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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Baking with your Kids

Some of my fondest memories growing up were cooking with my sister Cathy. The first lesson? French Toast. I was probably about 6 years old and even then I was interested in cooking. We didn't bake cookies or cakes much in my family, but I find cooking and baking teaches children such valuable lessons such as patience, following directions, math, and of course cooking in general is a life skill. I started baking with my daughter when she was 11 months old. Every Sunday morning I would make pancakes and she would help. I would let her hold the electric mixer and put the ingredients in the bowl.
Now she is three years old and can pretty much teach anyone how to make pancakes. For her birthday this year, my Dad bought her some of her very own baking tools. I have to say, it's one of the best gifts she has ever gotten. We have made cookies and of course cupcakes. She still helps me with pancakes on Sundays and I think I will teach her how to make French Toast this week. It can be more time consuming of course to to be teaching while you are baking, but it well worth the time. Here are a few tips for baking with your kids.

  • Set up some ground rules
We have a saying in my kitchen that my daughter knows well. "If you can't listen, you can't help" The kitchen can be a dangerous place and it's important to tell you child, regardless of age, what they can help with and what they can't. In the beginning there was definitely a few instances where I finished cooking on my own because my daughter was having trouble following directions and staying safe. That hasn't happened in quite some time now. She is very focused in the kitchen now.
  • If you have the means get them their own baking tools
Having tools that were her size really changed everything. They are easier for her to navigate and help with her motor skills. They also brought a whole new excitement in to the process for her. Just make sure if you do buy some cooking and baking tools make sure that they are actually for cooking and not just toys. We have a special cabinet for her baking supplies so she can get them herself. She jumps at the chance to use her spatula or whisk!
  • Give them their own batch to make
Once your batter is made, if you can put some in a small bowl it can really decrease the stress in the situation. It's so much more fun for everyone if you are just helping them create than it is for you to try and let them help you make something that has an certain visual expectation. If I'm making cupcakes for the family, Eve has her own. They can be overfilled or under filled, they can be half frosted or not at all. Once we get past making batter, the cupcakes are entirely up to her.
  • Have Fun and get Dirty
I'm a neat freak when I bake, I'm trying not to have that rub off on Eve. I just keep telling myself "cookies in the hair is not the worst thing that can happen" It seems to get me through. She does however have her own apron, and that helps too.

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