I admit that sometimes I kick my entire family out of the kitchen. This act is typically reserved for weekday dinner time when I am racing to get some calories on the table and need the room to literally run between fridge and counter.
But the truth is I want my kids in the kitchen. I want them to be comfortable with whole food ingredients. In other words, I want them to feel more comfortable with an actual apple than its competitor Fruit by the Foot. When these cuties are tall enough to reach the counters I want them to have the skills to measure, dump, pour, and chop.
Including children in food preparation has been heralded by educators as a way to help teach math concepts, work on fine motor skills, and even teach basic chemistry. But for me the icing on the [whole-grain] cake is evidence from the American Heart Association. They claim that involving children in preparing food is a contributing factor in sticking to a healthy diet. Sweet. I’m on board.
This can seem daunting when it’s hard enough just to get anything on the table. So I started small. I began with allowing Big P to crack one egg in a small bowl. I also tried including Big P and Middle E in other small tasks like grating their own nutmeg onto oatmeal. I now take advantage of slower days like Friday, when Big P is home from school, or Sundays to bring the kids into the kitchen for bigger tasks.
Here is a yummy recipe for Whole Wheat Italian Grape Cake. This recipe has oodles of great tasks that toddlers can do independently with a happy adult guiding them through it. My two toddlers helped with the following tasks:
- Cracking eggs
- Washing, measuring, and decorating with grapes
- Dumping wet and dry ingredients after I had measured the appropriate amount
Give it a try and watch their confidence soar as they help create this delicious breakfast cake. Want a bigger run down of my tested-tips for including kids in the kitchen? Head over to Eating Rules and read my full post, including a recipe for tomato soup. I also recommend Pretend Soup by Mollie Katzen and Ann Henderson. The how-to illustrations help my pre-readers feel like they are in charge and I am the sous-chef.
This bright, honey-sweetened cake is a perfect breakfast centerpiece. It also makes a wonderful afternoon snack. The grapes add surprising juicy bites for the kids and the whole grains make mom smile. Everyone wins.
- 2 eggs
- 2/3 cup honey
- 4 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup milk (I've used dairy and soy with equally delicious results)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (or the zest from one lemon)
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 cup of red grapes
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Prepare a 10" cake pan or spring form pan with cooking spray or butter.
- In a large mixing bowl beat together eggs, honey, applesauce, oil, milk and vanilla. (I simply used a hand-whisk for this task. No need to bust out any fancy equipment.)
- Add in flour, baking powder, lemon zest, and salt. Mix until a smooth batter forms.
- Stir in 3/4 cup of the grapes into the batter.
- Pour batter into the cake pan and decorate the top with remaining grapes.
- Bake for 35-45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
The prep time will definitely depend on how many tasks your toddler participates in. On days with more time, assign many tasks. If you're pressed for time, maybe call them over at the end to decorate the cake shortly before going in the oven.