Play. Cook. Chef.

by Megan (memomuse) on March 22, 2013

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I recently took my son to the Raleigh Children’s Museum. It was so much fun. We shopped for groceries at the play store and went through the check-out line. Ben loaded up his canvas grocery cart on wheels with waffle and pancake mix, fresh fish, fruits and vegetables,  a loaf of fresh bread, peanut butter, milk, and eggs. When I sat at the check-out line several kids brought me their groceries. I played the part and scanned each item, encouraging them to bring their shopping cart over to load up their groceries after they paid.

My son, Benjamin headed to the check-out line

After we checked out, Ben wheeled his cart over to the kitchen and put his groceries away in the refrigerator.  I suddenly wanted to have this play kitchen in my own home. Then I realized he has been doing this with his father. My husband is a very good cook. I can cook, but I tend to cook with recipes. My husband, of Italian descent often cooked with his grandmother as a child.  He does not need recipes. He can look at a bag of flour, frozen meat and the spice cabinet and whip up a delicious healthy meal. I need a recipe.

I took some time to watch my son play with the other children, each cooking with authority and excitement. Ben, who is almost three had to be encouraged several times to share the kitchen. Sometimes he acts like he is Chef Ramsey.

Play. Cook. Chef.

I realized what he was cooking was a mirror of how he sees food in our home. And thank goodness my husband cooks with him.  I bake cookies and biscuits with him, but other than that, I tend to cook better when I am alone in the kitchen. But let’s not pretend here — I rarely cook.

The chef has an idea!

Even though I can not take him to a wonderful children’s museum like this all the time, I can provide the same space for him to explore with food and enjoy the process. I realized my own fear of cooking is based in well, fear. I am a perfectionist.  After being a mom for over three years, I should realize nothing is perfect. I have to allow myself more space to mess up. Watching the children play, there was not one child afraid of messing up. They were too busy doing what kids do best — be kids.

"Play is the best form of research."

It was fun to watch my son cook in a kitchen that was equipped with just about every culinary tool a child would want or need. Then I realized my own home can serve as a children’s museum as well, at least the kitchen part. I saw a play kitchen today at Goodwill and I wanted to buy it for Ben. Then my husband reminded me that Ben has two other play kitchens (actually three). I was attracted to the storage bins of this new kitchen. My living room is covered in plastic carrots, onions, tomatoes, and apples. Add cardboard mini versions of cake mix and measuring spoons and a whole mess of other toy kitchen items.

The Joy of Cooking

Ben was ready. He had his groceries and the ingredients he needed to create. I just watched and enjoyed seeing him play. He chopped and seasoned the vegetables.  He took a syrup bottle and added some sauce. And then he mixed and stirred with authority.

Mix Mix Mix

I am embarrassed to admit how little I cook. Perhaps I need to take my toddler’s attitude and apply it to myself. Have fun. Food is fun.

We spent most of our time at the museum in the two kitchens. The second floor had another kitchen. There was a dance floor with music, a hockey arena, and a basketball court. Ben chose the kitchen.

"A two year old is kind of like a blender but you don't have top for it."

At the second kitchen he gathered his ingredients and made smoothies. This is something his father does with him. And he loves drinking smoothies. We make freeze pops out of them and use them as Popsicles. My husband had a great idea of adding soy protein powder to the smoothies since Ben does not like to eat meat.

The grocery store, farmer's market, and kitchen

My Little Chef

Even though I may not be modeling cooking with my son, he has models in his life to give him a healthy model. He cooks with his uncle, grandpa, grandma, and dad. I will stick with making cookies and biscuits with him. Perhaps Ben can teach me to cook.

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Megan (memomuse) (18 Posts)

Megan Oteri is a wife, mama, and writer. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and son. She enjoys wide open spaces and wide open hearts. She writes about her experience as a new mom and AP parent at www.memomuse.wordpress.com. You can follow her on Twitter @memomuse1 and find her on Facebook under memomuse.


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