Baking projects that kids love (and are ok for you, too)

Baking with kids can result in a joyous and fun afternoon, sure—but usually not without a little (or a lot of!) stress and mess. What are the baking projects you've found that kids love, while also being easy on you?

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11 Comments

AntoniaJames June 18, 2021
One place to start is by asking the kids themselves what they really love to do.

I had two sisters who were 6 and 9 years younger than I was growing up, with whom I did a lot of baking when I was a teenager and they were in grade school (and younger!).

Until they got to be old enough actually to cream butter and sugar, carefully fold, etc., we focussed on the tasks that they could manage.

I generally liked to make the batters and doughs up quickly and then get them involved in the shaping, which suited them well. To that end, I made a lot of cookies that were rolled, dipped in sugar before putting on the baking tray, etc. Those were generally molasses cookies and peanut butter cookies. They also pressed the fork into the hatch pattern on the peanut butter cookies.

When they were very little, they were able to roll snakes of dough for our family favorite candy cane cookies https://food52.com/recipes/20160-candy-cane-cookies. When they were a little older, they could wrap the dough rolls together to shape the canes on the cookie sheet. Then the girls sprinkled on the crushed candy canes. The girls loved doing any task that involved handling the dough!

Of course, showing kids how to measure ingredients and letting them do that, supervised, is a great way to teach them an important baking skill.

When they were old enough to read, I had them read the recipe, out loud (of course, doing it once, from start to finish, first), and then as we went along. I wanted them to learn how important it is to read the recipe carefully.

As adults, they’re both excellent bakers now.

Such happy times those were!

;o)
 
HalfPint June 10, 2021
As a child, I loved making pizza. One of the best and most activities when I was in middle school.
 
702551 June 9, 2021
When I was a kid, my parents bought me a children's baking book. Naturally it focused on kid-friendly items that were fairly simple, had inexpensive commonplace ingredients, and did not require more dangerous tools or appliances.

There are enough kid cookbooks to sink a nuclear aircraft carrier.

As for the stress/mess issue, this is a great opportunity to instill a young cook/baker to develop proper technique (e.g., clean as you go) at a young age just like teaching a kid how to swing a bat, throw a ball, or to do laundry.
 
702551 June 9, 2021
Another strategy is to split the tasks of a given recipe and as the adult, take care of the more difficult/dangerous procedures while assigning the simpler/safer procedures to the child.

This is starkly noticeable in many of Jacques Pepin's episodes when he cooked with his granddaughter. This is a centuries old tactic: combine veteran(s) and rookie(s) on a project.
 
Nancy June 9, 2021
Yes, and.
To your point about dangerous tasks and when cutting is involved (more often in cooking than in baking but still relevant) there are kids' versions of knives and scissors that both work in the kitchen and are safe in younger hands. Usually from around 6 years up, depending on the child's growth and coordination. If memory serves, Amanda Hesser talked about this years ago when her children were in that age range.
 
Food52-Community June 10, 2021
Love these thoughts, 702551 and Nancy. With this in mind, we actually carry this knife set and apron for kids: https://food52.com/shop/products/3053-opinel-le-petit-chef-knife-set
 
Nancy June 9, 2021
I find kids like vegetables more if/when they are involved in picking them (from the garden or produce section) and preparing them:
• vegetable stuffed biscuits;
• vegetables in pastry roll-ups;
• stuffed vegetables (for example, tomato, eggplant, zucchini in the next couple months);
• vegetable quiches.
 
Food52-Community June 10, 2021
Baking AND sneaking in the veggies!
 
Nancy June 10, 2021
Sneaking? Moi?!
 
MMH June 8, 2021
It’s as much stress and mess as you let it be. Its most important not to make assumptions about what kids like or dont like and to be adventurous. Stay away from what people consider kid friendly. It’s a great learning event. It’s an opportunity to teach math by using fractions which you can see in the way you measure them. It’s an opportunity to use science. It’s an opportunity to learn about cultures & their foods. We used to look at the globe and decide what country we were going to explore and go from there. There are such cool things you can do and kids are much more likely to eat things they prepare -yeast bread, quick breads, pitas, flat bread, pizza, bagels, English muffins etc. I tried to stay away from a lot of sugar and cook from scratch.
 
Food52-Community June 10, 2021
Such wonderful and helpful advice, MMH—thank you for sharing!
 
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