Invite toddlers to join in as you tear lettuce, snap green beans, and break the coatings of peas. Physical involvement in the preparation process piques toddlers' interest in foods. Be sure to offer some taste testing once the vegetables have been washed and are ready to serve as a reward for hard work! Always offer vegetables in manageable pieces to prevent choking.

Encourage toddlers to help with the washing and scrubbing of fruits and vegetables served at snack time. Later, ask them to help you "whip up a dip" for a variation on snack-time treats.

Let toddlers help with pouring. Whenever water or milk is required to complete a recipe, offer funnels, sifters, and cups of assorted shapes and sizes to add interest to the pouring experience.

Make measuring interesting. Twist pipe cleaners around measuring cups to mark the desired amount of ingredients. Ask toddlers to "pour to the pipe cleaner."

Offer tongue depressors as spreaders so that toddlers can spread cheese on crackers or peanut butter on bread with this versatile, child-friendly tool.

This article originally appeared in the January, 2001 issue of Early Childhood Today.