Since I've now baked sixteen different cookie recipes with my kids (ages two and four) during our Christmas Cookie Countdown, I've become a bit of an expert on baking with my children.
So, I thought I'd share a few tips today on baking with tiny tots - and how to really get the most out of time in the kitchen with them.
1. They can do more than you think. My four year-old can roll out dough, pour flour into a bowl, stir in chocolate chips, and can almost crack an egg. If you don't mind a bit of extra time and clean up, the investment in them is so worth letting them try!
2. A hot cookie sheet is just hot - not deadly. Freaking out about a hot pan only increases their fascination with it. The boys loved pushing the Hershey kisses into the centers of our Peanut Butter Blossoms and Kiss and Drizzle Cookies. I left the cookies on the cookie sheet while they were adding the Kisses and talked to them about being very careful not to touch the pan. They were more careful than I ever am.
3. Choose recipes with pictures. When we're about to bake our cookie of the day, I first show them the picture. They get really excited when they see the finished product - before we've even started. Teaching them to make something yummy out of a bunch of ingredients has given me so much joy this year - and is a great tool in teaching them to follow directions.
4. Encourage their creativity. Let them do it their way, when possible. So, icing is spilling over the edges and sprinkles are all in one spot. Who cares? Let them experiment and develop their own designs and shapes.
5. Take pictures. When I pull out my camera to take pictures of them baking, they see how proud I am of them. And, we've captured the memories forever.
6. Let them get ingredients from the pantry. They know what powdered sugar and chocolate chips are because I let them go and get them. And, I have them put things away when we're finished.
7. Pour on the praise! They thrive on it.
8. Be patient. This is the most important thing I've learned. They know when I'm getting impatient with them and it breaks the spirit and mood of why we're baking together. My impatience tells more about me than it does about them.
9. Have them clean up, too. Our kitchen stools help them reach the sink perfectly. They rinse utensils and "scrub" bowls (meaning they fill them with water and then dump them out - over and over). No, it's not much help, but it's teaching them that clean-up is a very important part of baking.
10. Laugh, laugh, laugh. I want them to remember our time in the kitchen as fun and silly and joyful and full of laughter. So, we giggle at spilled flour and egg shells that roll onto the floor. I want them to know the true joy that being in the kitchen can bring to their lives - and to the lives of others.