Mixing, baking and decorating tasty treats is lots of (messy) fun for toddlers and preschoolers. But the process is more than just fun and yummy (lick of frosting anyone?) . . . some great principles and skills are honed in the process.
Explain what’s expected of your child during the baking process before you begin. Make the instructions clear and concise, and age-appropriate. When I bake with Abbey (3), I say something like:
“We’re going to bake cupcakes! I need you to listen closely, use your hands with care, and keep away from the oven while it’s hot”
Every step of the way is a game of follow the leader while baking. If you crack an egg, your child will want to do it as well. Children will have to listen to a lot of limits while helping in the kitchen, too. So it’s a great learning experience for everyone!
|Don’t touch the frosting yet, Abbey!|
How much practice did it take you before you learned how to crack an egg without splattering it all over the counter, or getting shells in the bowl?
Ya, I still get shells in my cupcakes, too
Giving our children the opportunity to do new things with their hands is wonderful for their physical dexterity: carrying a bowl, cracking an egg, pouring wet and dry ingredients, handling cooking utensils, stirring, scooping, measuring, and decorating baked goods are all physical skills that require lots of practice (practice that kids just LOVE).
|Abbey taps on the back of the sprinkle jar just as I modeled for her.|
|Using a pincer grasp and turning the top back on the sprinkles.|
It’s important for us as parents to be prepared for a bit of a mess when cooking or baking with our children, and to create a safe and accepting environment in which they can practice new skills and increase their dexterity. Accidents happen, and messes are made. Make sure you have plenty of eggs (and other ingredients) on hand so that a little accident doesn’t ruin the whole baking experience. It’s good to get the chance to “try, try again!”
The first time I made cupcakes with my then two-year-old, she was so very vexed at the fact that it would not only take a while to mix the cupcakes, but that after they were in the cupcake tin, she had to WAIT for them to bake, and then WAIT again for them to be cool in order to frost and decorate them.
It was a tragedy that first time – lots of whining and begging for the cupcakes to be done sooner than realistically possible. But I just kept explaining that we have to be patient while we’re making things.
I found that while waiting for the cupcakes to bake (and then to cool) I could talk to Abbey about how everything in our house had to be made at some point, and that the process of making things is never instantaneous. We talked about the big sewing machines that cut the fabric and sewed every little stitch in our hot-pads, and about the farmers that waited for their chickens to lay eggs, and then how they slowly and carefully collected them and sent them off to be packaged and put on the shelf at the store. And Abbey waited.
Every time we have baked since then, her patience grows, and her expectation of baking is more and more realistic. Baking is an excellent way to teach patience without lecturing or nagging. Learning by continued experience and talking about things is just so much less painful!
The development of grace while experiencing food preparation goes hand in hand with learning physical dexterity and patience. Children learn through experience (and modeling, and guidance) that the more gentle one is with the whisk (or measuring cup), the less egg (or flour, or sugar, etc) ends up on the countertop (or floor, or all over you, etc).
Courtesy is honed when children listen to our requests for help doing certain tasks, and reply in kind. Courtesy also comes into play during clean up.
Once, I asked Abbey what color frosting she wanted to make, and she replied
“teal, and indigo”
Not only did I have to do my very best to make those colors for her cupcakes (that batch was definitely not photo worthy!), but I was astounded at the amount of shape and color recognition that went on while tapping sprinkle bottles and smoothing frosting with butter knives.
Baking with your child is a fully-loaded learning experience!
If you haven’t tried baking with your child yet, I urge you to pick a kitchen project and try it out!
Those of you who have baked with your little ones. . . I’d love to hear your thoughts on baking with kids!