Keeping kid entertained doesn’t stop when summer’s over, so here are some of our favorite after-school baking projects and helpful tips and tools for baking with kid.
may mean a few extra hours back to yourself during the day, but little ones still get out of school pretty early, and you could find yourself racking your brain for something to keep them occupied besides digital entertainment. Cooking together is a great learning experience (math, reading, cleaning up—shhh), plus it’s interactive and hands-on. And who knows, maybe you can pack the next day’s school lunches with what you make together.
Out of all the dishes you can cook with kids—whether they’re your own children or borrowed kid—baking something sweet has to be the most rewarding. There’s so much warm-fuzziness to be felt as you watch their eyes light up when they crack their first egg, press the mixer button, stir the batter, decorate with icing, and watch the treats rise through the oven window. They might be experiencing some of this for the first time.
And you might experience a control-freak meltdown. Well, give up any hope of perfection before you start. It’s not about that, remember? “I find the experience is much more enjoyable when we are focusing on the activity and the experience
So before this whole cutesy idea explodes in your face like homemade caramel gone wrong, consider our tips on how to bake with kids—and get some of our favorite recipes to make with them too:
1. Read the recipe all the way through.
Actually, this is always good advice, but especially when kids are involved, chiefly to make sure there is no rising, chilling, or resting period, unless your little one is totally cool with breaking up the activity into two parts, Johnstone says.
Most children want to make the baked goods from start to finish in one go. Something like chocolate chip or triple-peanut cookies are pretty straight forward. You just mix the dry and wet components separately, combine them, spoon it on the cookie sheet, maybe dust with sugar, and bake for 10 to 12 minutes.
2. Measuring can be difficult for kids—and messy—so make it easier on you both.
Pre-measure ingredients for the little tikes so they can do the fun part: dumping them in, says Today’s Parent magazine. Let bigger kids crack eggs into small bowls—it makes do-overs easier. And this will all work better if your child can reach counter height without the risk of falling off a step stool.
3. A stand mixer is your best friend.
It’s so sturdy and heavy and set securely in place, that you’ll find it’s one less thing for the kid to topple over with grabby hands. Let them turn it on and off, and watch the paddle go ’round and ’round—just keep their fingers from going into the bowl while it’s running. If you’d rather not risk it with really little ones (or, you know, don’t have a stand mixer), you can also let them handle the old wooden spoon to stir in chocolate chips or dried fruit to a batter, or even mash ripe bananas for banana bread or muffins.
If you do have a stand mixer, though, and you want to tackle a true project, try making your own conversation heart candy. It’s time-consuming, but actually not difficult, and you can choose any colors and shapes you like—try making flowers and butterflies, depending on what your kid is into.
4. For frosting, put it in Ziploc bags and just snip a corner off to squirt it out.
Because kids love squirting things (water gun fight, anyone?), and then you can just throw it in the garbage when you’re finished. Or you can upgrade to a piping bag set and let them play with that. Just remind them to aim it at the cupcakes.
Speaking of cupcakes, use our Orange Monster Face Cupcakes recipe as decoration inspiration. You don’t have to make the frosting orange, and you can create designs other than monsters of course, but the cupcake actually happens to be fairly healthy, as baked desserts go, and is a great base for any creative decorating you want to do.
5. Set out a little bowl of candies you’re using during baking for snacking.
Think chocolate chips, M&Ms, gummy candies, nuts, coconut, and fruit. This is another tip from Today’s Parent, aimed at distracting kids from inevitably wanting to taste the raw ingredients (with raw eggs) while baking; offering snacks that are also part of the project could stave off the “But I want soooome.” meltdown. (But at least let them lick the remaining frosting from the spatula and bowl.) These little tidbits can also help with wait times.
6. Give kids easy tasks that can take a long time.
They can fill up the cupcake pans with cupcake liners, counting them to make sure they’re all there. (Bonus: Use fun cupcake liners like these dinosaur cups.) Or put them in charge of scooping out all the cookies onto already-lined baking sheets—but since it can be hard for kids to make them all the same size (which is necessary for even baking), try giving them a melon baller, a cookie dough scoop, or a small ice cream scoop for consistent cookies.
Use it for your next batch of chocolate chip cookies; we have a version with three cups of oats for a slightly healthier touch. You could put raisins or nuts in there too, if your kid likes them.