This mom loves to bake. I began baking cookies for people in elementary school and never looked back. Baking was my first real hobby, and it has stuck with me into motherhood. While the mere thought of toddlers in the kitchen brings visions of flour coating the counters and little hands getting caught in ovens, I am determined my children will know that cookie dough doesn’t have to come in a package and cakes aren’t something you can only buy in the grocery store.
When the twins were just under 18 months old, I let them help me make brownies for the first time. They had watched me bake at first from their bouncers set on the table, then their exersaucers by the kitchen door, and finally just sitting in the doorway. They were so excited to be IN the kitchen, up on the counter, ready to help Mommy make brownies! Fifteen minutes later, (for brownies from a box, folks) we ended up with two babies and two parents covered in chocolate and brownies in the oven with a few extra ingredients like dirt, drool, and a rogue Cheerio.
Two years, another kid, and many baking adventures later, I have learned a LOT.
Choose your space: Scope out the kitchen with an eye for ease in helping and for safety. We were lucky and had a counter with a high bar on the back, so the boys couldn’t fall backward, and I stood in front of them. We don’t have that in our new house, so we work at their small table. I know lots of moms who love the learning towers for getting their kids up to the counter. Figure out what makes you most comfortable.
Prepare: Don’t just call the kids in to make something. Know what you’re going to make. (I suggest a recipe you’ve made before, or at least read through 20 times since it’s harder to “undo” with little helpers.) Get those ingredients ready. Depending on the age of your kids, you may need to premeasure items and have them set out like on a cooking show. Or you might be able to just set the ingredients all in one place and measure with your kids (yay for learning math in the kitchen!).
Set your expectations: Talk to your kids about taking turns, being patient, keeping hands away from the mixer, and not touching the food once it’s in the bowl. It’s always a good idea to highlight important things before you start because once they see the egg, it’s hard for them to think about anything except: See egg; must crack.
Enjoy the fruits: I’m a lick the bowl kinda gal. I grew up eating brownie batter and cookie dough, and I’m passing on that tradition. Probably my kids knew how to lick a bowl clean before they could sing their ABCs. (Priorities, right?) If you aren’t into the raw egg consumption deal, no biggie, they can still eat the well baked version of the goodies. Just mention beforehand that there may be some patience needed to wait for your treats to bake. Immediate gratification is a toddler’s world.
Be proud: We take pictures with our treats, share them with people, and certainly talk about how the boys helped make the cookies, brownies, rolls, whatever. They are very proud of their kitchen accomplishments. I’m glad they get satisfaction out of helping me do something that brings me a lot of the same joy.
Although baking can take twice (or more!) as long with little helpers, there is so much to learn in the kitchen: fractions, chemistry, hygiene, and patience. I learned a lot by helping my mother and grandmother in the kitchen, first with baking and then with cooking. I loved that special time with them, and I love giving that gift to my children. And when the gift is topped off with a warm chocolate chip cookie, well, that’s just perfect.