In It’s My Brithday by Helen Oxenbury, everyone contributes an ingredient, from the toddler birthday celebrant, to the assisting animals, and then they all help make the cake. I’ve mentioned before how my mother helped me get comfortable in the kitchen very early on: she’d tell me how much flour a recipe called for, then she'd measure it out and place it on the counter next to me. When the time came for the flour, she’d ask me to add it while she stirred – just as the birthday child does in Oxenbury’s book. Gradually, my mother gave me more responsibility, cracking an egg over the bowl (being careful not to get pieces of shell in the mix), and later holding the mixer myself.
A terrific pre-K teacher at the Manhattan New School in New York City encourages her students to make their own sandwiches—with peanut butter and jelly to start (and very safe spatula-style knives)—and teaches them to clean up afterwards. This is a life skill, learning to prepare a meal for themselves, and it’s never too soon to start learning their way around the kitchen. It’s a wonderful sense of accomplishment to sit down and share a meal that they’ve helped to prepare, just as Oxenbury’s characters do when they shout “Happy Birthday!” and pass the communal cake.