Before kids I used to cook and bake all the time (most of the time successfully). Now the hubby luckily does all the cooking, but I still feel the need to bake something every week. The urge especially hits me once fall comes around. Ever since the girls have been able to stir pudding, they've been helping me. I can't measure something without one of them pulling up a stool and trying to "help". We made some chocolate graham crackers for Halloween recently and I realized there were a lot of things I could be doing to make the experience less stressful for me and more understandable for them.
1. Portion out the ingredients before letting them into the kitchen. Once we get started, all they want to do it throw stuff in and get to the stirring part. If I get everything ready and learn the recipe steps first, there's a lot less "wait" and "don't touch that yet". So save some stress and portion out your ingredients all fancy like a cooking show. Also make sure you have plenty of workspace ready that can get messy.
2. Pick recipes without eggs, or accept that they will eat the batter/dough. When we first started baking together the egg part was super stressful for me. Now they are finally old enough to know once the egg goes in, it's too late for testing. But of course they still sneak some, and I try to let it go. There are pasteurized ones if it's a major concern. Pudding, graham crackers, and pumpkin brownies (pumpkin + brownie mix) are all great things to make without using eggs.
3. Assign tasks before hand. If what is going to happen is clear to the kids before hand, there's slightly less fighting. They each get their own spatula or whisk for stirring and their own ingredients to add. When multiple children are involved, it's best to let them each have there own space away from the other. Let one mix the wet ingredients and one do the dry. Also make sure they are aware of the rules before you start to make baking safe, like hands away from the big mixer and no one near the oven.
4. Give them some of the dough to experiment with. When I was rolling out the dough for cutting, they wanted to help. But they aren't really ready for rolling dough correctly yet and it became a struggle between us all. That's when my husband stepped in and reminded me that we didn't need all of the dough made into crackers, and it wouldn't hurt to let them learn with some while I finished making the rest. I got to make some decent crackers and they got to go wild. Win/Win.
5. Let them decorate some of the results. This is my favorite part. Kids love creating art and decorating food is just another way for them to express themselves. Sprinkles are always a favorite but they are super messy. I love giving the girls tubes of icing to draw with instead.
look at that concentration...and messy face :)
Here are some of our results from the night. We used this recipe, and I would highly recommend it! Tasted like chocolate teddy grahams.
So these are just some thoughts that I've had lately, I'm sure I've forgotten something. If you have any other tips for baking/cooking with toddler, please leave a comment! I'd love to know what works for you.