The Five Stages of Cooking with a Toddler

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I’ve been doing a lot of cooking and baking with C lately. It keeps us both busy during these frigid winter days, and I’m hoping it fosters an appreciation for preparing healthy, homemade food. But whoa, is it a process. If you have cooked or baked with a toddler before, you will be familiar with the stages:

1) Preparation. So much preparation. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, it takes a lot of prep before I even get C involved in the cooking/baking process. At 2 1/2, lives are busy and attention spans are short. I get all my ingredients out and ready to go before I move on to stage two, which is:

2) Manufacturing excitement. Toddlers generally like to help in the kitchen, but I’ve found that excitement for the finished product has to be manufactured in order to get C to stick with the task long enough to actually get something into the oven. A lot of cheerleading goes on. We’re baking! B-A-K-I-N-G ! Wooooo baking!

Pumped up!

Pumped up!

3) Explanation. Beyond simply telling C how many cups of this or tablespoons of that go into the mix, I have to explain why she can’t crunch eggs with her bare hands, why she can’t drink the vanilla extract, why she can’t wear the mixing bowls as hats, etc.

This stage leads to the next:

4) Minimizing kitchen disasters.

This is where anticipatory skills and cat-like reflexes come in, because despite the explanations, she will attempt to do some of the things listed above.

Watching it all go down

Watching it all go down

5) Praise. I’ve found that praise goes a long way. C’s behaviour is far more influenced by praise than by discipline, so we do our best to catch her doing good things as much as we can. It leads to better behaviour and a happier family.

And here is what we were making in these photos:

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Banana Pineapple Muffins

1 1/2 cups flour (I use half whole wheat)
3/4 cups white sugar (I put in less)
1/2 teaspoon baking power
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup shortening (I used butter, but again, a little less)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
1/2 cup crushed pineapple (not drained)
1 large mashed banana

The original recipe is convoluted as all-get-out, so here is my version: Mix dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, mix softened butter, 1 well-beaten egg, crushed pineapple and banana. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Fold together and do not overmix. Bake at 350 for 20 mins.

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How Not to Camp with a Toddler

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Pete and I took C camping this past weekend. It was not nearly as successful as our trip to Algonquin last summer, when C was a baby. On that trip, we were able to tote our not-yet-mobile ten-month-old around on hiking trips and I was able to enjoy delicious, delicious beer by the campfire at night. Those were the days.

But alas, this time, things did not go so smoothly. Here are some of the things we learned the hard way last weekend:

1) Don’t get sick on a camping trip.

On our first (and ultimately only) night, I started to feel a sore throat coming on, but I figured that maybe it was just a bit raw from sitting around a smoky campfire all night. Oh, no. That was denial. I woke up in the middle of the night with my throat on fire. Soon enough, C was showing signs of being sick as well. Three days later, as I write this, we are both still sick and completely miserable. Why are summer colds the worst colds of all? Ugggghhhh.

2) Don’t let your toddler skip a nap.

I don’t really have any tips on how to prevent nap-skipping, since I employed all of my tricks and C still stayed awake all afternoon. I’m sure there are 22-month-olds out there who can do well without an afternoon sleep but my little lady is not one of them. Bad times were on the horizon.

Helping...sort of

Helping…sort of

3) Don’t let your toddler skip snack time.

After the failed nap, we took C to the beach for some splashy fun. It turns out, the splashing was far too much fun and C would not take a break to have a snack, under any circumstance. This (combined with exhaustion) led to the worst meltdown of her little life (so far!) Luckily, we had her favourite CD (she loves ’50s music, and specifically, my uncle’s band, The Martels) and lots of cheese on hand. Crisis managed.

Splashy fun

Splashy fun

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4) Don’t believe weather apps.

We were supposed to get 1-3 mm of rain on Sunday morning. Instead, we were trapped inside our tent all morning during a torrential downpour. Getting trapped in a tent on a rainy day used to be fun when I was a carefree lady in my twenties with some friends and a box of wine. Subtract the wine and add a toddler and things get real.

This recap definitely makes our trip sound like a disaster, but it was mostly enjoyable. The meltdown passed and C was back to her happy little self. We went for a stroll around the campground in the evening and read books in the dining tent. She fell asleep easily at bedtime and then Pete and I had a quiet evening to ourselves.

S'more o'clock

S’more o’clock

We were both sad to leave early, since Arrowhead really is a beautiful park, but Pete and I consoled ourselves by looking forward to the trip we’re taking in July to Algonquin (a trip we taking alone – thank you grandparents!)