Whether it’s holiday baking, birthday cupcakes or after school cookies, kids love to help in the kitchen. Grown ups might consider baking to be a chore, but to children, the kitchen is unexplored territory where new adventures await.
Including your kids in the holiday baking means it will take longer, require patience, and it is 100 % guaranteed messy business, but I promise the benefits far outweigh any inconvenience. Here are some tried and true tips I use when the “shorter people” in my life are helping me in the kitchen.
Know your recipe.
Now is not the time to try a new cookie you saw in a magazine. Stick to recipes that you’ve made before.
Make sure you have all of the ingredients, and let the kids gather the ingredients while you read the list aloud.
Read the recipe together.
Even if your children are unfamiliar with the terms, it is important for them to witness this step in following directions.
Clear your workspace.
A clean counter, table and sink will help you and the kids move freely about the kitchen which prevents spills, accidents and added mess.
Time is on your side.
Don’t rush, especially if you are trying bake several batches of Christmas cookies. Try to schedule an entire afternoon, or even a day, as part of your family holiday season.
“I can’t see!”
Avoid accidents by providing a kid-safe stool or stepladder. Sitting on the counter is not a safe option. Sometimes a dining chair facing backwards against the counter is the safest option.
Accept the mess.
Yup…kids will spill, slop and drop, so did you when you were younger. Accept it, have some fun and clean up together afterwards.
I am never in the kitchen without an apron. It allows me to be a creative cook with or without a child’s help. If you and your child don’t have an apron, oversized shirts will do.
Ooops…tips to keep the mess down to a minimum.
Keep cloth clean-up towels or paper towels handy for wet spills. Vinyl tablecloths make great reusable work surface protectors. Use muffin tins for colored frosting, small candies, sprinkles or other decorations.
Tools for the trade.
Little chefs may not be able to cut or use some kitchen tools, but sometimes you can adapt to keep the kids engaged. Clean fingers can “cut” flour and butter instead of a pastry cutter. Breaking or smashing some ingredients may work as well as cutting. Clean scissors can be use to cut some ingredients too.
Here’s where your kids can really be helpful depending on their ages and abilities of course:
- Gather ingredients
- Cover the workspace
- Smaller kids can pour pre-measured ingredients and older kids can do the measuring themselves
- Crack eggs into a separate bowl
- Whisk eggs just like grandma used to do, before there were eggbeaters
- Stir, blend, mash and mix
- Roll or spoon cookie dough
- Spread batter in a pan
- Count or watch a timer
- Hand you items like cooling rack or oven mitts.
- Hold the eggbeater, push blender buttons, set the timer
- Cut and chop depending on the age.
- Roll and cut cookie dough
Cookie Cutter Trick
Prevent sticky cut-out cookies by dipping the cookie cutters in a shallow dish of flour in between cuts.
Keep it fun
Play music to keep things festive. A board game or deck of cards are handy to have while waiting for the cookies to bake or water to boil. If you are making edible Christmas gifts, another waiting activity can be preparing gift notes, tins or boxes.
Not only will you want these images for family mementos, they also make great additions to your gift tags. Cookies, candy and breads will taste much sweeter, when the recipient sees how much joy was baked into their treat.
Happy Holiday Baking!