I love to bake with my kids; having them by my side while I do it is often the only way we have biscuits or birthday cakes. It wasn't until my sister in-law confessed, "I do not like cooking with my kids; it's messy and chaotic. How do you stand it?" that I realized not everyone feels the same way about it.
If you are in the same boat as my sister-in-law, I've got some tips that might help. Here are the six things I do to make baking with my kids more fun and memorable.
1. Prepare for the mess.
Preparing for the mess is two-fold: You need to arm yourself with tools and tactics, but you also need to be mentally prepared for the mess too. Baking with kids is a messy affair and keeping our cool when the 3-year-old cranks the mixer to full speed and flour sprays everywhere is key to everyone's enjoyment. On a practical level, make sure you have some wet paper towels and clean dish cloths handy to clean up minor spills as they happen.
2. Use kid-friendly tools.
You don't need a kid-specific set of measuring cups in bright colors, but you also don't want to break out your grandmother's mixing bowl either. It helps to use a much-larger-than-usual mixing bowl to keep the ingredients in as tiny chefs help mix. I also prefer to use a hand-mixer whenever possible; it's easier for kids to operate than a stand-mixer and just a tad bit safer.
Read more: 5 Essential Tools for Cooking with Kids
3. Always keep sprinkles nearby.
It sounds silly, but adding sprinkles to any seemingly simple recipe just delights my children to no end. And that's the point of the whole baking with your kids endeavor — to add delight! Most cookies and cakes can handle a 1/2 cup of sprinkles per batch and the look is particular festive for rolled sugar cookies and classic cakes. But you can also add sprinkles to pancakes, waffles, and muffins without adding too much sugar.
4. Give kids fun titles.
I bake a lot of quick breads like biscuits and muffins because these recipes require two bowls (one for wet ingredients and one for dry), which perfectly divides the work between my oldest daughter (team dry), who is neat and tidy, and my younger son (team wet), who is obsessed with cracking eggs. This division of work empowers the kids too — especially when you can give them titles such as Queen of the Flour and Egg Smasher.
5. Make it personal.
Anything that you can personalize for your kids, you should. In our house this looks like number- and letter-shaped pancakes for their age and name, but also it means that some of the muffins have streusel and some have chocolate chips. They can also be as simple as renaming a recipe with them in mind. It's not baking-related but "Ella's pickles" is the most consumed cucumber recipe in our house.
6. Celebrate imperfection.
Okay, so they smashed the cookie cutter right in the middle of the sheet of dough instead of neatly in a row. It might have ruined the Instagram-worthy shot you had envisioned, but it didn't ruin the cookies so don't let it spoil the fun. Some of my favorite baked creations are the wonky cakes my 6-year-old makes by herself with pride. That's perfection.