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Toddlers in the Kitchen: Mashed Potatoes

As we approach Thanksgiving, we’re thinking about all the practical life skills we can introduce to our toddlers. This season is a perfect opportunity to include your child in food preparation tasks. It’s likely they’ll appreciate the meals you serve even more when they have been a part of the process. We recommend using the classic dish of mashed potatoes to give your child a special Thanksgiving job.

Toddler making mashed potatoes

Here are the steps for Montessori approaches to making mashed potatoes with your child. Consider preparing mashed potatoes as a side dish once or twice before Thanksgiving in order to practice some of the steps and get familiar with the food.

Toddler-friendly Mashed Potatoes

You can modify this activity to meet your child at their own level. For a younger toddler, prepare the environment with the potatoes already peeled and boiled.

prepared environment for mashed potatoes

Watch: How to prepare the environment and simplify steps

If your child would enjoy seeing how potatoes in your kitchen transform into the soft, peeled potatoes ready for mashing, follow the steps here.

Mashed Potatoes: Step-By-Step

First, fill a low basin or a baking dish with an inch of water. Place one potato at a time in the water, and show your young child how to scrub it all over with a small mushroom brush that fits in the palm of their hand. Putting more than one potato in the basin is likely to distract them from the process in front of them, so try to prevent them from adding all the potatoes at once.

Offer your child a turn. As they finish scrubbing each potato, they can move it to a clean bowl and add a new potato to the basin. As with all practical life activities, the purpose is the process and not the product, so do not worry if they are not scrubbing the potatoes thoroughly. You can give the potatoes another scrub before moving on to the next step.

When the potatoes are all washed, you can show your little one how to dry them, one at a time. If they lose interest, do not try to make them finish the work. They can try again another day!

Use a peeling tool. When the potatoes are clean, you can offer your little one a peeler and show them how to peel each potato by holding it with one hand and moving the peeler along the potato with the other. If they are struggling, you can put your hands over theirs to show them how to do it. You will want to watch them while they do this work as the blade on a peeler can be sharp. If they are not paying attention or seem to be endangering their fingers, then show them how to use it properly again. If they persist in using it incorrectly, then distract them with another activity while you take over.

Once each peel comes off the potato, show your child how to use your pincer grip to pick up the peel and put it in a discard bowl. This work with the fingers is an indirect preparation for writing. Every time they exercise their pincer grip they strengthen their fingers!

When they are finished peeling potatoes (this moment will probably arrive before all the potatoes are peeled!), then you will continue with the next portion of the activity on your own. Boil the potatoes and drain them. When they have cooled sufficiently, add the seasoning and ingredients of your choice, and then place the bowl in front of your child with a potato masher. As with all materials, a child-size masher is ideal, but if you cannot find one, then show them how you use both hands to push the masher into the potatoes. If they are at a low table, they may want to stand up to do this work.

Your child may want to explore the ingredients with their fingers and mouths.

Your little one will feel a sense of pride when you serve the potatoes at the meal and thank them for their contribution.

To further this sense of ownership, you can set up the mashed potatoes, along with the other foods they will be eating, at a low buffet table so that they can serve themselves before sitting down to eat. Every moment that they can participate in and do for themselves will enhance their confidence and joy.

++ Free download: 25 Holiday Activities for Toddlers ++

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