I was thrilled to find out that February is Bake for Family Fun Month, because this is something that I do regularly. I bake for them, I bake with them, I bake because of them. . .you get the idea!
Here are some solid tips that I’ve learned along the way. . .
1. Choose a recipe you’ve made before (it’s less stressful that way) or
2. Let your child choose a recipe from a children’s cookbook, but you have veto power (I’ve had to use that a few times).
3. If they’re younger than 3, be prepared to let them dump ingredients and stir.
Then when you’re ready to bake, set them at the table with some snacks and a drink while you clean up. If you’re baking chocolate chip cookies, a little bowl of chocolate chips is a big treat and will usually keep them busy.
4. If they’re older than 3, and there is a group of kids, I’ve found that it’s best to delegate responsibilities ahead of time.
For example, your job is _____, wash your hands, report to the kitchen, when your part is done you can clean up your area, wash your hands, grab a drink and wait for the treats to get out of the oven.
5. Pre-measure all the ingredients ahead of time for younger kids, and set up work stations for each task.
6. Make sure the jobs are age appropriate and there’s a job for everyone.
For example, if you’re making chocolate cupcakes one can unwrap all the chocolate squares, another can choose the liners and put them in the muffin pan, while another can stir the batter.
7. Have stools ready for every child participating, or work at the kitchen table.
8. Don’t pick a recipe that requires a mixer of any kind (for younger kids). Stick with a sturdy bowl with rubber on the bottom (to keep it from sliding around) and use a whisk, or wooden spoon.
9. Be prepared for the kids to get messy and eat some of your ingredients and/or raw dough. It happens. If you’re relaxed everyone will have more fun, including you!
10. And finally, supervision of your kids in the kitchen is required!
Here are some perfect baking jobs for young kids based on age:
1 1/2 year olds and Up:
1. Rolling out sugar cookie dough and cutting shapes – this is best if you have a child-sized rolling pin
2. Rolling out pie crust
3. Stirring flour and helping you knead bread dough
4. Adding ingredients to the bowl (pre-measured and/or chopped)
5. Brush dough (using a pastry brush) with olive oil, milk, or egg wash
6. Unwrap chocolate squares and place in a bowl
7. Frost cookies or cupcakes with kid knife (or pastry bag with large opening) and top with decorations.*
*I usually give everyone their own bag (or small plastic bowl) of frosting so I don’t have to worry about germs and crumbs in the frosting!
3 years and Up:
1. Stirring soft dough
2. Mashing bananas with a fork
3. Washing fruit in a colander
4. Cracking eggs in a separate bowl – be sure to wash hands afterwards!
5. Stirring batter
6. Separating cupcake liners and putting them in the muffin pan
7. Crushing graham crackers in a ziploc bag with a rolling pin
6 years and Up:
1. Crimping pastry dough
2. Sifting flour
3. Dusting with powdered sugar
4. Filling pastries or pie crust with jam or chocolate chips
5. Spraying a pan with PAM
8 years and Up:
1. Turning on the oven*
2. Reading a recipe
3. Measuring wet and dry ingredients
4. Using the microwave to melt ingredients (like butter and chocolate)*
5. Cream butter and sugar by hand (or with an electric mixer)*
*Please use discretion when allowing your child to use any appliances in the kitchen! Supervision is always a good idea.
Now for the fun! Here are some recipes that are lots of fun to make with the kids, be sure to read through them first and do your prep work – it’ll make it easier – trust me!
Whipped Cheesecake Strawberry Fool - modify this using premade cheesecake in a tub, whip cream in a spray can, and strawberry topping in a can – let them layer it!
Nilla Wafer Custard Shots - modify this using instant pudding, Nilla Wafers, and whip cream in a spray can
I just couldn’t resist, so below I’ve listed some suggestions (by age) of cooking jobs for kids.
1 1/2 year olds and Up:
- Wash and tear up lettuce
- Stir cool items – like dressing and pasta salad
- Put meats and cheeses on sandwiches
- Drop chopped food in a bowl, or a cold pot for cooking
- Sprinkle sugar on sliced fresh strawberries and stir
- Remove wrappers from American cheese
- Put crackers or chips into a ziploc bag for crushing (you may have to hold the Ziploc open while they put the crackers/chips in)
4 year olds and Up:
- Crush potato chips or crackers (in a Ziploc bag) for breading
- Snap ends off of beans
- Help set the table
- Peel hardboiled eggs
- Dry lettuce with the salad spinner
6 year olds and Up:
- Get ingredients out of the pantry and refrigerator
- Scrub potatoes
- Cut soft fruit (with a butter knife) – like bananas and pears
- Spread softened butter, mayo, or peanut butter on bread or dough
- Use the microwave (with supervision, as needed)
- Toast bread in the toaster (with supervision) – I have small plastic tongs to remove it.
8 year olds and Up:
- Supervised stovetop cooking (such as grilled cheese or stirring pots on the stove)
- Peel vegetables