This QT activity has been written with children from about two to three years in mind. However, minimal script changes can make it appropriate for children up to five years and beyond. Only one prop is needed—a batch of cookie dough.
Making cookies. 'What!' you might protest. 'Let a 2-year-old mess up a batch of cookie dough!' Of course, you might have an even more basic protest: 'Look. I work 40 hours a week, and in our house, cookies come out of a package.' (That's true for many of us these days.) Even so, buy a package of cookie dough in the refrigerator section of the grocery store, and you're in business. Now if you're so modern that your kitchen doesn't even have a cookie sheet, make one out of aluminum foil. And if you don't even have a kitchen, you're on your own!
This works only with a certain type of cookie dough—the kind where you roll it into a little ball and then flatten it with a fork. First, thoroughly wash your toddler's hands. Then turn a chair around backward and let him stand up at the cabinet with you. Give him a glob of the dough and demonstrate for him how to roll it into a little ball. Keep up a running commentary: 'See how I make a ball out of the dough. Can you do that?' Don't expect his to be perfect. Ask, 'Does that look like your ball?' After he has made a few reasonably adequate balls, let him flatten them with his hand. I wouldn't give him a fork, even a plastic one, when he is in this somewhat precarious position. Besides, he'll have more fun flattening it with his fingers anyway. Do minor repairs unobtrusively, and remind him that baked cookies taste even better than dough! And praise his efforts lavishly. This activity may hold his attention only through the preparation of one sheet full of cookies. However, if he's still interested, finish off your dough while the first batch bakes. This will help him to endure the waiting time until they are baked. Comment from time to time on how much time is left until they will be done. 'Your cookies will be ready in five minutes.' If you have a wall clock, show him how much hand movement indicates five minutes. 'Listen for the timer; they'll be ready in just one minute.'
Once the cookies are out of the oven and off the baking sheet, have a little tea party with some of the cookies he helped prepare. And be sure to show them to other family members and let them also brag on his work. Have fun, and don't eat too many cookies.
A note about gender with this QT activity. Writers try these days to be careful to use 'she' as often as "he" in writing about children, rather than excluding "she" as a referent, as was the case in earlier times. I often alternate, rather than having to write the somewhat awkward 'he or she' all the time. I chose 'he' for this activity to make it absolutely clear that it is as suitable for little boys as for little girls. And I write from experience: my son could have stayed up in that chair for two solid hours, if I could ever have managed to produce that much cookie dough!
Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.