I can’t even count how many photos and videos I have of my son helping me cook and bake. It’s a passion of mine, and one that he seems to have latched onto wholeheartedly.
That said, he’s only 4.5, and there’s only so much he can do. He’s not permitted to go near a hot oven, nor to operate a stand mixer, for safety reasons, of course. I also keep him away from touching raw meats and eggs, or getting too carried away with items that will likely just end up all over his clothes, floor, and the counter. (Yes, flour, I’m talking to you!)
How can you teach your children to bake?
Sure, you can let your kids go wild making and decorating their own cakes and cookies, then dealing with the inevitable clean-up aftermath. But there are things you can teach your kids so that they do actually help, and are more involved in the dinner-making or sweet treat-baking process.
A few tasks have become “his” when my son and I cook or bake together, like shaking chicken pieces in a Ziplock bag full of marinade for homemade orange chicken, and placing the silicone baking cups into the muffin tray for a batch of school-safe carrot muffins.
My son loves to hold my phone or tablet and read the ingredients from a recipe to me so I can run around the kitchen and line everything up before getting started.
If I have ingredients like raisins, chocolate chips, or fruit, I give my son the measuring cup and the bag, show him how much we need, and he measures it all out with his freshly washed and dried hands. Sure, it takes quite a bit longer than if I were just to pour the correct amount in. But it also keeps him occupied, and gives me time to prepare other items. Ditto for tasks like scooping batter into muffin cups.
Usually, I let my son do the first and last stir, whether it’s of dry ingredients for banana bread (he mashes the bananas for this!), or mixing nuts into cookie batter. If I’m making something that involves dough, I’ll give him a small piece along with a rolling pin so he can roll along with me. If we’re making Christmas cookies, he helps cut them using cookie cutters.
Keep in mind that kids can also be great runners, throwing stuff in the garbage, and grabbing needed items from bottom cupboards, like a muffin tray or small pot or pan. And they can handle simple assisting tasks, like setting the timer on the oven, placing items in the microwave and pressing the buttons (with your guidance, of course.)
What appliances can kids use when they bake?
With a stand mixer, for example, turn it off, unplug it, then let your child scrape batter from around the edges, or pour the next ingredient in before you turn it back on to continue mixing. My son likes to stand beside me while I watch something mix. (Remember, to a 4-year-old, that’s still “being involved.”) He also likes to help place things inside a blender before I plug it in, cover it up, and turn it on to puree pumpkin for soup or sweet potatoes for holiday mashed; or to make delicious fruit smoothies.
As they get older, you may become more comfortable with your kids taking on cooking and baking projects of their own, with minimal assistance. In this case, teach them how to measure out items, read recipes, and gather all of their ingredients and tools needed before getting started. Organization is key, and an important skill they’ll hopefully carry over to or from other tasks as well. Before you know it, they’ll be on their way to making delicious creations of their own.
Main image: Stock Photo by Sean Locke www.digitalplanetdesign.com