My kids have stumbled on a new obsession and I daresay it’s the best, and tastiest one, yet: baking! It all started one day when my husband saw my son using his drum as a mixing bowl and then carefully doling out imaginary chocolate chip cookies to his adoring masses (read: his twin brother). I asked if he wanted to make some cookies with mama, and boom! A baker was born and I instantly gained 5 pounds….
Weight gain aside, baking - and cooking - with my toddlers has been one of the best, most-rewarding bonding experiences ever. As with many things in life and parenting, I’ve found this experience to be extremely humbling: I’ve had to surrender myself and my perfect-for-me kitchen to the craziness (and messiness) of twin toddlers and have had to adapt my baking practices and tried and true recipes to fit their needs. Here are a few things we’ve learned along the way:
Baking can be hugely educational. Seriously. Looking even beyond the obvious in terms of fractions and measuring cups/spoons, baking is such a good way to introduce the practical application of many school topics. My two-year-olds love to count, so we make a habit of counting scoops and cups and even cookies as we put them on the pan. We touch everything and talk about how it feels (crunchy, sticky, soft), and make an exercise of smelling ingredients too. My kids tell me what letters they see on the ingredients we use, and are also learning to take turns as we alternate between who adds and mixes what. These things are all so important to their developing minds and they just eat it up (pun intended…).
Kids are messy. The first time I baked with my babes, both were shirtless (boys...need I say more?). Would the health department be happy? No, but they were easy to wipe down and it proved to be a practical accident. The second time we baked together, they were fully clothed, and I vowed never to make the same mistake again. It was a huge disaster, as sugar clung to sweatshirts and outfits ultimately needed to be changed. Now, we bake with aprons and goodness...not only is this practical, it’s super cute. It’s like an added layer of defense against the mess. A cup of brown sugar spilled all over the floor? No problem, let me clean that up for you. You turned on the mixer (again) and sprayed batter all over the tri-state area? I’ll get right on that. Honestly, one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in baking with my kids is not to obsess about the mess and to try to focus instead on the time we were spending together.
Precision is a thing of the past. One of the things I love most about baking is how precise recipes often need to be to turn out just right. An extra teaspoon of the wrong ingredient can turn cookies into bread (my husband’s done this a time or two) and ingredient weight matters as much as measurement. When I bake with my kids, these cares are things of the past. Gone are exacting measurements and all that goes with it. Things are eyeballed a little bit more, some ingredients spill before making it to the bowl, and let’s not forget the endless tasting and sampling tax. Happily, despite these challenges, the things we make nearly always come out edible and honestly, my kids really enjoy the mixing and measuring most of all.
Substitution is king. Since beginning our joint-baking venture, the kids and I have learned a thing or two about ingredient substitutions. There are all sorts of books and apps that offer plenty of suggestions and starting points, and we’ve had a ton of fun experimenting with things on our own too. I’m always keen on making things healthier through the use of added/secret veggies, significantly reduced sugar, oats, and all of that. I love using unsweetened applesauce or baby food in place of oil and butter. I’ve also used applesauce, Greek yogurt, and flax to replace eggs in baking. This is particularly huge for us, as egg-free baking with my littles gives me peace of mind and them the ability to taste a recipe all the way through; it also makes clean-up a breeze.
Have fun. Enjoy yourselves! Invest in some kid-friendly mixing bowls (we have these) and go to town! Your kids will have no idea that you have no idea what you’re doing...bake some cookies, make some homemade playdough, or just give them popcorn, water, and flour (true story) and let them go to town.