Ruth Chubb, Founder of the Award-Winning Three Bears Cookery Club Gives her Top Tips for Stress Free Baking with Children
As parents we probably have a dream in our heads about what spending time baking with our children should be like, but as even the most patient parent knows, any kind of cooking with children is not without pressure points. It can be messy – you’ll be treading on sugar granules for days after – and let’s face it, when little hands are involved it hardly ever comes out looking exactly like the picture on the recipe.
However, the rewards of getting your children cooking at an early age are endless. Not only are you teaching them invaluable skills such as independence and creativity but reading the recipe together and measuring out the ingredients helps develops both their reading and maths skills.
Baking together with your children can be an enjoyable bonding experience and you’re also creating memories that will last a lifetime. It doesn’t matter if the end product isn’t perfect, if they have enjoyed themselves and are smiling ear to ear then it is all worth all the effort and mess. But, if baking sessions with your children aren’t going quite to plan, please rest assured that you are not alone. Recently I asked parents on social media ‘what is the most stressful part about cooking with your children’. Here are their responses and my top tips for stress-free baking.
They just won’t stop squabbling!
If you have more than one child, as I do, inevitably all of them want to join in at once. They usually end up arguing about who is going to do what and you end up thinking ‘why am I doing this to myself’.
Preparation is key when it comes to baking with children. Lay down your ground rules from the start and assign separate tasks to each child – for example one child can be in charge of cracking the eggs and the other sieving flour. Explain at the start that ‘today we are going to make this recipe altogether, here are the steps we need to take and we’re going to decide now who is going to do which jobs. You’re all going to take it in turns to help and then everyone gets to decorate at the end.’
They get so excited I have no idea what is actually going in the bowl!
This normally applies to younger kids. They don’t really understand what is going on and they think it’s fun that mummy has got all these ingredients out and they just want to put everything in the bowl at the same time and hey presto the recipe works.
Turning it into a fun game with carefully laid out instructions will lead to a calmer bake. Keep the ingredients out of arms reach and talk them through each step of the recipe. Get them to guess the ingredients and use hand actions to show them what they are going to do, then get them to join in by copying the hand actions – such as how to sift flour and fold in the ingredients of a cake. If they start to tip all the flour in, calmly say ‘we need to weigh this out first or the magic recipe won’t work’. Show them what you mean and then let them spoon the flour on to the scales. Don’t worry if it goes everywhere and about the mess, it can be cleaned up and importantly they need to learn that cooking isn’t just about the fun stuff, you need to tidy up too.
The younger sibling is causing chaos.
If a younger sibling is at that age where they want to be involved with everything it can cause chaos and be frustrating for their older siblings as you battle with them to stop them tipping everything on the floor.
If they are still in a highchair put them in it and give them some interesting ingredients in plastic bowls to play with, so for example a bowl and spoon which they can bash and flour and butter to play with and feel the texture between their fingers. Sit yourself next to the younger sibling with your older child on the other side of you, that way you can give attention to both. They both still feel involved, but your older children can enjoy the experience better. Have all the ingredients out ready to go but away from the younger one’s reach.
Explain to the older sibling what you are going to do and how you are going to keep the younger one occupied. Let the younger one join in so, for example, say ‘we are now going to mix our butter and sugar together’ and get them both to do it. It doesn’t matter that the younger one may not have the right ingredients, he does not know that, but he will feel a part of what you are doing.
Alternatively, if you want to spend some bonding time with your older child, then you can plan to do it during the younger one’s nap time.
Why not join us for our weekly Online Cookery Clubs or if you want some easy recipes to make with your kids at home then try out our monthly baking boxes? You can find all the info on our social channels.