (with help), rolling dough, making meatballs and breading chicken cutlets. As much as I loved MY EZ Bake oven I never got her 1 for several reasons, space in my NY apt, and cost of re-fills and such. Now at 7 she has better real knife skills than many adults I know. Of course I supervise her closely when she's using a knife and in the kitchen in general. I'm sure whatever you do with your nephew he will appreciate it and have fun!

                                                                1. Just discovered another way for 2 year old to help in the kitchen - I was chopping zucchini, tomatoes, etc. for a ratatouille-type dinner and realized if I put the pan on a chair seat, every few chops I loaded everything into a plastic bowl and let him make the transfer from chopping board to pan. He had a GREAT time and kept asking how his cooking was going while it was simmering. He then asked for a large portion of "his" meal and ate a big bowl full of zucchini, eggplant and tomato, so that's another plus! =)

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: thursday

                                                                      My daughter loves transferring veggies or fruit from the cutting board to a pan.

                                                                    2. Have it peel and devein the shrimp.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. My daughter is 2.5 and enjoys measuring for pancake batter or yogurt cake (yogurt cake is a ridiculously forgiving recipe; if you don't want to dirty a bunch of implements, there are instructions online for measuring ingredients using the six-ounce yogurt container), cracking and beating eggs, cutting bananas for smoothies with her "sharp knife!", actually an Ikea plastic children's knife, snapping the ends off green beans, kneading dough, spreading sauce on mini pizzas and then sprinkling the cheese... about the only thing she has freaked out over is the act of separating eggs. For some reason, the process fills her with terror.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: Selkie

                                                                          My daughter is almost 4 and loves to do many of the above things people have mentioned (dump, stir, knead, roll and decorate pizzas), but there's actually one thing I don't even bother making if she's not around to help me -- broad beans (aka fava beans). Our whole family loves them, but I hate the two-step podding and shelling you have to do to make them really taste good. She loves doing it, though, and can proudly get through a huge pile of beans (although by the end she will have eaten about a quarter, which is fine b/c she generally doesn't like vegetables). My husband similarly remembers loving shelling and eating fresh peas, if you are lucky enough to live somewhere you can get them.