Tips for Baking with Toddlers

Baking with toddlers is easier for me than cooking with them. Most of the heat exposure is during a passive stage for the baker and there aren't usually knives involved. If there are knives involved, in the case of chopping fruits or vegetables or rinds those steps can be completed before the toddler becomes actively involved.

Tips for Baking with Toddlers
  1. Wash hands and arms and put on a short sleeved play shirt.
  2. Prep ingredients that require cutting or dicing in advance.
  3. Measure ingredients into larger cups with a handle and a lip for pouring.
  4. Go BIG! The batter might fit in at 4 cup bowl, but use an 8 cup to prevent spills.
  5. Let them stir things, even if they don't need stirring.
  6. Let them get a little messy, and don't stress about it.
  7. Let them count or sing short songs as a way of "timing" things, even if they don't need to be timed.
  8. Count to 5 for any unnecessary steps, so it doesn't take 3 hrs.
  9. Let them set timers, they love the beeping of the buttons and if you have to reset it because they've got it baking for 3 hrs and 15 minutes, it's not a big deal.
  10. Turn on the oven light, let them check it out once in a while.

When I made the Swedish Almond Cake earlier this month, my not quite 2 year old daughter helped with the entire process. She has also made cookies with hubby and we try to involve her in steps while cooking dinner too, if it's safe for her to help.

I put the butter in a mug and in the microwave for a minute, while we started so it would cool off a bit by the time we poured it in.

I used a 2 cup glass measure and measured the sugar into it, then let her pour it into my mixer bowl. I then added an egg to the glass measure and beat it with a fork, then gave her the fork to beat it some more, then it was poured in. The same process with the milk and almond extract which I measured in together, I stirred them then let her stir them (stirring wasn't necessary, but she has fun doing it) and we poured it in. I put the bowl under the mixer, then turned it on asking her to count to 5 while it ran. If your child can't count yet, ask them to sing a song they know or clap or turn around like the mixer, you can't over incorporate the liquids. I stopped it and pulled the bowl back off.

I used a mug (just needed something with a greater than 1 1/4 cup capacity) for the flour, measured it and the baking powder into it and let her stir it and pour it in. Then we put the bowl back on, started the mixer and counted to 5. I stopped it and pulled the bowl back off.

I gave her the mug of butter, told her it was "HOT" (it was just warm) and asked her to stir it gently. She did, then we poured it in the bowl. We put the bowl back on, started the mixer and counted to 5. I stopped it and pulled the bowl back off.

Now, I happened to have an extra helper, so the next step daddy helped her set the timer (took a few tries, but she loves the beeps) while I scraped the batter into the pan. Otherwise, I'd have had her help me set the timer, then given her a little water in the first mug to stir while I scraped the batter into the pan. Then we'd pour the water into the bowl and stir it a bit before putting it in the sink.

I tell her the oven is hot and to stand back and help mommy by counting to 5 and tell mommy "quick quick quick" to make sure we get the cake in the oven before letting all the heat out.

Once the cake was in the oven she helped hand wash the bowl and beater, and close the dishwasher door after I put the cups and utensils inside. I don't let her help load the dishwasher yet, because there are often knives and other things that could really hurt her.  So, I'll wait til she's older for that, but she loves to help by closing doors. Then we washed our hands and her arms and turned the oven light on to peek at the cake once in a while.

At her age she has no problem helping with stirring and pouring and when we're done she shouts "I did it!" a lot. It's a great confidence booster for her and we have fun spending time together in the kitchen. Having her help make the cake I dirtied one extra mug, that's it! I'd have used a cup for beating the egg anyway, I just used a slightly bigger one for measuring the sugar into first and the milk. It definitely takes more time to prep the batter, but it's fun and worth it.

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