Baking with a toddler…..does that sentence make you cringe? Don’t worry…you are not alone! It can be messy and quite frankly..you may not come out with anything edible. BUT… baking or cooking with your toddler is a great way to build many skills! It is a fantastic learning opportunity and it is a blast!! Not to mention, it is a great excuse to make some yummy treats!!! I LOVE this Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe from Tastes Better From Scratch! There is not better time than the Holidays to start teaching them some important and memorable skills in the kitchen! With these quick tips you will be well on your way to baking or cooking with your toddler and enjoying it!!!
Kitchen experiences offer a HUGE variety of learning opportunities for ALL children!
More, Less, Too much, Not enough etc….
Service (delivering baked good etc..)
Proper kitchen etiquette and food safety
Manipulating small objects
Transferring from hand to hand
Ok, you get the picture…I could go on and on! So, how do you make it less stressful and more fun!?
Find a comfortable and safe place for your child to participate.
Designate an area for your child where they can help easily but won’t be into everything. One great way to do this is to bring your child’s highchair right up to where you are. If you trust your child standing on a chair next to you, carefully pull the chair up to the counter and make sure it is steady. Be aware of where you put it so you aren’t putting yourself in a position where you can trip or tip your child over. NEVER place your child anywhere near a stove or oven. Teach them even when the appliances are off that they are not to be touched.
Have all ingredients prepped and ready beforehand.
Your child is much more likely to stay engaged in what you are doing if you are ready beforehand. This will keep things moving quickly and more efficiently. Keeping your child’s attention will prevent them from getting into things that they aren’t supposed to or making unnecessary messes. (We will talk about messes in a minute). Have all measuring cups, spoons and ingredients ready to go when you start. Not only will this keep things moving but it will also prevent any safety issues. If you are searching around the kitchen for a measuring cup or ingredient, you aren’t watching your child. This is when spills, falls, and accidents can happen! So be prepared.
Let your child participate!!!
This is the BIGGEST part!!! Don’t expect your child to just watch you bake! Let them participate. Adding ingredients, helping crack an egg, using a small spoon to help you stir etc… these are all excellent learning opportunities that will engage your child and allow them to have fun while you are baking! Using hand over hand motions are a great way to get your child involved while preventing a mess. Have them put their hand over yours while you are mixing with the mixer, pouring in ingredients, stirring etc… this makes them feel like they are doing the motion but you are in charge. If it makes you feel more comfortable, give your child a bowl of ingredients that will not be included. They will still be participating, it just may not go in the recipe! If you do this, be prepared! You do not want those unwanted ingredients sneaking in when you aren’t looking.
Give your child a Fail-Proof Job
For things such as nuts, chocolate chips and other add-in ingredients, give your child a bowl of the ingredient and let them add them in as you are mixing. It might be one (or a few) at a time but at least they are helping and having fun! It will also keep them entertained while you quickly mix the batter! Giving them a job that they can’t fail at will not only make your life easier, but it will boost their confidence and make their experience much more fun! You can also give them a pointless baking job. Have them mix something that doesn’t need to be mixed anymore, have them count chocolate chips etc…. This might be a pointless baking job as far as the recipe goes but it will keep them entertained and feeling confident in their baking abilities!
Use smaller measuring tools than necessary (And bigger bowls!)
Using smaller measuring tools gives more learning opportunities. For example: If your recipe calls for 1 cup of flower use the 1/2 or 1/4 cup. You are allowing your child to learn the motions of pouring, helping with fine motor skills, and teaching them counting all in one step! Plus, you are giving them more opportunities to have fun and engage in your project!
Use a bigger than necessary bowl! Using a small mixing bowl or dish restricts where they can put their ingredients. If you use a larger bowl they have a bigger target!! You are helping them succeed without even trying!
Be prepared for messes
Toddlers and cooking….that spells MESS! Be ready for small messes. Hopefully by using the above tips, your messes can be cut down to a minimum. BUT, be ready just in case! And, be accepting of a mess! Kids make messes…adults make messes! Know that it is going to happen and move on. Have your child help clean up the mess or spill if one occurs. Have napkins, wipes or towels prepared in case of a spill. The quicker you clean it up the smaller the mess may be.
Don’t put your child….or yourself for that matter, in clothes that you care about! Or, have aprons ready for all participants. I can promise you one thing, you will NOT both come out clean!
Watch out and be ready for sticky fingers!
You child is inevitably going to dip a finger…or two in the batter. Again, be ready with wipes to quickly clean those sticky little fingers. While you are baking with a toddler or child, remember the safety risks of eating raw dough and batter. Dipping a finger or spoon into the bowl can bring illness if you aren’t careful.
Remember, its okay to be messy! By letting your child have sticky or messy fingers you are giving them sensory exploration opportunities. Again, don’t be afraid to get messy while you are baking with your toddler!
Let them eat some of their masterpiece!
There is nothing worse than making cookies all day and not being able to eat them, right? Let your child eat some of what you have made! If you give away all your cookies without allowing them to have a bite…where is the reward for next time? They will be proud of their accomplishment and excited to show it off!
It is a great idea to bake for others as it teaches giving and sharing! But don’t bank on the finished product turning out perfect! They might be the best cookies you have ever made…or they might be the worst! But it sure was fun making them!!
Don’t forget to have them help clean up!!!!!!!
Good luck, Have fun and enjoy baking!!!