Many of you may know our home is really centered around our Montessori Inspired Kitchen. We are an Indian family and we cook a LOT of vegetarian Indian food (Gujarati, Punjabi and South Indian) because my toddler twins and their Big Brother love it (and prefer it)! Indian cooking often uses special utensils, a variety of pantry items and such a unique range of spices. I’m hoping to share a bit more about our kitchen adventures in this multi-part series of posts starting with how my children access all the yummy, Indian spices to cook! You can easily use this for any spices in your kitchen whether it’s Indian, Italian, Mexican, Thai or other cuisines of your families liking.
As a reminder, my twin toddlers just turned 2 years old and their older brother is 4 years old.
Spice Bottles: With Indian cooking (and many other cuisines), we use a LOT of spices. I like to allow my kids the freedom to add spices to our cooking to their liking without restricting them too much. Most Indian kitchens will have their spices in a beautiful, open, spice container, with little bowls and spoons for each spice. It really allows for such a colorful and sensorial cooking experience. But this container also includes spicy red chili powder, which can be dangerous if the kids accidentally, touch it or intake it. It can also be a bit more challenging for tiny hands to use without making a mess.
When Big Brother was a toddler, I had pre-mixed some of his kid-friendly Indian spices into an old McCormick bottle for him to use on his own. This is one of my famous Indian cooking “hacks”. The pre-mixed Indian spices in a bottle were so much easier, safer and faster (when I was on a time crunch) for him to use at the time versus using the tiny spoons from our traditional container one by one, especially since in Indian cooking we generally add so many spices to a single dish. The bottle really allowed him to work independently with limited supervision.
This pre-mixed spice bottle includes a few spices, which we use in almost EVERY Indian recipe. It comes in handy when Big Brother wants to cook on his own or when I’m trying to juggle cooking with the all the kids in the kitchen. The McCormick bottles are a perfect size, they are plastic (even though glass is preferred, this works better for us with the twins who still grab things out of each other’s hands at any moment), and they have large enough holes on the caps making it easy to use.
With twins, this spice bottle “hack” has been a lifesaver! Those of you with multiples (or kids really close in age) know how challenging it is for 4 curious hands to safely and patiently wait their turn. And how hard it is for the parent to keep a safe eye in two different directions. Although we only have one bottle, you can easily make two of these bottles for each kid to use at their own pace.
With time, they became more comfortable with the pre-mixed spice bottle and I became more comfortable managing three bodies in the kitchen. This allowed us to explore more options with the spices. Instead of a pre-mixed bottle (which I still keep at hand for quick cooking with them), I added individual bottles with one spice in each. This gave them a chance to really explore each spice and all the wonderful sensory experiences that came with it while keeping it manageable with multiples. They are also able to add each spice individually to their liking.
For Italian cooking, we have separate bottles of Basil & Oregano but you can easily make an “Italian spices” bottle. This would consolidate how many bottles or things you were working with at a given time while allowing your children the independence and control to handle the ingredients. But Basil and Oregano are great bottles to keep separate because a little more or less does not significantly change your recipe.
Indian Spice Container: I absolutely love using the traditional Indian spice container also known as a Masala Box or in Gujarati Lakadiyu (it means wooden box because they used to be made of wood in the olden days). It’s so easy for the kids to see all the beautiful spices next to each other and access them for Indian recipes. We use this container with supervision since there are some very spicy spices in this. All of my children love being able to pick which spices they want to add from this container, especially Big Brother! It’s like a spice buffet! I have an extra one in our home, which I will soon add to the kids-pantry area for Big Brother to use on his own. He loves using our primary container and is comfortable working around the spicy stuff but I’m always paranoid about the spoons being interchanged and him getting harmed. This is a great sensory experience as they use the various spices and it is SO beautiful to look at! Again, I recommend using this container with supervision.
Cooking with kids requires so much patience but with these little hacks, it not only saves time but it makes it a safe and fun experience for the kids and the adults!
Stay tuned for my next post on what’s in our pantry! New post notifications are sent automatically when you subscribe (available in the right-hand navigation). In the meantime, what are your favorite spices in the kitchen? Share below!
Read more about Indian cooking with (multiple) kids in our Montessori inspired kitchen: