A small kitchen, a hot oven, a dangerously powerful mixer…not exactly the place for a small child, right? Actually, it’s exactly the place!
Baking with your children is something that can not only bring joy to all of you, but also teaches children skills like measuring, counting, the science of where their food comes from, how to follow directions, clean-up skills, and helpfulness.
But actually bringing those messy little ones into your nice clean kitchen can be a daunting task. Often, I find myself doing my baking during naptime or after my girls have gone to
sleep just for the sake of getting it done as quickly and neatly as possible, but the times when I do let them into my world, the rewards are great!
I want to share some tips that I use when baking with my two little girls (ages 2 and 3) and also a recipe that is fun and easy to make together.
7 Tips for Baking with Kids (Toddlers Too!)
1. Work at the table: The counter is generally too high for toddlers to reach without standing on a chair. If you just have one child or have a really big kitchen, the counter might be fine, but if you have multiple children that will be working with you, it’s much easier to just transfer most things to the table so you don’t have to worry about all those little ones falling off chairs! My kitchen isn’t really big enough to bake in even if it’s just me, so the table works great.
2. Have your child help gather the ingredients: If you’re working at the table, stand in the kitchen and give the ingredients to your little ones to take to the table. This not only helps you not make so many trips back and forth, it also reinforces one more time what the items are. They get to hear the name, feel the weight, and see the ingredient before baking even begins! While you’re at it, gather everything you will need–bowls, spoons, cups…everything! It’s so much easier than walking back and forth!
3. Give up on staying neat: Often, I will strip my girls down to their diaper before baking with them. Today, they were in play clothes that I wasn’t really worried about. Either way, you’ll be much more relaxed if you’re not worried about them (and you and the table and the floor) staying neat. It’s not going to happen, so just let go and enjoy it!
|H and M ready to go!
4. Set aside plenty of time: If the recipe says it’s going to take 15 minutes to prepare, it’ll take at least 30. If it’s supposed to take 30 minutes to prepare, it’s likely to take an hour. Set aside the time and let your children do most of the work. Your children don’t have the experience you have so will work slower, but they’re learning every step of the way and probably having a blast doing it!
5. Work according to ability level: If I let my two year old hold the measuring cups on her own and dump the ingredients into the bowl, we’d have quite the mess and our food wouldn’t taste quite right because at least half of everything would be on the floor. She’s happy to let me hold the measuring cups and spoons with her and help her dump. My three year old on the other hand is (for the most part) fine with holding the cups and dumping ingredients into the bowl on her own. She’s had an extra year of practice, so I let her help more.
|Getting ready to fill the measuring cup with oil. Holding M’s hand steady.
|H is big enough to do it on her own. She probably spilled a couple drops, but not a big deal.
6. Leave the mixer: The mixer doesn’t need to go on the table. My KitchenAid is too heavy to move anyway. It’s also dangerous for little fingers. Here’s how the girls see what’s going on.
Yep, she’s just standing on a chair. I set my two year old on the counter to get a peek. They can see in and still not pinch fingers.
Encourage them to mix: Mixing is a great activity for building gross and fine motor skills at the same time. They are working on the muscles in their upper arm, shoulder, elbow, lower arm, wrist, and fingers…all at once!! It’s not an easy (or neat) task, but it’s so, so important to let them try.
|Look at that arm! She’s a GREAT mixer! It would take her a while, but eventually, she’d get it as smooth as I like it. Well…she might tire out before then, but she has the movement down.
|This one isn’t quite there yet. She’s good at holding the rubber spatula, but her movements aren’t smooth and there isn’t much mixing actually happening. But that’s okay! She’s learning a lot right now!
7. Let them clean up: First, I always let my girls play in the flour that’s left on the table. H said today, “Thank you for letting us eat this yummy flour, Mommy!” Not sure why plain flour is so delicious, but I guess, to a 3 year old, it is.
Then let them help with the other clean up tasks. My girls carried all the ingredients back to the kitchen and gave them to me. They also washed and dried the table. And they loved it!! Being helpful is one of the most important things about being in the kitchen with Mom.
BONUS: ENJOY IT!! It’s easy to go into something like this thinking it isn’t going to be any fun.
Maybe you’re not a messy person. Perhaps letting go is hard for you. Or maybe you’re a master chef. Look at this as something totally different than what you normally do. Let go and enjoy your little ones just being little!
So are you wondering what we made? Here’s the recipe!!
Delicious Pumpkin Bread
Adapted from Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread
- 1 15 oz can of pumpkin (You may have noticed our bigger can size. We used half and put the other half in the fridge for later.)
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 2/3 cup water
- 3 cups white sugar
- 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 2 cups baking chips (I used 1 cup of peanut butter and 1 cup of chocolate)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour three 7×3 inch loaf pans. (I only have one of these, so I ended up making one 7×3 inch loaf, 12 muffins and 24 mini muffins)
- In a large bowl, mix pumpkin, eggs, oil, water, and sugar until smooth. (This was the part we used the mixer for.)
- In another bowl, mix flours, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger with a whisk.
- Add dry mix to wet mix and stir gently just until blended. (This was the part of the stirring the girls did.)
- Add chips and fold into batter.
- Pour batter into pans and bake. 7×3 inch pans take about 50 minutes. Regular muffins take about 40 minutes. Mini muffins take 15-20 minutes. Bread and muffins are done when you can insert a toothpick and it comes out clean.
Wanting to cook or bake with your kids but need some help teaching the skills they need?
Check out the Kids Cook Real Food online video course! Click the photo below to learn more!