I bake with Miss M regularly. Before there was Miss M, I baked with my nieces and nephews and younger cousins whenever we were in the same country. Baking can be very beneficial to your child’s development. It is also a great way for busy Mums like you to multi-task: baking for whatever event while teaching and bonding with your child. So today, we thought we would share our 12 top tips for baking with kids to make your life easier.
Benefits of baking with kids
Before looking at our top tips for baking with kids, let’s look briefly at the benefits of baking with kids, particularly for your kids. Obviously, some of these will depend on the age of your child and may be more passive at this stage.
Family bonding: Baking an opportunity to create memories, learn and bond. Miss M asks to make pizza dough regularly. The first time we made it, we ended up laughing and getting flour EVERYWHERE. She had fun topping the pizza too and then curling up on the couch to enjoy our pizza and watch a movie with Peter and me. This is particularly useful for busy Mums as you are effectively killing two birds with one stone – benefitting your children and baking something (healthy) to eat at the same time.
Develop and practise mathematical concepts: Baking involves a lot of adding and fractions, for example. Or sizes or cake tins and dough balls when making cookies. Baking is a good way to develop these concepts in a practical situation.
Reading practice: obviously, we are not quite at this stage yet, but reading the instructions of recipes is good practice for reading (think recipe books and handwritten recipe cards) and for learning the grammar associated with giving instructions.
Baking is a science: Looking at why bread or cupcakes rise, solid and liquid butter, viscosity – these are all science concepts used in baking.
Expose your child to new foods and encourage better food habits: Baking (and cooking) expose children to new and different flavours and encourage them to try them. It also grows your child’s knowledge of different foods and can help them make healthier food choices.
Teach your child a life skill: The simple skills your child will learn while baking with you – reading, maths, simple cooking techniques, how to save a recipe – these will all follow your child into adulthood. The recipes may too – there are some recipes that I still make that I remember making with my Mum as a child, like our apple teacake.
Instil confidence and a sense of pride in your child: Watching Miss M proudly present her latest creation to the rest of the family, face beaming, is just precious. She loves being able to claim that she made it all herself or with only a little help from me and loves it when her Oma praises the taste or the way it looks. She is also becoming more confident in her baking, in her measuring and pouring, in decorating and in manipulating dough.
Top tips for baking with kids
It is quite possible, that you are already following many of these tips for baking with kids when you cook with your own kids. However, if you are feeling hesitant about baking with your kids, these tips will convince you to try it and ensure it is an enjoyable experience for both you and your child.
Tip #1 Explain the rules
Accidents can happen easily in the kitchen. If your child is not already aware, explain about hot ovens, hotplates and sharp knives. Melted chocolate or melted butter can still burn, as can the saucepan or bowl they are in. Make sure your child is aware of the dangers and follows the rules your set.
Tip #2 Let your child choose the recipe
Unless you have to cook something specific for an occasion, let your child choose the recipe or at least the direction. Do they want to cook a cake or cupcakes or biscuits or pancakes? Or do you need a birthday cake and they can choose the flavour? You can always have a couple of pre-selected easy recipes for them to choose between. Miss M loves telling Peter what she chose to make and considers me her assistant when it is her recipe.
Tip #3 Packet mixes are a good place to start
If you have not baked with your child before, start with a packet cake mix. They are designed to be very simple and have few steps. However, they will still mean your child is learning and practising a skill: measuring, pouring and mixing. Extremely simple (3 steps) recipes work well too. Miss M loved making edible glitter and unicorn bath salts for Oma for Mothers’ Day.
Tip #4 Ensure your child is the right height
Most young children will not be tall enough to be able to look inside the bowl and help with storing and pouring. To stop accidents occurring when your child tries to grab the bowl to look inside and pulls it off the cupboard, use a stool to raise them to the right height. We have a simple stool from IKEA that we use for Miss M and she can see well and stir and pour. If needed, you can buy or DIY a stool with a back on it to stop your child falling off.
Handy hint – if your child has to stand on a stool, you can position the stool away from the stove top to prevent them from burning themselves.
Tip #5 Get out all the ingredients first and read through the recipe
This tip for baking with kids is as much for you as it is for your apprentice bakers. Read through the recipe so that you know if there are any steps, where you might need to be more involved or any resting or chilling periods. Get out all the ingredients and check that you have anything. We get everything out then Miss M tells me what she can see and I have to ‘check’ it off the list.
While you are at it, get out all the tools you will need, too. Miss M’s eyes will light up if we are using something novel and she immediately wants to know what it is for.
Tip: If you need butter or eggs at room temperature, take them out of the fridge ahead of time. Little helpers are often not too good at waiting.
