I am frequently working at the counter in the kitchen throughout the day — doing dishes, preparing snacks and meals, etc. L, of course, wants to be exactly where I am. At all moments of the day. So she used to spend that time hanging onto my legs while whining. She didn’t know what I was doing up there, but she wanted to be part of it. So I had my husband build a helper tower (using these plans he found online) — you can buy a helper tower for well over $100 dollars online, or you can find someone handy to build it for just the cost of materials.
This tower has steps like a ladder on all four sides, so the child can get into it by herself. The platform allows the child to be able to reach the counter (and it’s adjustable to three heights!), while the guardrails ensure that she won’t fall off. L loves this thing, and we use it at least 3 or 4 times a day — even more when we are baking something in addition to preparing meals.
Toddlers have eyes like a hawk. L has been especially blessed with hawk-like eyes, and I frequently find her imitating things that she must have seen us doing but that I have no recollection of doing in front of her. So let them imitate! Your toddler is perfectly capable of helping you stir cookie dough or pour in the oil for brownie batter — with your help, of course! Just keep in mind that baking is a science, and you may not have the correct proportions still in the bowl by the time it’s ready to bake. I’ve ended up with some wonky cookies that way, but the learning is all in the process, anyway, and not in the results.
L recently used the tower to help make some salt dough for a Father’s Day present. She loves stirring in all of the recipes we use, and she is pretty good at doing it without making too much of a mess. Then again, making a mess provides an opportunity for her to clean up her mess — I hand her a wet paper towel and she wipes as much of the counter as she can reach, as well as her arms, hands, face, legs, and feet, whether they’re dirty or not. Another favorite activity of hers is lining muffin tins with paper muffin liners — she doesn’t need any help with that, and it satisfies her to fill each cup.
Finally, the tower is a great place for L to taste new foods while I’m preparing them for the family. Sometimes I put new foods on L’s plate and she takes one bite and then refuses to eat more. When I try the same food in the tower, after she watches me wash and peel a cucumber, for example, she eats it!
L is only 16 months old, and what I’ve described above is about all that she is capable of in the kitchen for now. In a few months, I’ll have to get her a dull knife (like an apple crinkle cutter knife) so she can help me cut fruits and veggies and take even more ownership in the kitchen.