The other day I saw someone on Facebook share a post called “10 Easy Things to Cook with Toddlers.” Lately I’ve been
feeling guilty about trying to be more involved with my toddler’s play time. With our recent move, I have been so busy and stressed and in turn, have relied heavily on free babysitting media, i.e. Curious George via TV, iPad, and phone. We’ve been working on learning colors, numbers, and the alphabet, and Ellis has just been a sponge soaking up and spilling back everything she’s learning. I want her to have many new experiences to keep expanding her mind, so when I saw this post, I jumped on it. The recipe for these Cheese Puffs seemed easy enough – puff pastry, egg wash, and cheese. No way could we mess that up.
This isn’t my first disappointing toddler activity found on Pinterest fail. But I just can’t stand the lies the Internet is putting out anymore, and someone needs to speak up about it, so it may as well be me. Yes. Cooking something simple with a toddler is both fun and engaging for the toddler. No. It’s not fun for the adult caregiver, and also, no way did your toddler help you make that snack.
It all started off hectic from the beginning. I had a plan of action which I carefully mapped out while my daughter was eating oatmeal and cheese for lunch. (Do not argue with a hungry, groggy toddler who just woke up from a nap and is still cranky.) However, the moment I started to make a move on plans, Ellis decided she was no longer hungry, and she insisted we play upstairs. No worries. Kitchen was still dirty and more so after her lunch. I had about 30 minutes for the puff pastries to thaw. I could manage this. 30 minutes later, and Ellis still demanded my attention in her toy room. But I found a great excuse – a two-day old cup of coffee left in the bathroom. “Ooh, look Ellis. Mommy has to take this cup to the kitchen.”
“Okay, I’m going to the kitchen. You can come with me if you’d like.”
“No.” In a tone that implied, if you go, you will regret it. I took my chances and, with a nervous smile on my face, headed for the stairs.
The puff pastries were doughy and close to room temperature. They had been thawing too long, so I had to grab some flour, and with Ellis’s help, roll out the dough. (She had decided to follow me and wanted to be involved in the process entirely.)
Working on a dirty counter top, we rolled out the dough and started cutting shapes. Tip: plastic cutters do not work well for this task. They do, however, help to reinforce colors. But only orange because that’s the only color Ellis successfully identifies with enthusiasm. I threw the other wad of dough into the fridge knowing that this was already not going as planned, as I picked off a hairball from one of the shapes Ellis had just semi-cut out.
The next step was the egg wash. Leaving a toddler to tend the dough while I grabbed eggs from the fridge was a bit cumbersome. So much so that I cracked an egg and absentmindedly dropped it into the sink of dirty dishes instead of into the plastic bowl I had sitting right in front of me. Back for a second egg. Crack. A little water. A baby fork to whisk because I still don’t know where most of my kitchen utensils are, and then back to the toddler.
She wanted full control over egg washing the pastry cut outs, so after unsuccessful negotiations, let her have at it. Next, I grabbed the cheese and showed her how I sprinkled a bit on top of a cut out. She relinquished the egg wash in exchange for the cheese, grabbed a handful out of the bag and dumped it on one cut out, and repeated the process, on the same cut out.
After Ellis got the bag of cheese, she was much more interested in eating it than finishing her work. I threw our
disaster joint effort into the oven and set to cleaning up what I could while she crawled on the dirt/egg/flour covered counter top and ate cheese in between sprinkling it everywhere.
After she lost interest, I pulled out the second sheet of puff pastry and tried to create a more edible cheese puff as a reward for both our hard work. They actually turned out tasty, if not a little burnt, because I got slightly distracted and didn’t pull them out on time. Alas, the fruit of my efforts were thrown away by my husband after he got home and I was at the grocery store. Because I put them on a plate, he didn’t think I wanted them. Ellis’s batch, which were still on the baking sheet, he left alone though.