Anyone who’s been around toddlers for more than five minutes knows that a perfect baking day with kids is a complete fantasy—right up there with getting a full night’s sleep or peeing without being interrupted.
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We all probably had a wonderful dream of baking with kids. You know the one: where everyone is smiling and happy, and maybe there’s an adorable dusting of flour on their cute little button noses. You follow the recipe without a hitch or a lick of mess, and everything is just peachy.
And then reality hits, and this is what it looks like to actually bake with kids:
The kitchen looks like a food bomb went off—there are ingredients in places that you know you’ll never be able to clean.The kids are yelling and fighting over who gets to do what—because they all want to do everything, obviously—and you’re left cleaning up the mess and/or baking the rest alone. You’re completely defeated and annoyed, and you just started 15 minutes ago.
Five Tips for Baking with Kids
Take comfort, mama: you’re not alone in this. While these tips may not give you that complete picture perfect afternoon of baking, applying one or two of them may help avoid a kitchen disaster.
1. Set Your Expectations (Very, Very) Low
It’s highly unlikely that your preschooler will be a prodigy in the kitchen (sorry for that truth bomb), so take your preconceived notion that your baking project will be just like Kid’s Baking Championship and replace it with an afternoon in a mud pit.
When I set my expectations lower my need for perfection (or just mediocracy) seems much more doable.
Expect a mess.
Keep in mind that more ingredients will likely end up on the floor and the counter than in the bowl. Just roll with it.
For example: If they’re attempting to crack an egg, lay a towel or paper towel on the counter so the egg doesn’t ooze all over the place.
Using sprinkles? Plop a tray (with sides) under whatever they’re working with to “catch” the sprinkles.
Dealing with liquids? Have the grown up pour the wet stuff while the little ones holds the vessel super duper still, and then you help them pour it into the bowl.
Think of ways to combat the mess before it actually occurs.
Pro tip: I love using these measuring cups since it stays on the counter and the grown up can see if enough has been added.
And Also Expect a Meltdown (especially if you have more than one kid “helping”)
Even the most delightful afternoon can turn sour in the blink of an eye.
Combat the inevitable meltdown with a plan: give each kid a specific responsibility; one kid scoops out/levels ingredients, one kid pours ingredients, and the other kid mixes. Let them know the plan ahead of time, so they “know” what to expect.
Pro tip: If you’re making bread, homemade cookies or pie dough, save out a chunk of dough so the younger kids can play with it. Let them know that it’s not to eat, but only to play with (like play-doh). We let ours roll it out, pound it out, and shape it. Sometimes they get so distracted with their dough that I can continue working the actual recipe by myself.
2. Pick ONE Recipe or Space Them Out
We love holiday baking and we typically make multiple treats during Christmastime, but it would be ludicrous of me to think the kids could handle making all of them with us in one afternoon, especially while they’re still little.
So we space them out strategically.
The brownies can come out and cool while we’re rolling the gingersnaps.
Then, by the time the gingersnap balls are finished, the kids can start decorating the brownie trees at the kitchen table (aka: occupied and out of my way) while I start working on another cookie that’s a little more involved, like biscochitos.
By the time the brownie trees are decorated, they’re likely tapped out and had their fill of baking. If one of them wants to continue (usually the oldest), they can help me with the next batch of cookies.
3. Ditch the Glass
After 8+ years of baking with kids, we don’t have any glass/ceramic baking vessels anymore. I love them, but at one point or another, every one of them has been accidentally knocked off the counter by the kids.
Shattered glass + kids + baking is probably one of the most terrifying and chaotic aspects baking with kids.
4. Prep Ahead of Time
Kids have the attention span of a squirrel, so before you corral them all to the kitchen, get yo’ baking supplies out and ready to go. Otherwise you might get flustered and grab the baking powder when you really needed the soda, or salt when you actually needed sugar. …Not that I’ve ever done that.
Having everything out and ready will help baking with kids move along much smoother.
5. Dress the Part
Baking with kids can be fun when you start applying the ideas above. But let’s be honest: there’s something stinkin’ adorable about little kids in aprons.
Grab some kid aprons and let them feel like they’re really part of the action.
The girls are wearing a Jessie Steele apron in these photos, but after several years of washing, we’re looking for some new ones (they’ve held up well, but the girls are just getting bigger, and we need one for their brother now, too). You can actually get an adult size one, too; I have one that matches their aprons!
Here’s a collection of some of my favorites kid/family aprons on Etsy.
Now that you have all the tips in place, here are some awesome recipes to bake with your kiddos:
If you have any tips, I’d love to hear them—baking with kids is definitely not always as easy as it looks.