I started baking with my mom when I was a tiny little thing. On Thanksgiving it was helping roll out pie crusts and then playing with the scraps of dough for hours. For Christmas it was unwrapping Hershey Kisses to make her world famous peanut butter blossoms. When my boys came into my life, we would bake cookies nearly every weekend, logging hours in the kitchen. Baking with kids is something I’m pretty passionate about, and over the years I’ve worked out a few hacks and easy baking recipes for kids that make it more fun and less stressful than you might imagine. Keep scrolling for my best tips!
1. Let Go of Perfection
I think this should go without saying, but when you’re baking with kids you have to let go of perfection. Friends, I’m more of a perfectionist than I’d like to admit. I don’t like things to be messy or to make a mess. I like to be efficient and clean up the kitchen as I go along when I’m baking. When you have little hands in the mix, all of that goes out of the window. Understanding things will be messy, take twice as long as usual, and look imperfect is part of the gig and all of the fun!
2. Assign Special Tasks
Kids love to help and they do really well with their own special tasks, especially younger kids. Em is only three (and barely that) so when she pulls her stool up to the counter to “help Momma” I find a special task or two that is all hers and make it a big deal. I’ll let her beat eggs with her tiny whisk, spread frosting all over her daddy’s birthday cake and use cookie cutters to cut out her favorite shapes for cookies or pie crusts. Ethan is sixteen and a culinary arts student, so I give him more important tasks like making sure the butter is cut and chilled just perfectly for pie dough.
3. Get Kids Their Own Tools
Speaking of tiny whisks, I have found recently that time in the kitchen is even more fun now that Em has a few tools of her own. She has her own itty bitty apron, a rolling pin, a whisk and some wooden spoons. I keep them tucked in a special place in the drawer and she has a ball pulling them out to help. Having her own utensils helps her to get excited, and I personally think getting kids into the kitchen early is so important in teaching them a lifelong love for cooking and baking.
4. Crank the Music
It’s my strongly held personal belief that kitchens were made for dancing, so impromptu kitchen dance parties are a near daily occurrence in our house. In between batches of cookies or rounds of dishes, we like to sing and dance while we work. Ethan and I may or may not be partial to show tunes. Em is huge on the Charlie Brown Christmas album. For Bob and I it’s either hip hop music or Carla Bruni over early morning coffee. Noah is all about the former and totally not into the latter. (Our family is nothing if not a study of dichotomies!) If the kitchen is the heart of the home then for us, a good playlist is its heartbeat.
5. Involve Kids Early and Often
I’ve made a habit of getting the kids involved in the kitchen, baking in particular, when they’re young and incorporating it as part of our family tradition. I also involve them by asking for their input on what recipes they’d like to try or what they want to make over. Ethan made a special request to make homemade biscuits for Thanksgiving this year so we made sure they were on the menu. When I’m plotting out what to bake or creating menus for the holidays or special occasions, I always solicit their input, which in turn makes them feel included and important.
Is anyone else regularly accompanied by a bunch of little sous chefs in the kitchen? I’d love to hear what you love to bake and cook, and how you get the kiddos involved in the kitchen!
[Art direction by Cyd Converse | Photos by Alice G. Patterson.]