Kids of all ages love dramatic play whether it is dressing up like a favorite character from a book, t.v. show or video game and re-enacting a favorite scene, running around as this generation’s version of “Cowboys and Native Americans” or simply pretending to be Mommy or Daddy and repeating the things we say and do. I’m suggesting we harness this love of playing and acting and capitalize on it by letting our kids “play” like a little chef. In particular, you can encourage your Little Foodie’s dramatic play with food by creating an environment where he can play with food, pretend to cook and act like a little chef.

Today I’m sharing not only a recipe for one of our favorite muffins, but also another way to get your teeny tiny chef involved in cooking (with you) outside of the kitchen that will, in turn, help him become more involved inside the kitchen in the future.

In short: play with your (play) food!

My two year old, Eliana, watches my husband and I prepare various types of foods every day, from something simple like tea or pouring a bowl of cereal with milk, to more complicated meals like a risotto for dinner. After watching us, she then goes over to her kitchen area (a little carved out section of our living room) and tries to recreate what she’s seen. She beeps like the microwave after we heat something up and she tries to “wooooo” like the tea kettle when the water boils before hosting a tea party for her “babies” at the coffee table. She helps me mix ingredients during various cooking sessions and so she does the same in her little play kitchen with her tools and utensils. Kids as young as 18 months old pay attention, so you can put all that interest into action.

Kids in the Kitchen Tip:  Get your Little Foodie to be more involved in the kitchen by letting him play like a little chef outside the kitchen. Get some food-related toys for your own teeny tiny chef, or even stock a play kitchen by using the empty boxes that come out of your own kitchen.


Apple Spinach Muffins

Yields approx. 14 muffins or 30 mini muffins


Dry ingredients:

  • 1½ cups whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup rolled oats
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon wheat germ
  • ¾ tablespoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger

Wet ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • ⅓ cup maple syrup
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • ½ cup milk
  • 3 small or 2 large apples, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup raw baby spinach OR ¼ cup chopped spinach, thawed and pressed so all liquid is removed


Preheat the oven to 350° and grease a muffin tin or use liners.

Put apples and spinach into a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Set aside.

Combine all of the dry ingredients in a small bowl.

Whisk the wet ingredients together in a large bowl.

Slowly stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Stir only until it is all combined- don’t over stir.

Fill each cup around ¾ of the way full and bake for 25-27 minutes or until a toothpick comes out dry.

Want to see more about this recipe? Click here.


Jory Lieber is a food-focused mom and at-home chef raising her baby girl, Eliana, to eat a variety of healthy foods right from the start. When Eliana began to eat solid foods at around 6-7 months of age, she set a goal to cook as much of her food as possible. She uses a variety of flavors, textures and spices, with the intention of creating a teeny tiny foodie who is open to trying new foods.

She’s learned that cooking food for Eliana is only one part of the process of creating a teeny tiny foodie. The other, equally important, part of this process has been her “education” about different concepts around food, such as where food comes from, being part of the cooking process and “playing” with food, to name a few. She’s been using her background in Early Childhood Education to develop appropriate activities and “lessons” to teach to her teeny tiny student. Follow Jory’s adventures in cooking at Teeny Tiny Foodie.


Related Reads:

Tips for Cooking with Your Kids–and Having Fun

Cooking and Eating with Kids: Social, Communal, Controllable