Cooking Dinner with a Toddler: Integrating Sensory Play into Everyday Activities

One of the many reasons that I cook dinner with Ava is that it gives us an excellent opportunity to integrate sensory play into our everyday life. She loves washing her hands at the sink (she sits on the counter, with her feet in the sink while I hold her) and protests whenever I turn the faucet off. She loves fishing for vegetables in a pot of water. She loves crinkling the onion and garlic skin. She loves digging in the cabinets and shopping bags for treasures – last night, she crawled into a cabinet until the only thing I could see were her legs. She loves smushing the bread dough and pulling pieces off. She loves smelling the spices and her empty jar of vanilla.

I could replicate all these experiences outside the context of cooking dinner. There are amazing sensory and artistic activities online, cool toys like water and sand tables, and pricy preschools that focus on experiential learning, but I wouldn’t have the time to do this every single day if it did not fit into our routines and necessities.

Miser Mom has talked about integrating rather than balancing the different parts of her life, and I think that’s a really good way to live a full and satisfying life. She has teenagers who can be trusted with food processors and chef’s knives, which means that cooking together looks a little different in her house, but we both cook with our kids because it’s a way to be together while getting something done.

That’s another thing I love about cooking with Ava. It’s something we can do together on a lifelong basis, not just the little kid years. One of these days, Ava will graduate from the salad spinner to the knife block and cutting board, and our conversations will be about politics and philosophy instead of frozen blueberries and elevator buttons.




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