My honey-do list is long. Very long, in fact. It’s not my fault that I have such a talented, creative, good-with-his-hands hubby. One day, I was washing Maddie’s hands in our kitchen sink. I stood her up on our garbage can while I turned the water on (not very safe), and Bing! A light bulb went off.
What if I had a pedestal that Maddie could stand on so she’d be eye-level with the counter and able to watch and participate in the kitchen. It should keep her safe and contained. I could put her in it in while I cook, do dishes, etc. She’d love it, and it would free up both of my hands while cooking.
Stan came home, I shared my brilliant idea, and he gave me The Look. Okay, so I know he’s busy and my list for him is already a mile long. But this idea was golden!
Well, apparently someone else already had this brilliant idea. While playing on Pinterest one day, I came across The Learning Tower. I texted a picture to Stan saying “Look, this is exactly what I want you to make!” and he said, “I’m not making it. Buy it.”
Well, I did – I found one on Craigslist for a great price – and I couldn’t be happier.
There are lots of options out there, including plenty of DIY projects. The point is to find/make something that enables you to include your kids (safely) while you’re in the kitchen. Here’s why I love it:
1. It provides an excellent opportunity for learning.
From day one, children are sponges. They are eager to learn, taste, touch, explore, and experience new things – especially if you can make it fun for them. The Learning Tower lets you do that. I put Maddie in it while I’m in the kitchen, and she can learn and participate by seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching. I explain every ingredient to her, repeating the name, color, and shape several times so eventually she will learn to associate these ingredients with the taste. Repetition, Repetition, Repetition!
Note: this technique is much more successful with children than it is with husbands. I guess there’s a fine line between repeating and nagging… At least, that’s what mine tells me.
2. Kids loves it.
Maddie suffers from FOMO – fear of missing out. She doesn’t want to play by herself while I’m cooking; she wants to be where the action is. If I’m in the kitchen and she’s on her own walking around the house, she usually starts fussing after a short time… If I put her in The Learning Tower, she’s happy. Problem solved.
Plus, it’s hard not to love something when it makes someone you love happy.
3. It frees up my hands.
I love holding Maddie. I hold her constantly. It’s a wonder she learned to crawl and walk so early because someone in my family is practically always holding her. But, I also love to cook, and it’s a whole lot easier and faster when I can use both hands. Before the tower, I’d hold her or sit her on the counter so she could watch and learn, but that really wasn’t the smartest or safest idea. Now, she can see everything from the tower, and I have full use of my hands.
4. It’s helping to build and expand her palate.
It is so important to me that Maddie has a healthy, nutritious, balanced diet. I don’t expect her to eat broccoli and brussels sprouts for dinner every night (although she does enjoy both), but I do want her to eat clean, natural, healthy food. I also want it to be fun and exciting.
While I’m prepping dinner, she gets to try everything. She just grabs it for herself, which is very much in line with our choice to do baby led weaning. She gets to sneak little nibbles while I cook, which I love! I want her to be, among other things, curious, adventurous, and a food-lover (like her parents). The more flavors she is exposed to and the more food she tries, especially on her own terms, the more likely she’ll be to continue to enjoy all kinds of food.
5. Kids are great little helpers.
She always has been. One night, when she was ten months, I was making a basil pesto while holding her. As I added the ingredients to the food processor, I handed her a basil leaf, and she dropped it in the processor. Of course I clapped and cheered, and made a big deal out of it, because positive reinforcement is one of the best things you can do with a child (or a person any age, for that matter). I handed her another leaf, and she dropped it in again. She knew how to do it because she saw me do it.
Now that she’s older (13 months), she’s even more helpful. We make smoothies every morning. She helps put the ingredients in the blender, and presses the on switch.
6. She doesn’t have to be right by my side to be content.
Usually, I set her tower up against the counter right next to me, but sometimes, that doesn’t work. If I’m prepping raw meat and I want to keep her hands away, I just move the tower to a different counter and she’s perfectly content. Sometimes I’ll set up a snack, and then she’s really happy. In this picture, she was eating pita crackers and beet hummus. Messy, but delicious.
When you get kids involved in the kitchen, they’ll be much more likely to try new things because they participated in the process. Maddie has been in the kitchen with me since she was just a few months old. I explain what I’m doing as I’m doing it. My hope (and suspicion) is that if she sees the food being made, and if she takes part in making it, she’ll be more willing to try it. Plus, it’s something fun for us to do together.
Oh, and for the record, these are my opinions, based on my experience. The Learning Tower is not influencing me in any way to write this. Maybe they should, though. Or at least offer me a job as their head of PR! Hook a mama up!!!