Eating healthy is a hard thing to do. I feel as though its even harder when the family is locked down due to COVID-19. We’re less active with no access to play or gym equipment, we’re bored, and there is a pantry just waiting to be raided. This activity will encourage your toddler to cook and learn healthy habits.

I’m a total health nut and I thought my pantry was pure, no junk here! Wrong! It’s amazing how bittersweet chocolate for baking isn’t nearly as bitter when I need sweets when the kids refuse to go to bed before midnight because they’re just not worn out. Okay and let’s admit it,  junk does leak into the house.

My husband knows I’m not a flower person, so his favorite way to show me affection, get me some donuts from my favorite donut-hole-in-the-wall shop. Love you, but gosh I’m looking a little more luscious than I was 6 months ago.

Luckily, we’re in this together. My husband has returned to work and we no longer live within having-lunch-together range. So I have to prepare everything ahead of time. This actually helps me and the kids practice better eating habits!

Getting the toddlers involved…

My toddlers love cooking! They love making their own concoctions to chase mommy around and try to get her to taste it. Bleh. But this love of cooking makes for great activities!

This activity is a great way to make healthy food, teach the kids about healthy choices, and get another thing checked off the to-do list! Winning all around!

Another great thing about making your own stew is that it can be frozen and reheated at any time. This is a great way to make crock pot meals to be heated when needed.

Below are some tips to engage your toddler in the activity and make sure they are getting the most from it. There are some questions to get dialogue started and help your children put food into words. Check out the FREE PRINTABLE for the activity. It includes a recipe sheet with little food icons. Your toddler can place whatever vegetables they use into their recipe sheet. The free printable also has a sheet for mom or dad to help with the activity–totally optional  🙂 . 


Sausage Stew Noon Tips Stew Stew  - annemelbydahl / Pixabay

Tips and Tricks to Encourage Your Toddler to Cook

  • Help your children build their own stews using ingredients you prepare for them. They will love being able to cook just like you! And one of the best parts of this activity (at least in my experience), they will be fully occupied and engaged, even if you aren’t doing it with them. 
  • Find your favorite stew recipe, cut up all the ingredients, and let your child assemble! 
    • Separate the ingredients into small bowls or containers. Make sure your children only handle safe ingredients such as vegetables and grains. Show your child how you are measuring ingredients and encourage them to help you. Give them a pot to put their ingredients into.
    • Have some spice containers that have pre-measured amounts so they can shake as much as they want!
  • Bring out exciting utensils to mix and stir. My daughters love to stir their ingredients while before I cook it. Once they feel they’ve stirred it enough, I am then allowed to place it on the stove.

    Check out the list of ingredients below. The vegetables are all included in the FREE PRINTABLE Recipe Activity Sheet. 

Build Your Own Stew

What does this activity teach?

  • Ingredient Names

    Giving your child a way to name their food is incredibly important! If they can name their food and identify different elements of it, they can really begin to understand their preferences and taste. And the more you expose them to those foods, the more familiar they will be and, after several introductions more likely to enjoy and ask for it. 

    Questions to explore: Do you know what ingredient this is? 


how to encourage your toddler to cook


  • Textures

    Kids love to explore textures. This activity is full of them. The kids can feel the textures of the vegetables before they’re stewed and then compare them to after they’re cooked. 

    Questions to explore: Is the (fill in vegetable name) soft? Is it hard? Did it fall apart when you touched it? Is it easy to eat? Is it hard to eat? Does it feel like something smooth or
    something bumpy? 


  • Taste

    Toddlers are notoriously picky eaters! I imagine that is one of the most used lines when going to a doctor and talking about food intake. By showing your child how food can be prepared and how the preparation changes that food, your child can feel as though they have a choice in their food. With choice comes the feeling of being in control. With control comes a willingness to eat things the way they want. Just don’t let them know it’s what you want too :). 

    Questions to explore: Did you like the taste and feel of the vegetable before you cooked it? Do you like the texture or taste now that it’s cooked? Do you like it when it’s by itself? Do you like it when it’s with the other vegetables? What is your favorite taste? 


  • Colors

    The more natural colors you add to a dish, the more nutrients it’s likely to have. Slice up some purple cabbage, add some red and yellow bell peppers, maybe a touch of kale…the possibilities are endless. You can teach them all about colors before and after the dish is cooked. 

    Questions to explore: What color is this? Is it the same color as this ingredient? How are they different? Do you have a color you like the most? 

Carrots Yellow Beets Vegetables  - RitaE / Pixabay
  • Measuring and Numbers

Measuring ingredients is a great way to start a game for counting. Fill a clear measuring cup with one cup of water. Then two cups of water, and so on. Show them the numbers on the side. Play a game counting out chunky vegetables and guessing how many go into a cup,

Questions to explore: How many of this vegetable do you think we need to make one cup? Do we need more or less of this ingredient to make 2 cups? Can you count the numbers on this cup? How many spoons do we have?

  • Size and Volume

The kitchen is full of different sizes! A great way to teach your children about big, small, medium, huge, tiny…Show your child teaspoons and tablespoons. Help them understand which one is larger and which one is smaller. Show them big vegetables and then cut them into smaller pieces. Compare the different size bowls and show that more goes into big ones and less goes into little ones.

Questions to explore: Do more ingredients go into the big bowl or the little bowl? Is this spoon smaller or bigger than this spoon? Is this ingredient bigger or smaller than this ingredient?

  • Smell

Have your child smell each ingredient and try to describe it.

Questions to explore: Do you like how this smells? Does it smell like anything else? 

Measuring Cup Bake Cook Eat Baker  - Monfocus / Pixabay

Recommended Ingredients for Stews

These are some great ingredients you can add to your stew. I recommend finding your favorite stew recipes and figure out which ingredients your kids can safely handle.

Vegetables and Legumes

Sweet Potatoes
Black Beans
Pinto Beans
Bell Peppers
Purple Cabbage
Napa Cabbage
Green Onions
Bean Sprouts



Bay Leaves
Cinnamon Sticks
Star Anise
Sea Salt

Broth Options

Tomato Soup
Beef Broth
Chicken Broth
Vegetable Broth
Cream of Chicken Soup
Cream of Mushroom Soup


Wild Rice
Brown Rice
Brown Egg Noodles
Brown Rice Noodles
Brown Long Rice Noodles
Wheat Berries


Wild Game


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how to encourage your toddler to cook
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Hi! I’m Katie. I’m a mom with two toddlers born 14 months apart. Growing Up Goddesses is about empowering toddlers and parents with educational printables, activities, and articles.
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