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Holiday Baking with Little Hands

Come the holidays, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. I love to cook and bake but holiday treats are especially fun for me. If you have little ones, you know how difficult it can be to find time for regular household duties, let alone anything extra. It can feel quite daunting trying to watch them and get things done. But don’t let the lack of free time deter you from whipping up some fantastic holiday goodies in the kitchen — get those little ones involved!

mixing spoon fun

Evelyn has been working in the kitchen with me since she could sit up, so probably around 6 months. Now, I often have both girls in the kitchen with me as I spin my culinary magic. It is necessary to work with their abilities. Obviously, you won’t have an 18 month old cutting up carrots, but there is almost always something they can do to be involved. And if there isn’t, hand them some bowls and measuring cups, and let them pretend! {If you’re brave, you could always add in a cup of rice or flour to play with.}

stacking cups

Something like this? πŸ˜‰

I have two sets of melamine mis en place/measuring bowls in which Evelyn measures out ingredients or simply plays with, attempting to figure out the correct order to in which to nest them. {Learning tool!!!}

DSC_0022

When I am baking cookies, muffins, pancakes {anything you measure out ingredients into a single bowl and mix up}, I measure out the ingredients into the cups or spoons, while Evelyn pours them into the bowl. When she was younger, I would assist her by guiding her hand over to the bowl and pouring with her {otherwise we probably would have ended up with it all over the counter, floor or herself}. As she’s become more adept and careful, I let her pour alone after putting it into the measuring device. Eventually, I’ll teach her how to put it into the cup or spoon herself. It’s all done in steps. As I see her mastering one skill, we move to the next.

stirring

She uses a big wooden spoon or whisk to stir up after each addition. This has to be taught too or it will likely be flung all over the kitchen. We go over the rules : the spoon stays in the bowl, we make our turns carefully, no putting the spoon into our mouths. As with measuring, I go in steps with her. First, guiding her hand as she made the turns when she was very little. She’s now at the point where she can do it alone and stay in the bowl, but I still remind her to do it gently and slowly. {And we definitely send some ingredients flying sometimes accidentally! But even I do that. ;)} Sometimes it helps to take it a few turns yourself first so that flour and such has some time to settle into the wet. Otherwise, it can be like turning on the mixer after adding flour! {You mean you didn’t want to cover the cupboard in “snow” for the holidays??} We take turns {“Mama’s turn” — five stirs — “Evey’s turn” — five stirs} so that it actually gets mixed well.

cookie dough

When making cookies, Evey likes to scoop up spoonfuls for the cookie sheet. Tablespoons work well for this. Or if you have a cookie scoop, all the better. Roll out cookies or pie crusts are also a huge hit. She adores “rolling out” the dough with the rolling pin. I have a French rolling pin {the one that tapers at the end without handles}. These are the best for all hands, young and old. You can hold it at any point to apply the pressure you need. And littles are able to grasp it further into the middle as the length is rather a far stretch with short arms. At this point, she rarely makes a dent in the rolling out process {although plenty of dents} but she likes to help. Again, we just take turns. πŸ™‚ If making cookies, I place the cutters on the spot we will cut and she presses it down. Right now, it is difficult for her to aim the cutter well without marring the dough in other places. But we’ll get there. Little steps, always.

rolling dough

Snickerdoodles are a family favorite around here. After making up your sugar cookie dough, they, then, need to be shaped into a ball and rolled in a sugar and cinnamon mixture — a perfect task for small hands. Also, these candy cane cookies required some shaping — rolling into snake-like formation and then twisted together by holding the two bases and spinning. Maybe difficult for a toddler but test it out — sometimes you’ll be surprised at what they are capable of!

pie making

apple crumble

Apple pies are Evelyn’s favorite right now. She likes to watch me peel and slice the apples while sampling the fruit. As I mentioned, she helps me roll out the dough. In addition to adding and stirring the apples and spices, she is able to help place the fruit into the prepared pie crust. If we are doing a crumble topping, she likes to pinch bits of it onto the top of the apples.

E cooking

The stool she is standing on in this photo is the Bekvam step stool from Ikea. It is a fantastic piece of equipment for working with toddlers in the kitchen. It places her at a perfect height for working at the counter. I’ve also heard these learning towers are great with little ones at the counter. {They were just a little out of our price range.}

Another important thing is to establish a safe zone away from the oven. At the edge of our kitchen is a carpeted area. Evelyn is required to be standing on the carpet when the oven door opens. She’s so good about it now that if I even mention the oven, she’ll go running over to it to get out of the way.

 

I will not pretend that this makes things more efficient. It doesn’t. It slows you down. But at the very least you won’t have to attempt to keep an eye on them in the other room while you’re trying to get things done in the kitchen. Sometimes, it might even be enjoyable. My daughter finds such great delight in pouring cupfuls of ingredients into the mixing bowl, I find it hard to deny her the pleasure and it brightens my day to see her so excited. Sweet memories are made of this…..

4 Thoughts on “Holiday Baking with Little Hands

  1. Anne Marie on December 8, 2014 at 8:49 am said:

    Love it! Great tips! Yes, it always seems like a hassle when I’ve let my nieces and nephews help in the kitchen but they totally love it. I’ll keep these tips in mind for next time!

  2. Angela on December 8, 2014 at 8:55 am said:

    Good suggestions! I was intimidated to start so young with Gracie, but now we have a great time and I’ll probably involve Theresa at a younger age.

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