Teaching a Toddler to Make a Salad

Teaching a toddler to make a salad is one of the easiest meals you can prepare together. In this article, I share how I set up and prepare the environment for my 2-year old to make her own salad.  

Make sure to check out my article “15 Tips for Cooking with a Toddler” which gives you great suggestions for how to prepare the kitchen and yourself for success in cooking with young children.

Step 1: Clear All Distractions

Toddlers love to handle new stuff, so clear off the counter as much as possible.

Step 2: Set up the cooking and cleaning stations.

Set the toddler up so they can reach the countertop, access the trash, and most importantly find their cleaning tools!

Step 3: Choose your ingredients.

These are the basic ingredients that I had leftover in the fridge and pantry. It’s not a fancy salad, but it has a lot of yummy stuff and helps to clear out the rest of my veggies before going grocery shopping.

  • Garlic Expressions
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Raw Pumpkin Seeds
  • Kalamata Olives
  • Hard Boiled Eggs
  • Zucchini
  • Broccoli
  • Roasted Chicken Breast

Step 4: Prepare your ingredients.

Prepare the ingredients based on the ability of your child. I know that my 2-year old can chop with her knife but not quite slice/saw. She can pour but pours best with a handle. She loves to rip things up. So I prepped like this:

  • Cut the top off the broccoli but didn’t separate the individual florets. We’ll rip them apart together
  • Put two eggs out but left them whole. These are super easy and fun to chop.
  • Put the olives in a bowl
  • Left the chicken as is, this is also pretty easy to chop up.
  • Measured out dressing and pumpkin seeds into measuring cups for easy pouring
  • Cut the end off the zucchini and cut it in half, since that’s about how much we should use

Step 5: Rip the lettuce.

Rather than cutting the lettuce, start by ripping up the lettuce and putting into the salad bowl. Or, as you can see here, putting it all over the countertop, then in the bowl, then on the countertop again, some in the dish soap for good measure, and finally all in the bowl again.

Step 6: Pour and Mix.

Pour the dressing and mix the salad. Try really hard to sit on your own hands for these two parts…dressing might not make it into the bowl and almost assuredly some of the lettuce will pop OUT of the bowl. This is how they develop gross motor skills so let them practice, they’ll get better.

Step 7: Chop ingredients.

Toddlers can use a knife, it just has to be the right style: plastic and serrated. Many children’s cooking sets come with a perfect knife for this job.

Chop the other ingredients and put into the salad. Or…like shown here…eat all the olives because those are best eaten BEFORE the salad course, right!

Step 8: Enjoy!

Notice the chunky bits of everything; it’s delicious but chunky just the way she cut it.

Step 9: Washing Up

Take some time to play in the sudsy water and wash dishes, either before eating or after depending on your child’s interest and hunger level!

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