Little Hoboken contributor, Nicole Jurick runs Peasful Kitchen—and her class was invaluable
in helping me find ways to get my daughter, Lucy, to help in the kitchen.
Right now, I’m working from home on a few writing projects and contracts. While my 2.5 year old, Lucy, goes to daycare during the day, (when was the last time you were ever able to write multiple pages, on deadline, with a toddler underfoot?) the best part of my somewhat flexible schedule is that every so often I can sneak out of “my office” (aka my kitchen table) early to do something fun with Lucy. This was the case the other week, when I picked Lucy up after her daycare afternoon nap and hopped on the light rail to Hoboken to take Nicole Jurick's Peasful Kitchen cooking class with toddlers.
Confession: Nicole and I have known each other for nearly a decade, when we were both assistants at Redbook magazine in Manhattan. Nicole was passionate about cooking then, often confabbing with the magazine’s food editor on ideas. Nicole was one of the few people our food editor trusted in her kitchen, which says a lot. I’ve been lucky enough to sample Nicole’s own creations since those days, and I was thrilled to see what Nicole could teach Lucy, especially since I’m pretty impatient in the kitchen.
Nicole was unflappable as she taught eight two-year-olds how to wash, sample, clean, cut, and chop. But I think I gained a lot of information watching the way Nicole was so confident that 2-year-olds can help in the kitchen. In fact, I’ve actually put Lucy to work for the past two dinners I made. She helped me make a kale salad (she LOVED pulling apart leaves) and also loved “see-sawing” (aka cutting) produce. I learned a ton from Nicole, and these are five of the strategies I’m planning to incorporate in my own kitchen. And I absolutely have ulterior motives: As a single mom, I know I’ll be leaning on Lucy to help with dinner prep as she gets older, so I figure why not introduce her to it now, even if it does take a lot longer to get things done.
Buy Child Friendly Kitchen Products.
Hands down, one of the best takeaways I got from Nicole was to purchase child-friendly knives. This 3-piece nylon knife set from Curious Chef won’t break the bank at less than $7, and has serrated plastic edges, making them safe but also effective. Now, one of Lucy’s favorite things is to cut up an apple slice while I’m working on other stuff in the kitchen.
Encourage Tasting. In Nicole’s class, Lucy tried basil for the first time. She didn’t love it, but encouraging tasting, smelling, and feeling ingredients makes them more likely to try those ingredients once they’re cooked.
Play With Your Food. Who said cooking needs to happen at mealtime? On a long, lazy Sunday, I discovered Lucy was obsessed with chopping. I pulled out an apple, pulled out her special knives, and we spent an hour chopping up the apple, using the pieces to build towers, and eventually eating it. Sure, it’s not the best table manners, but this type of experiential play can make kids enjoy the kitchen.
Make it a Regular Practice. Before, I used to set Lucy up in front of Peppa Pig before I began doing my Blue Apron or Hello Fresh. Now, I unpack the box in front of her, and have her “help.” Sometimes, helping is stirring a bowl full of water and ice, but she doesn’t know it’s not part of the recipe!
I’d love to hear your tips! How do you get your little ones to cook?
Anna Davies lives in the Paulus Hook section of Jersey City with her two-year-old daughter, Lucy. Anna is a writer who has written for The New York Times, The New York Post, Glamour, Cosmo, Elle and others. She's also written thirteen young adult novels, including ghostwriting five Gossip Girl novels (shhh!) Prior to Jersey City, Anna lived in Brooklyn for ten years and is a Northern NJ native. She loves going on adventures with Lucy; follow along @babybackpacker on Instagram.