Little Chef

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Veronika gets so frustrated watching me prepare meals these days, now that she’s on the other side of a baby gate. If you’re in a similar predicament, then it’s time to play little chef!

While I prepared dinner today, I set Veronika up with toy bowls and a spoon from a Melissa & Doug food set, but the key is to give your budding chef real food.

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While I prepped a carrot-and-raisin salad, she got extras of each: long grated strips of carrot and raisins that I had plumped up with water. (Note: even softened in water, raisins are a choking hazard for the under-one-year set, so make sure these remain items to stir, not ones your baby is lifting up to the mouth).

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The carrot strands were fun to pull up, and she loved nesting the bowls and dumping them into one another.

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Next we made “pasta sauce” with sliced tomatoes and cucumber. These she just liked upending on the floor!

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Then she decided it was more fun to chase the bowl around the kitchen floor with the wooden spoon, and I was happy to have her underfoot in this controlled, delighted way.

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Another combo was couscous and red bell pepper strips, while I prepped a couscous side dish. As you work, tell your baby what you’re doing… great for bonding and language building!

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You can do this activity with just about any meal you prepare, as long as you don’t mind added chaos in the kitchen. My little chef had so much fun and I didn’t have to worry about her banging down the baby gate!

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If you prefer your baby in the high chair while you cook, here are a few other ways that Veronika loves to be entertained.

Bath Books: Don’t save waterproof books for the tub; they’re excellent for mealtime. Veronika will flip through plastic-paged copies of Rainbow Fish and other favorites, “reading” them to herself in baby babble.

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I don’t have to worry about clean-up because she can’t tear the pages and they wipe clean with a swipe! Hello magazine (Highlights publication for the littlest tots), is equally easy to clean which is why I keep a stack of Veronika’s subscription in the kitchen.

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Yogurt Teethers: Make a batch of yogurt “pops” and store them in the freezer so you have them on hand in a pinch. Mash 1 banana with 1 (5-ounce) container plain non-dairy yogurt. Freeze in individual compartments of an ice cube tray.

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I give one to Veronika, who will spin it around on her tray and otherwise delight at the cold texture and the challenge of picking it up. This keeps her quite busy, and by the time it’s thawed enough for her to get a taste, dinner’s ready for everyone!

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Spoons and Language: This game is great once it’s actually meal time. Instead of one spoon, use two! With these, Veronika and I play a game of opposites. “My spoon,” I say to her. Then point at hers: “Your spoon!”

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Double spoons equal double the fun mushing food around!

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You can also highlights opposites like “open” and “close”, or  “in” and “out”.

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What’s your favorite thing to cook with your little chef? Please share in the comments!

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