Tip #6 Be prepared for a mess
Baking with kids inevitably results in a mess. Novice bakers, in particular, are likely to miss with some of their measurements. If you are making sugar cookies or something that has to be rolled out, you will have flour on your bench and probably lots of other places too. Don’t even talk to me about where I’ve found sprinkles. But the mess is okay.
Buy your child an apron – one that fits preferably. You can even buy a blank one and decorate it with them with fabric pens or paint. It will save their clothes from chocolate cake batter. For the most part.
Have paper towels an a wash cloth on hand. You will need them.
Teach your child about cleaning up as you go along. This is really easy to do with cookies – the cupboard has to be cleared to make space for the dough. The prospect of frosting cupcakes is another incentive for kids to help with the clean up.
Tip #7 Be patient
It will take you child longer to measure than it would you. Flour will miss the measuring cup and the mixing bowl. And? Your child is learning and enjoying spending time with you. Take it slow and let them learn. Show them any tricks to make things easier or quicker – like flouring your hands and the cookie cutter before kneading dough our cutting cookies.
Tip #8 Give your child age-appropriate tasks
Safety is paramount. Make sure you perform any steps in the recipe where there is a chance that your child might get burnt or cut or otherwise hurt.
Let your child measure and pour. Let them use the beater. Let them decorate the biscuits. Let them see how egg whites grow or egg yolks go frothy when mixed. You might need to check that things are well mixed, but let your child do most of the work, if they are capable.
Get some age-appropriate implements too. Sometimes children will struggle with a step in a recipe simply because they have difficulty holding an adult-sized spoon or spatula. Invest in a set in an appropriate size for your child.
Tip #9 Bake regularly with your child
Practice improves technique and helps your child learn new ones and grow. With time, they might even get more adventurous with their baking.
Let your child or children be part of any regular baking you do. Whether that is baking bread, making pies, making breakfast muffins or cooking for an elderly relative. It does not have to be something special every time.
Tip #10 Have some fun
Use colours, Use sprinkles. Add some fun to your baking!
One of Miss M’s top tips for baking with kids is to make fun recipes. She recommends sprinkles and colour and is a big supporter of our sprinkle cookie, funfetti cupcakes, fairy cakes and unicorn ice cream recipes for their sprinkles and bright colours (though the latter does not involve baking).
Tip #11 Presentation is key
Inspire your child’s imagination with their baking. Simple cupcakes become unicorn cupcakes with some coloured frosting and edible glitter. Green lemonade is Yoda soda. Sugar biscuits with dinosaur footprints (made with toy dinosaurs) are fossilized dinosaur footprints. Star shaped biscuits with teal frosting are mermaid cookies.
In many cases, a simple recipe becomes something truly magical to your child with a little creativity and presentation.
Tip #12 Licking the bowl is mandatory
This is the most important of all of our tips for baking with kids. It is a quintessential part of any baking experience. Teach them to consider if anything is missing, if it is chocolatey enough, if it is too dry. With practice they can be quite discerning.
You can expect that your child will make a mess but thoroughly enjoy doing it.
Make a bit event out of trying your finished product too. Get out plates and serviettes and a drink. Have a tea party with toys. Let your child proudly present their latest baking efforts to Daddy or Oma or whoever to try. They will glow with the praise they will receive.
Top tools for baking with kids
Tips for baking with kids bonus tip: The following tools are sure to make your baking episodes with kids safer and more enjoyable.
- A stool to bring your child up to the right level to participate
- A child-sized apron to protect their clothes and make them feel special. Get one that is adjustable so that it will fit them as your child grows. This doughnut apron is cute for slightly older children.
- Tools in the right size. We recommend getting a silicone spatula, a whisk, a wooden spoon and a pastry brush in child size. Miss M has some of these mini utensils by Le Cruset.
- If your children are still young, get some coloured measuring cups. It is easier for them to learn fractions with colours than it is with numbers that they cannot yet read.
- Bookmark your favourite recipes for kids. I hope some of our recipes are on that list!
- Find a cookbook with recipes that are specifically designed for kids. We have ‘Cool Kids Cook‘ by Donna Hay and the Woman’s Weekly Birthday book (doesn’t every Australian household?). Miss M loves it and insists that she is the chef and I am her assistant when we make something from it.
- Invest in a knife designed to help children learn without injuring themselves. We have this knife and peeler set.
- Why not invest in some fun shaped baking trays? Perhaps this unicorn one or a storm trooper for a Star Wars fan? Just make sure you grease the forms well.
- Likewise, get some fun patty pans, like these rainbow ones, and cookie cutters. These alphabet cookie cutters could be useful when your child is learning to read too.
Our tips for baking with kids
I know, as busy Mums, we often struggle to fit everything we need and want to do in a day. When you have to bake – if the recipe allows – why not bake with your kids? It will kill two birds with one stone, even if you might have a little more to clean up later. Follow our 12 top tips for baking with kids and create some memories.