I have a few important points here which I’ve learned through very painful trial and error.
Firstly, you want to triple, at least, the prep time. You’re going to be stopping for potty breaks, chasing sticky fingers around with damp cloths, re-measuring after someone plays with the scales halfway through pouring (a favourite party trick in our house) etc. They will time-waste in ways that never occurred to you or me, because small children have neither a firm sense of, or any real need for, time. It’s wonderful when there are humans in your life Iike that, but you have to make sure you can match their mindset!
Secondly, the ideal recipe to bake with small children is one where everything is lickable. You can’t prepare for every eventuality but you can minimise the number of risks – avoid very sharp implements, blenders, electric whisks, and if possible anything where raw egg is added early.
Flapjack is the king of all small child bakes; every ingredient can be eaten by the handful, and if you ask me absolutely should. Vegan bakes are also excellent for this! Baking with little kids is playing with little kids, because they learn by getting as involved with every sense as possible. You’re not born knowing that raw oats, butter and sugar taste totally different separately than they do together, and then taste different again after baking – we learn this stuff by experimenting, and repeating the experiment many times over. Be prepared that only half of your mixture may make it as far as the oven!
Thirdly, a lesson from very personal experience: check the darned oven dials frequently. Kiddo is an absolute ninja for spinning the temperature gauge like it’s the wheel of fortune… I tried out a hawaiian butter mochi cake, and smelled burning 30mins into the bake. He’d cranked it from 180c all the way around to 225c! We turned the temperature right down and left it in for a bit longer, and it came out delicious, but I was NOT going to take a photo of that for the blog. No filter in the world could make that look good….
Lastly, avoid blue food colouring. Just trust me on this one. It makes a surprising number of kids hyper, and when I say hyper I mean I believe Kiddo broke the land speed record and the sound barrier over that night.
I may add more to this post as I learn more. I, like Kiddo, am always learning; parenting is a journey as much as childhood is. But when it comes to baking with them, the real foundation of it will always be the same: have fun. If you’re going spare over the state of the kitchen, the nutritional value of what you’re making, or any other aspect of it then you will both get a lot less out of it. You will both learn that baking is stressful, that you can’t do it right, that it makes you upset. And yeah, sometimes when I have to fish Kiddo out of the dog food bag half way through a complex bit I will get frustrated, because I am a human being, but when it starts to be a bit too much you can always clean the hands, pop on a disney movie, and put what you’re making in the fridge until you’re in a better place. If the worst comes to the worst, you can finish it off while your little one eats their next meal, or after bedtime, or even throw it away and try a different day.
Because in the end, it’s only a bake. The important thing is the time together.