Whether you love having kids in the kitchen or the thought of baking with the kids fills you with fear, it’s a great time of the year to learn a few simple ways to make the endeavor simpler and more fun!
Baking with Kids
It’s a classic holiday activity to bake with the kids and while our intentions may start off well and good, things can get stressful. But fortunately, if you set your expectations and think through a few logistics ahead of time, you can set you and the kids up for a successful and fun baking session!
Samantha Barnes, from the kids cooking subscription box company Raddish Kids, shared some of her best advice on how to cook and bake with kids AND keep your sanity.
Plus, there are so many practical learning opportunities and the chance to make something yummy together. Here are her best tips, and a few from me!
1. Don’t Try to Do Too Much
It’s okay if you keep the activity limited to one specific step. So if you are baking cookies, you can prep the dough and roll it out, and the kids can help cut it out with cookie cutters. Or they can just do the frosting on baked cookies.
Limiting the scope is totally fine! In fact, shorter bursts of activity may work better with their attention spans.
2. Share Stories as You Work
Be sure to talk about why you’re making the recipes if they are connected to your family history so that the kids pick up on them and start to file them away in their memory bank.
This makes it more fun to pull out the same cookie recipe year after year and the kids usually love hearing stories about when you or other relatives were kids!
3. Expect it to Take Longer
If you’re in a rush or you have a lot on your to-do list, that is not the time to get the kids involved in a baking project. If you’re in a bad mood or are stressed because the house is a mess, choose another time to bake cookies.
I like to do it when my little guy is down for a nap so I can focus on my two older girls. But it could also be a great time to have one on one time with one kiddo if you can make that work!
4. Let the Kids Do Some things Independently
While a little one may need some help cracking an egg, they can stir by themselves. While they might need a reminder to pour the milk into the center of the bowl, rather than closer to the rim, they can do the actual pouring on their own.
Set them up for success by giving them a bowl that’s much bigger than you’d usually use (to allow for more vigorous mixing!), be nearby to help as needed, and give them some space to let them feel invested and in control.
5. Set Up their Space Safely
I’m a big fan of using a Learning Tower to safely bring kids up to counter height while reducing the risk of them falling off of a chair, which is so easy for little kids to do. If you don’t have a tower, you can have the kids be in their highchair or booster seat at the table and work there.
The more secure they are, the less you have to worry about random things like a fall happening mid-baking project.
6. Try Not to Worry About Perfection
A star cookie that looks more like a lump will still taste good and the kids will still have fun decorating it. This is not a contest and there’s no gold star for the prettiest cookies! It’s okay, however things turn out.
7. Model Kitchen Habits
Explain why we wash our hands after touching raw eggs. Show them how to wipe up spilled flour.
Talk through what you’re doing so the kids pick up on some of it, even if they aren’t quite up to the task of cleaning down the kitchen just yet.
Easy Recipes to Bake with the Kids
If you’re looking for things to make with your kids, these recipes are all easy, don’t require electric mixers, and are yummy treats to share at the end of the baking session!
If at any point the dough seems too sticky, pop it into the fridge for 5-10 minutes to firm up a bit. Or dust your parchment paper and cookie cutters with flour. This is a small batch. Double it to make more.
Flavorful, whole-wheat gingerbread with just a hint of natural sweetness. These are a perfect holiday cookie to make with the kids. Double the batch to make more.
Try to get them about 1/4-inch thick so they bake uniformly. If your milk, cheese, and butter are cold the dough should be easy to roll out between parchment paper. (If the dough seems too sticky, stick it into the fridge for 5-10 minutes.)
Like a cross between an animal cracker and a sugar cookie, these less sweet cookies are easy to make with the kids. The amount of cookies you can make from one batch will depend on how large your cookie cutters are.
If you want to make an all chocolate version, just omit the dried fruit and use additional chocolate chips!
These soft cookies are a perfect afternoon snack (pair them with milk!) or dessert. (Recipe updated September 2020 to reduce the flour slightly to ensure the batter isn’t too dry.) These cookies are soft baked and very tender!
These cookies are a little crispy around the edges right out of the oven, but soften as they are stored.
These fluffy cookies are not super sweet, so you can add 1-2 tablespoons granulated sugar to the batter if desired. (We like them just fine as is with the chocolate chips for sweetness!)
You can use any cookie cutters you like to make these Christmas Cookies for kids—the timing Is for 2-3 inch ones so scale up or down if yours are bigger or smaller. And feel free to make half of the dough at a time (and stash the other Into the fridge for a future day).
TIP: Find my favorite kids cooking tools—including mini spatulas and kid-safe knives.
Listen for More Tips on Baking with Kids
We talked with Sam more about baking with kids on a past episode of the Comfort Food podcast, which you can listen to below. You can also download this episode from iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, TuneIn Radio, or wherever else you get your podcasts.
I’d love to hear more tips from you guys if you want to drop them in the comments or share a recent baking with kids adventure!
This post was first published November 2019.