As you can imagine, after over 4 years of cooking with countless toddlers, I have seen a lot of toddler aprons in action. I have developed some fairly passionate views about what makes a good one and what makes them next to useless. As well as sending us the 3-D Dinosaur cutters to try, the kind people at Kitchen Rules also sent us this pink, heart-pocket apron. It is quite honestly the best children's apron we've ever used. And this is why.
What makes a good toddler apron?
Cooking with toddlers is messy. In my view, if you've been doing things right, their apron should look like a piece of crazy modern art by the end; that's what aprons are for. I like the idea of the wipe-able aprons, but the reality is that food gets stuck in the seams or on the neck strap and can go mouldy. So, even though most say 'wipe-clean only,' you end up having to put them in the washing machine and they're never quite the same again. Fabric aprons are better in that you can just lob them straight in the wash, but they do stain easily. This Kitchen Rules one has got some sort of coating on it so you can wipe off most light spills and it doesn't seem to stain as easily. During the decoration of the dinosaurs, we got this one coated in bright red, yellow and green icing made from food colouring. I wiped what I could off, put it in the washing machine and it came out without a mark on it. I couldn't quite believe it.
2. Adjustable Neck Straps
There's little point in having an apron that sits halfway down their chest. Even if you tie the waist ties tight, unless the neck strap is the right length, it will slip. You can loop the waist tie through the neck strap to keep the bib from slipping, but I much prefer an adjustable strap, which the Kitchen Rules one has.
The other major advantage of an adjustable strap is that it can be released to make it easier to take the apron off, without going over their head. If you've got an apron covered in food, the last thing you want is for it to get smeared all over them at the final hurdle of taking it off. I much prefer aprons where I can release the neck and waist ties and then wrap it up to contain the mess. Aprons like tabards have their advantages, but to me the fact that you have to take them off over their head is their major downside.
The final consideration is width. The further it wraps around them, i.e.. the more protection they have, the better. The other option I like for cooking with toddlers, particularly young toddlers, is simply to use one of those bibs with sleeves. That way their whole front and arms are protected and they're easy to remove by releasing the velcro at the back. However, there is nothing cuter than a little chef in a bib apron. And I think they like to cook with an apron that's just like mummy's or daddy's.
So, to sum-up, these are my must-haves for a great toddler apron:
1. Made from quality fabric that has been stain protected (not plastic),
2. Has adjustable neck straps,
3. is wide, very wide.
Or you could just get this one from Kitchen Rules (£8.50), which even has the added bonus of a pocket. My youngest thought that was so cool, she wore it most of the day, finding things to put in and out of it. My only criticism/plea is that, while there are other options for boys available, sadly they don't have this particularly one in a colour that would appeal to most boys, which is a shame, because I can't fault it.
If you'd like to see what else we recommend, jump over to Tickle Fingers' favourite products for cooking with children.