Tips for baking with kids

Someone wise once said, “kids spell love T-I-M-E.”

Lately, I’ve been combining two loves by baking bread with my little guy.

Little Bread Dude has always clamored to cook with me in the kitchen, and now he’s old enough to really feel like he’s making a contribution.  It’s not always easy, quick or clean to have him “help,” but he gets so much satisfaction out of it, and I’m able to see him getting better and more confident.  Since baking with him, I’ve also gotten more relaxed and am able to enjoy the process.  He helps me see things differently, such as how sometimes your rolls are actually a drum kit:

This is a recipe we made twice this week, since Little Bread Dude has been off school due to Snowzilla.  He decided he wanted to make bread for his friends at Sunday School, picked the recipe and helped with almost every step.  Along the way, I cataloged some tips about baking with kids.

BTW, the recipe I used was Peter Reinhart’s challah, which you can find the recipe for here.

Tip #1:  If your child is small, use a bench or step stool so they feel like part of the action.  Aprons also help.

#2: Pick a recipe with a high yeast content (I’m talking one yeast packet or about 2 teaspoons of yeast per loaf).  That way, the bread rises more quickly and dramatically, both during the fermentation period and in the oven.  Kids like instant gratification.

#3: Pick an enriched dough recipe.  Half the fun of making something is adding lots of ingredients.  A dough with egg, milk, or butter (or all three!) is more fun than a lean dough with just flour, water and salt.

#4: Use volume measurements, not weight measurements.  I usually like to weigh my ingredients because it’s cleaner and more efficient, but that doesn’t always work when you’re baking with kids.  It’s more fun to dump everything into a bowl then to carefully calibrate a scale.  Luckily, this challah recipe only uses cup measurements and tablespoon measurements, so you’re not getting every spoon and cup in the drawer dirty.  Just measure each ingredient into the same dirty spoon; you can wash it later.

#5: Prepare some of the ingredients ahead of time.  Little Bread Dude is five years old, which means he has an attention span of about 15 minutes.  In order to keep things positive and fun, I make sure his contribution only takes about that long.  I get the ingredients out and set them on the counter ahead of time, and if there’s an ingredient I know he doesn’t like preparing, I’ll do it first so all he has to do is dump everything into the bowl.  For example, he doesn’t like breaking eggs (this recipe requires a ton of egg yolks).  So I’ll separate the eggs and put them all in a bowl for him to dump.

#6: Recognize that there will be mess.  Accept it.

He doesn’t like dirty hands.

#7: Remember, for kids the enjoyment is in the process, not the outcome.  Enjoy your child discovering something new.

#8: It won’t always be perfect. It won’t always be the way you do it.

#9: Share your creation with others.  One of the things I want most to impart to my kids is generosity.  I am so proud that his first thought when he wanted to bake something was to share what he made with his friends.

If you have any other tips for baking with kids, be sure to share them in the comments.  Thanks for reading!

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