Christmas cookie season is behind us, but don’t put away those baking sheets just yet: Making the sweet treats can be one of the most pleasant ways to pass a chilly, indoor afternoon with your children.
Baking with kids teaches them kitchen skills that they’ll use for the rest of their lives. You also can use the opportunity to pass along some lessons about choosing healthy ingredients, practicing portion control and the joy of giving gifts baked with love when someone nearby needs a little cheering up.
Here are six tips for baking with kids:
Be present. If you usually blast music while you bake, turn it off and give your full attention to your kids. Baking can be a teaching and bonding time.
Take your time. Choose a day when you want to bake—not one when you have to because six dozen cookies are due at your kids’ school the next day. Make it an event, not a chore.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. So what if the cookies are all different sizes and there’s sticky dough all over the floor? Embrace the magic; don’t expect perfection.
Assign tasks based on your children’s ages. Little ones can stir and add the chocolate chips. Kids who are a little older can scoop the dough onto the baking sheets. As they grow, show them how to use the electric mixer, turn on the oven and safety slide the baking sheets onto the heated racks.
Teach along the way. For example, you can have the kids separate eggs, even if the recipe doesn’t call for it. That way, it doesn’t matter if the yolks spill into the whites as they practice.
Clean up as you go. Putting away the ingredients and wiping off counters after you finish each step of the prep is a good habit for any young baker or cook to form. And it will save you from cleaning up a mess once the fun is done.