See that picture above? That’s what we all want our moments in the kitchen baking with kids to look like, right? Sweet smiles, laughing, sneaking a lick here and a bite there, and just having fun, and creating memories. Kids LOVE to help in the kitchen and kids love to make messes. They love to do what YOU are doing, and they would much rather climb up on the counter and help you cook, than be at your feet watching you. Have you ever got down to their level and seen the kitchen from their eyes? If you have toddlers, get down on your knees for a minute and see how they see things. I get so frustrated sometimes, because my 4th and youngest child is 20 months old right now and climbing on EVERYTHING! His favorite thing to do is climb up on the kitchen bar and then get into my baking cupboard and pull out all the spices and measuring cups and spoons. It’s frustrating, but think about it, if you were only 3 feet high and couldn’t see the tops of the counters, wouldn’t YOU want to climb on everything?
I am not one of those moms that has always loved to spend time baking with kids in the kitchen. I am the opposite. When I am in the kitchen cooking, I like to have a 5 foot perimeter of space around me. I have never liked having children at my feet or whining in my ear while I am cooking. So, if you aren’t the most patient mom in the kitchen, take a deep breathe, because you aren’t the only one! I still cringe when my 5 yr old asks, “Can I help you?” because I just like to get things done quickly and get them done right. I have come to learn though, over the years, that allowing my children to help me prepare food in the kitchen is essential for their learning, for me to learn patience, and for us to strengthen our relationship. Now, you might say, “How the heck will baking with my kids strengthen our relationship if they are making messes, and dumping in the wrong ingredients and I’m losing my cool because someone dropped an entire egg in the mixer while it was going and ruined the whole batch of cookies??” Yep, I’ve been there done that! So, again, take a deep breathe, and read on because you can do this! Before you know it, your kids will be cooking dinner for you! (and then you can whine and tell them how much you don’t like it!)
Bake with kids when you are in a ‘good space.’ If your nerves are already fried or you are in a hurry to get dinner done by a certain time, or you are just plain grumpy, it might not be the best time to try and bake with kids and create happy memories. Yes, I have learned this from experience! Then again, maybe when you hear that dreaded question, “Can I help mom?” you can take a second, soften your heart, and find something, even it is small, for your child to help with. When I’m in a really bad mood, and I know it’s not a good time to bake with kids I will at least let them help set the table.
Clean and Clear your area. If the space where you will be baking with your kids is clean and clear of clutter, it’s easier to be happy and have a good time with the kiddos. If all the dishes are dirty and you are having to stop repeatedly to wash a bowl or a measuring cup, and the kids are dumping in random ingredients while your back is turned, stress will inevitably creep in quickly!
Invest in Kid-friendly utensils. It’s easier to cook with kids if you have the right utensils for little unexperienced hands. If you are chopping, here are some safer knives that are good for kids. Kids love to wear aprons like these. Have you ever tried to make sugar cookies with kids and have them cut out their own cookies? Most of the cheap cookie cutters made for kids are frustrating because either the dough gets stuck in them or they are so small, that by the time the cookie comes out of the oven, it looks nothing like the original shape, and more like a big blob. They also rust if you put them through the dishwasher! I love these comfort grip cookie cutters because they are heavy duty, rust resistant, great for small hands and bigger so the cookies actually come out of the oven shaped the way they were intended to be. Want to teach a chid how to separate an egg without all the stress? Here is an awesome tool for that!
Gather ingredients and baking utensils. This is something kids can easily help with and will help lessen your stress because you won’t be constantly leaving the counter to grab things as you’re reading the recipe. Let them help you gather all the ingredients first before you really start. You could go on an ‘ingredient hunt’ to find everything. Remember, it’s only as fun as you decide to make it!
Once all the ingredients and utensils are on the counter, you can dig in, and start baking!
Obviously, kids can do different things at different ages so gear your expectations towards that. If I give my 20 mo old an egg and expect him to crack it open, I’m asking for trouble. My 5 year old can do it, though, and my toddler can have his own bowl and spoon to bang on in the background 🙂 Ok, 2 of my biggest frustrations (here comes my o.c.d. side, you can laugh at me if you want) is when my kids dump too much flour in, when they get egg shells in the cookie batter, or trying to get them to put the right amount of cookie batter on the cookie sheet. (If you ask my kids, 1/2 cup is about the right size for a cookie! 🙂 Here is how I learned to overcome these stresses:
-For the flour problem, I measured out the correct amount into a bowl, THEN I give them a tablespoon and allow them to dump it in the mixer one scoop at a time. That way, I have time to stop them if I notice the batter doesn’t need as much. This works great for making bread too since I have to eye it each time to see if it needs more or less flour at the end.
-For the cookie batter, I invested in one of these. It makes it much easier for them to see and know if they are scooping the right amount.
-For eggs, have them crack it in a SEPARATE bowl first before dumping in the mixer. Less stress, easier for young kids to practice and won’t ruin the whole batch if their hands slip and accidently drop the entire egg in. (been there, done that!)
As kids get older, it’s even more fun to cook with them and I am amazed at how efficient they become. My 10 yr old daughter loves to surprise me and make dinner sometimes. One time she surprised me by making chicken noodle soup with no recipe!
I was shocked! It tasted good too! If you have an older child that loves to cook I highly recommend a cookbook for kids. When I was a kid my mom bought us a kid’s cookbook and we used it so much she had to rip out the pages and put them in plastic sheet protectors. To this day, I still call her up and ask for some of those simple recipes. I looked all over for a similar book and found this jem! I’m giving it to my daughter for Christmas and I know she’s gonna love it! Here is another one that I thought looked awesome! Give your kids the right tools and the confidence and they will surprise you with what they can do. Happy Baking!
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