Baking with kids is a fun activity for making delicious creations, creating memories and learning. Here are some tips that will help smooth the process of baking with kids and create a fun experience.
Chef Ann Olson says it best. "Baking may be regarded as a science, but it's the chemistry between the ingredients and the cook that gives desserts life. Baking is done out of love, to share with family and friends, to see them smile." My passion for baking began as a child, and to this day, the greatest satisfaction I receive from baking is seeing the response of those who enjoy my baked goods. The way a homemade blueberry pie or simple chocolate chip cookies can bring a smile to our loved ones is pure gratification. It's the fruits of our labor and our ability to share it with others that brings the greatest joy.
Now, as a mom, I am experiencing baking at new levels. Our two-year-old son is beyond ecstatic to help me bake in the kitchen (which, of course, makes me equally, if not more ecstatic). It's completely different baking with kids as opposed to on your own, but it brings a lot of joy through bonding, creates memories, and is educational in so many ways (and of course, it makes messes that are worth it!). Based on my own experiences, I am sharing with you my tips and ideas to baking with kids to help make the process smooth and enjoyable.
Let your child select the recipe
It's important to let your child help choose the recipe that you will bake together. It gives them an opinion and gets them excited about the baked good that you will make together. Select three or four recipes for which you have the ingredients on hand and are age-appropriate for your child. For instance, don't select a croissant recipe from scratch that will take all day to make and requires precision. Instead, great options include cakes, cookies, pies, brownies, and muffins. And if you have extra time, select a recipe and make an ingredient list with a shopping list of anything you need. It's fun to go to the supermarket and find the ingredients together (make it educational!).
Preparing to bake with your child
Read the recipe ahead of time to familiarize yourself with the directions of the recipe. It's easy to get distracted when baking with kids. Knowing the steps of the recipe ahead of time will eliminate the chance of missing an essential direction. Also, there is nothing like making a recipe with a child and realizing that a step involves chilling dough for an hour. It's much easier to bake a recipe with kids that can go from start to finish without long breaks in between.
Depending on the age of your child, pull out the ingredients and supplies needed for the recipe ahead of time. Younger children have shorter attention spans, plus measuring and mixing ingredients is more exciting. Involve older children in getting out ingredients and putting them away. It reinforces a sense of responsibility.
Although not necessary, it's fun to purchase a few kid's baking tools. A silicone spatula, colorful whisk, small rolling pin, and a kid's pastry brush are baking tools often used in baking. Not only is it fun to have these tools for your kids, but the smaller size also makes it easier for kids to maneuver through a recipe.
Plan for a mess
It's inevitable. Baking with kids creates messes. However, if you plan for it, you can minimize the necessary clean up. Premeasuring ingredients ahead of time can reduce the mess. Have a large bowl nearby to keep any scraps and trash in so that it stays together and makes clean up easier (think butter wrappers, strawberry stems, eggshells, etc.)
Additionally, you can lay wax paper on the portion of your counter where you will bake to clean up quickly. Plastic tablecloths from the dollar store are excellent for protecting your table and making clean up a quick process. I always have these tablecloths stocked up for cookie decorating and kid's crafts.
There are ways to involve kids at every age in baking. If you have kids in different age groups baking with you, plan out age-appropriate tasks ahead of time. Smaller children can sit in high chairs and participate in mixing and combining ingredients while older children can help with the mixer. Under parental supervision, I allow my son to turn on the mixer and observe the exciting mixing process. When the mixer is safely off, my son enjoys scraping down the mixing bowl between additions with a silicone spatula.
Use baking as an educational experience
There are many skills and ideas that baking can teach and reinforce for children. Baking is a science, and it's fun to talk about and see how ingredients interact together to create a delicious baked good. For example, baking soda and baking powder are leavening agents in baking. Explain to your child what that means. It doesn't have to be a nerdy, scientific lesson, but explain to your child that adding baking soda and baking powder to cakes helps cakes rise. You can demonstrate how baking soda reacts when combined with acidic ingredients (as it does in baking). In a small glass bowl, mix a bit of baking soda with vinegar and watch what happens. Explain to your child that it is similar to what happens in the oven with leavening agents.
Older children can partake in baking with less assistance. It connects with the need for more freedom and responsibility. This freedom can include having your child retrieve ingredients and washing the dirty bowls, on top of making the recipe.
Praise your child
Be sure to praise your child for a job well done! They have helped along the way with possibly measuring ingredients, mixing ingredients, scooping cookie dough, rolling pie dough, frosting a cake, adding sprinkles, and so much more. Every step matters in baking, and they should be proud of the results. Let them try what they have created. Invite friends and family over to sample what you have made. Or even make special deliveries to grandma and grandpa to try your delicious treats. If a child feels a sense of accomplishment, they will want to do it again and again!
In general, baking requires a great deal of patience (even for us as adults). Adding baking with a child to the mix can test your patience. But the fun and memories that come out of baking with your child, niece, nephew, grandchild, or the child you babysit are well worth it! Have fun in the kitchen. Be creative. And don't worry if a recipe doesn't come out exactly how you planned because it's about the experience. Happy Baking!