When you first hear the words “Toddler Test Kitchen,” it might reasonably conjure up images of chaos. After all, any parent can attest that usually when you mix toddlers and food, you can expect spaghetti sauce on the walls, maple syrup as hair gel, and itty bitty grains of rice embedded in your kitchen grout. Many of us shy away from cooking with our kids for fear of culinary disaster.

At the Halle Heart Children’s Museum’s weekly Toddler Test Kitchen, however, it’s a different story. This one-of-a-kind healthy cooking class invites children 6 and under to spend an hour in a toddler-friendly environment making healthy recipes with their parents or caregivers, from prepping ingredients to enjoying the finished product. By taking part in the class, kids learn that cooking can be creative and fun—and parents go home with recipes that even a toddler can safely help with!

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Last Monday, eight children and their parents arrived at the heart museum’s professional-grade kitchen, where ingredient stations awaited them on high-top tables. The tables were spread with a colorful array of ingredients to make a Southwestern-Style Baked Spaghetti Squash, including green peppers, bright red tomatoes, black beans, corn, spices, and (of course) squash. Guiding the session was Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Yaffi Lvova of Baby Bloom Nutrition. With her own little one in tow, Yaffi took the class through the simple steps of taking the raw materials of the ingredients and turning them into an appealing, tasty dish that could serve as a healthy dinner any night of the week.

Working at their own pace throughout the session, children participated in:

– Chopping and dicing ingredients using toddler-safe cutlery, helping develop fine motor skills

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– Measuring spices, for a bit autonomy and basic mathematical concepts

– Scraping the inside of the squash to find—surprise!—it looks just like spaghetti!

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– Mixing ingredients together in a large bowl to create the filling

– Piling the filling into the hollowed-out squash “boats”

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Once everyone finished scooping the filling into their boats, the whole creation went into the oven with a sprinkle of cheese on top. While everyone waited for their yummy lunch to emerge from cooking, Yaffi gathered the children around for storytime. One Big Salad, a picture book with whimsical pictures of fruits and vegetables reimagined as animals, was the perfect choice to accompany a healthy cooking session!

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Finally, it was time for the little chefs (and their grown-up helpers) to test their finished products. For a Mexican-inspired dish with a dose of spice, this spaghetti squash went over extremely well with its toddler taste panel. Every child at least tried it, most had a substantial helping, and at there was least one exclamation of “Mom…it’s soooo good!”

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And in the end, no one ended up with squash in their hair!

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Join the fun of Toddler Test Kitchen at the Halle Heart Children’s Museum every other Monday and the second Saturday of each month at 10:00 AM. With a Halle Heart Children’s Museum membership, pricing is $15 per class or $45 for a 4-class series. Non-member rates are $18 per class or $59 for a 4-class series.

Click here to register for this fun family activity today!