Letting your kids help you in the kitchen can be a lot of fun, and a great learning experience for them. However, it can also be frustrating and messy! Because I’ve had a lot of friends ask me how I can deal with letting my kids “help” me bake, I thought I would share a few tips for dealing with kids in the the kitchen.
Make sure you are feeling patient, and you have extra time.
When your kids help you, it will take much longer than if you did it by yourself, so make sure you aren’t in a hurry before you invite them in.
Working with children in the kitchen can also be a bit trying at times, so make sure that you have extra patience so that the experience can be fun for everyone involved.
Set up ground rules before starting.
Baking is probably a new experience for your kids, so they really don’t know what’s expected. And even if you let them help often, kids need to be reminded what is expected of them.
Here are the rules we go over every time my kids help:
- Anything hot must be done by mom. They are not allowed near the stove (I’m considering beginning to allow Miss Magoo to help with food on the stove, but I definitely wouldn’t let Little Man).
- Everyone washes their hands before we start.
- Nothing goes in the mouth while we’re cooking.
- No one is allowed to turn on the mixer without permission, and we don’t lean in close to the mixer or touch it while it’s going (this is really important, since little girls with long hair could really get hurt- or killed- if their hair caught on the mixer paddle. Also, little fingers could easily get broken).
Make sure kids have a safe place to stand while helping.
You don’t want someone falling off a chair and getting hurt.
Be prepared for a mess.
It’s just going to happen, so be prepared. The more your kids help you, the less messy it will get (hopefully), but any time little ones are involved messes are bound to happen. So remember the tip about being patient? You’ll want to exercise that patience when messes occur.
Talk about what you’re doing.
If you don’t tell the kids what’s happening, you’ll be missing out on the learning part of the experience. Talking as you bake can start laying the groundwork for math and science in their futures. Some important things to start out with are talking about thing such as:
- “Let’s look at these measuring cups. Which one is bigger? 1/2 a cup or 1/3 of a cup?” (You can even show how if you fill up 1/4 cup and dump it into the 1/2 cup twice, you end up with the 1/2 cup full.) This is laying the groundwork for the concept of fractions later.
- “Did you know that it’s very important that we follow the directions? If we put too much salt in the bread, it won’t rise, but if we put in too little, it will rise too high and then fall.” This is laying the groundwork for science experiments. Plus you’re teaching that following directions is good, and that can’t hurt, right?
- “First we mix together the wet ingredients, and then we combine those with the dry ingredients.” This is just a good way to show that there is an order of operations, which will come up in both math and science.
I’m sure you get the idea, but talking as you work will help your kids learn more, but also creates a sense of camaraderie.
Let them choose what to make. And of course, let them eat it!
I don’t leave the choice of what to make wide open- I tend to give the kids several choices, and then let them choose from those.
Allowing your kids a chance to choose what will be made gives them a sense of importance- an ownership of the experience, you might say. And getting to sample their dish teaches them that hard work pays off, and can even have fun- and delicious!- results.
Bake for others.
I think that one of the best lessons that can be taught is “doing for others.” And while it’s great to get to eat what we bake, it’s an even better feeling to get to bless others. What a sense of pride this can instill in our children. What compassion this can give them. Ask them who they think would really like some homemade cookies, or who they would want to take a pie to, and you might be surprised by the answer. Then do it- bake that pie, or those cookies, and let them bless someone else.
Before your kids get started, why not make them a reversible apron of their own with my free printable patterns? Just click on the picture to visit the tutorial and print out your pattern!
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