Baking with Toddlers
If you’re going to bake with toddlers you either need to be SUPER ORGANISED or EXTREMELY RELAXED. Ideally both, really. For my Top Tips on how to Bake with Toddlers see the end of this post.
On a chilly afternoon last week, Jasper’s best friend Bear came round to play. Now, when I say ‘best friend’ in the context of two 2 year old boys, what I actually mean is that his mum (one of my besties) and I gave birth the same week. We spent so much time together in those exhausting, daunting, roller-coaster days of early motherhood, that we are determined that our boys will grow up to be besties too. They don’t get a choice, right? Two years of brainwashing later, and they have finally progressed to acknowledging each other’s presence (usually in order to stake a loud and violent claim to whatever the other one is playing with at the time) and we have convinced ourselves that they love each other.
Anyway, in order to avert all-out war over this week’s toy of choice (Bear's new bin truck. Obvs.) I decided that a spot of baking was in order.
And they loved it…. Watch the video of Bear and Jasper baking Brownies.
The bit that the boys did all went swimmingly. We made Chocolate Chip Brownies and Peanut Butter Blondies – in fact Bear did the lion’s share of the work because Jasper was having a nap (all that bin truck driving is exhausting apparently). And both bakes were set to turn out perfectly (despite the fact that the boys ate most of the chocolate chips that were destined for the mix).
Unfortunately I totes dropped the ball at that point. Brownies in the oven, boys hands washed and back to tussling over the bin truck. Bear’s mum turned up, we got chatting, there may have been some G&Ts involved……..Long story short, I completely forgot about the baking. And my ‘failsafe recipe’ which I was so proud of……Well, it totally failed. Twice the recommended time in the oven will do that to even the best of recipes. Bugger.
……So I’m afraid there isn’t a pretty ‘finished’ photo for you to admire on this post. But I have put a variation on the Blondie recipe here for you to have a bash at (toddler assistance optional).
(N.B. Fortunately the toddlers in question weren’t overly concerned about slight charring on their brownies….so they still got eaten)
Baking with Toddlers – 10 Top Tips:
‘Sharing’, ‘Taking Turns’ and ‘Patience’ are not top of the skill set of your average 2 year old. So a bit of forward planning will make any baking session with your toddler(s) much more enjoyable.
- Timing is Everything – I find the optimum time for baking is after a nap and when they’re not hungry. So straight after breakfast, or when they wake up from their midday nap. You don’t want them eating all the ingredients . And a tired, hungry toddler is not a cooperative thing.
- Prepare as much as possible in advance – Your toddler might be able to count to 10, but weighing out 235 grams of sugar will just baffle them (and irritate you if they try to ‘help’). So pretend you’re on your own cookery show, and get everything weighed and measured into little bowls before you start so that they just need to add it.
- Have High Expectations – Seriously, you’d be amazed at what toddlers can do with very minimal assistance. Cooking is great for practicing fine motor skills, following instructions and developing confidence. So let them have a go with as little intervention as you can handle…what’s the worst that can happen….?!
- Prepare for Mess – (….following on from the above) you need to expect mess. Embrace it. If it stresses you out them put plastic cloths on the floor and table and do make sure you’ve got several clean, damp j-cloths within reach for wiping sticky fingers and mopping up spills.
- Pick your recipe carefully – Choose a recipe that you feel confident making and isn’t too complicated. Toddlers have a pretty short attention span, so think through the stages of your recipe and if it involves too much waiting around or complex processes then maybe it’s not a great one for little helpers. Having said that, there are very few recipes I wouldn’t attempt with my toddler……delayed gratification is one of the best lessons that baking teaches us!
- Hand Washing – If, like me, you’re not a big fan of snot, dribble and other body fluids in your baking, you need to be militant about handwashing! Before, after, and probably several times during. Handwashing can be part of the fun too, right?!
- Two of Everything – if you’re baking with one toddler, they’ll probably just about manage to take turns with you. But add any more kids into the mix and they’ll each want their own spoon, whisk, bowl etc. Yes it increases your washing up pile, but for the sake of an easy life…..
- Forget Aprons and Hats - yeah they look cute, but frankly I struggle to make my toddler wear the bare essentials for decency, so we can forget anything surplus to requirement. It’s all going to need to go in the wash afterwards anyway.
- Safety – I’m all about promoting independence in the kitchen, BUT I would never let my toddler use the kettle, or put things in the oven, or turn the gas stove on. Having said that, I have been letting him use a sharp ‘grown-up’ knife since he was dextrous enough to hold it safely. You know your toddler better that anyone and you know what they’re capable of. Just think through potential hazards in advance, and don’t be afraid to lay down the ‘rules’ for kitchen safety before you start any cooking activity.
- Have FUN! – Baking with toddlers is definitely one of those occasions where the process is more important than the result. Try not to stress out if whatever you’re making doesn’t turn out perfectly…..chances are your mini bakers will be more than happy to eat it, whatever it tastes like!