What can a 12-18 months child do in the kitchen?

The best way to involve 12-18 months children in your cooking is to let them observe your cooking! As they grow, they will be ready to help with very simple tasks but don't plan an elaborate project — 5 to 10 minutes might be all your child wants to spend on an activity. Start small and keep it fun!

Before inviting your child to climb up the learning tower, it is always a good idea to clear the table as young children are curious by nature and you can't keep their busy hands from exploring the moment they are up on the countertop. Read more on tips for cooking with young children.

When you are ready, bring them into the kitchen and set them up on a learning tower beside you. Spoons, whisks, spatulas, non-breakable mixing bowls, and measuring cups are their favourite. Talk to them about what you’re doing. Let them touch some ingredient or even pass them some mess-free ingredient to play with. This is all about making cooking fun!

Often, parents undermined the benefits your young child is gaining while standing on a learning tower beside you. Being on the same eye level with your kids gives them a sense of security and more in control. It also signals that you’re willing and ready to engage with them.

Allowing them to touch and smell different food is a great sensory activity that is crucial to brain development. Those banging and clanging sounds they made with the pots and spoons might sound like a pointless and noisy activity, but inside their brain, it’s a well-orchestrated concert. Your child is replicating the rhythm he hears in language, and consequently, developing language skills.

Overstimulation is a common problem we face with young children. It happens when children are swamped by more experiences, sensations, noise and activity than they can cope with. Through sensory activities in the kitchen, the child learns to block out the noise which is not important and focus on the task on hand.

Allowing the child to explore the food could also help to reduce fussy eating habits. The use of sensory play can gradually help develop trust and understanding of a certain texture in a less stressful manner. Children then become more receptive to the texture and more adventurous in eating. Read more on how does a learning tower benefit your child here.

As they grow, they will develop the skills, attention span to do more. You can then give them simple task like 
  • Pour dry and liquid ingredients into a bowl
  • Transfer ingredients from chopping board to a bowl
  • Adding seasoning and marinating food
Remember, when giving instructions, be enthusiastic, using simple language, and give them time to process and demonstrate to them if require. They will still need lots of close supervision, but they’re likely to be very enthusiastic about helping out. What I find particularly useful is to clear the table and only put 1 activity in front of them each time so they learn to focus on the task presented to them.