Many of us have fond memories of getting to bake in the kitchen with our Moms. The way we got to help put the ingredients in, do the stirring, roll the dough, and help do whatever else was necessary to create a delicious masterpiece.
It all seemed so carefree. There was no chaos or any indication of stress. Our goodies were baked with love and simplicity.
At least that’s what our childhood ignorance led us to believe.
Now that we are mothers ourselves, we understand the reality of what it’s like to bake with our own children.
1. It starts off with good intentions. You want to give your children the opportunity to get comfortable in the kitchen. Not only is it a good life skill, it also almost entirely guarantees that in the foreseeable future they will be able to help take some of the load off you when it comes to constant meal preparation. Quality time together is being achieved while you prepare tasty morsels that you’ll mostly hoard and eat in the laundry room and then blame the dog for their disappearance. You truly believe you’re going to kill 3 birds with 1 stone.
2. If you have one child delegating the tasks is easy. However, if you’re splitting responsibilities things start to get tricky. You choose the order of youngest to oldest because that’s what seems fair and fairly self-explanatory. Mom, it’s not. Depending on how young your youngest is, when you give them the honor of being numero uno they don’t easily deviate from that role. You now have to take the time to explain to them that their turn will return once more when the cycle is through. This will give your 3-year-old time to test the butter and make sure it tastes good.
3. Once the order of turns has been established you can proceed. Make sure that each child gets an equal amount of turns. Use half measuring cups if you have to (yes-more brain power on your part, but it’s an easy sacrifice when you consider the potentially catastrophic results of Child A adding more flour than Child B). When all ingredients have successfully been added to the bowl-or scraped off the counter after they’ve been spilled, and put into the bowl- offer each child the opportunity to stir for equal amounts of time. Use a legitimate timer. Counting in your head, or even out loud, will not provide accurate enough equal time distributions for your extremely attentive children.
4. This is the most important part of your baking experience: Send your children to go wash their hands. Sure, you should have done this prior to beginning this endeavor to rid their nose-picking fingers of any inevitable contaminates, but that’s a sacrifice you made to ensure their entire compliance when the hand washing is really important; when you want to sneak some batter. We all know the raw form is the best part of baking. They don’t make cookie ice-cream; they make cookie-dough ice cream. When your little bakers are happily washing their hands so they can help with the “most important” step (that’s how you describe it so they get excited and want to wash their hands) scoop as much delicious batter into your coffee-sustained body as possible. It’s going to make you feel sick momentarily, but that will pass and the nausea will be replaced by a delicious sense of sneaky accomplishment.
5. When your children return to the kitchen allow them to help you get the batter ready to bake. Give them each a beater and/or the bowl to lick clean. Explain that because they get the beaters and/or bowl that you get a spoonful to make up for the batter that you don’t get to lick. They will likely understand. If they don’t, their tongues will literally be tied up in the beaters and/or bowl. They will not be able to argue.
6. While the delicious treat is baking is your time to clean up the DISASTER that is now your kitchen. Tell your children that they can either help or they can find something to do quietly and cleanly in the next room. They will almost always choose to entertain themselves for a while and “allow” you to get your cleaning done. This cleaning time is bittersweet; you’re able to get a thought or two in, but you have to do it while scrubbing the dirty dishes you’ve accumulated over the past couple days. Enjoy this.
7. Now you get to reap the benefits of your hard work. Sit down with your kids and indulge in the sweet goodness together. Don’t think about the crumbs that are falling to the floor or the impending sugar rush that will follow. Simply enjoy the memories that you’re making while your kids enjoy their goodies baked with love and simplicity.