I've learned that 20 months is not too young to help with dinner! Depending on what I'm making, I've let Oliver help me in the kitchen a little. Until today, I'd say the biggest jobs he's ever had are sprinkling cheese on top of the enchiladas before I put them in the oven or dumping the chocolate chips into the bowl for cookies.
Today, I was making dinner, and Oliver was complaining. He doesn't like it when I am busy cooking. I chopped a bunch of veggies and was putting them in a bowl, and then I realized that Oliver was busy trying to get a spoon out of the drawer. Now, he has a book called In the Kitchen that he got from the Health Department after his vaccinations. It's a simple book, but he loves it. It asks, "What happens in the kitchen?" Each page has a photo of a child doing some activity, from cracking eggs to grating cheese. One of Oliver's favorite photos is one of two girls with a spoon who represent, "stirring." Anyway, I watched Oliver get a spoon out of the drawer, and it occurred to me that he might want to stir the veggies. I dragged a chair over to use as a table, and I asked Oliver if he could stir the veggies for me. He did! I told him, "Good job, Oliver! You're such a good helper. You're stirring! Stirring."
Later, I grabbed a bowl and started to mash some kidney beans with a potato masher. I realized that bean mashing was a job Oliver could do. I sat down next to him and started mashing beans. I gave him the masher, and he got really into it. No joke, he probably mashed beans for fifteen minutes. He definitely knew the purpose of the activity, too, because he would really press down on the masher to squash the beans! It was super cute.
When he was done, I told him that I'd call Daddy and tell him what a good job he did. I called Andrew and told him that Oliver made dinner tonight and that he stirred the veggies and mashed the beans and everything! Oliver looked so proud, but (unfortunately) even helping with dinner didn't entice him to try to eat any. Boo.
I took about a dozen photos of Oliver mashing beans because I thought it was so cute. I realized halfway through that helping with dinner really is a great way to entertain a toddler (even a young one). Obviously, anything to do with heat and knives isn't a good activity, but stirring and mashing and sprinkling and maybe even tasting are perfect! Oliver's crabby time falls around dinner time, too, so it's a great way for me to keep him occupied and happy while I cook. I give this activity an A because it's (fairly) easy and genuinely helps!