Last week Asha helped me bake a cake for Arjun’s birthday. And when I say “bake” I truly mean it. She measured, sifted, cracked, mixed, and kept insisting on tasting the batter at every stage to make sure it was “just right”.
I won’t lie though that it does get messy when she wants to help. For my part, I’ve figured out how to minimize the chaos and have lots of fun. Here are some tips that have worked for me in case you too are looking to get help from your littles in the kitchen.
Pick An Easy Recipe
Perhaps this one goes without saying but when you are still in the initial stages of getting your children used to helping in the kitchen, it is best to pick a recipe that doesn’t involve too many fancy steps or too many bowls for that matter. Also, it helps to know that the final product won’t be ruined with a few extra (or less) sprinkles of ingredients. Yes, baking is a science, but there is definitely some wiggle room in some recipes more so than others. For Arjun’s birthday we picked the classic French Yogurt Cake. Apparently, generations of kids in France have used this as an introduction to baking (and patience since they usually wait till dinner to eat it). It’s called a yogurt cake mainly because once you dump the little jar of yogurt in your bowl, the rest of the ingredients such as flour and sugar are measured using that same container. Instead of being so free formed though, I decided to use a recipe from Chocolate and Zucchini as our guide. And you know, I am not the one to judge if you bust out a prepackaged cake mix either. They are great tasting and incredibly fool proof!
Layout All Ingredients and Measuring Equipment
As soon as I ask Asha for help, she pulls her little chair or stool and is ready to hit the road running. I usually have to remind her that the first step of ALL recipes in the kitchen is to wash hands. So once that is done, I start calling out all the ingredients that we need as I am pulling them out of cabinets. She lines them up in the order we need them. This step does two things for me: 1) I won’t forget to add an essential ingredient once the supervising begins. 2) reinforces the concept of a recipe for Asha and the ingredients and steps involved in creating something tasty. These days when she is playing alone, she will announce that she is baking a cake and then list all the ingredients in a surprisingly accurate order.
Always Have An Extra Egg On Hand
Of all the things, she LOVES cracking eggs. Definitely nothing to be surprised about since it really is so much fun. But this has always meant that she either crakes it outside the bowl or spills it on the floor. Having an extra egg to make up for the difference is a good idea. Also, I’ve learned to let her break the egg in a small bowl placed on a big dinner plate. This way I can contain the spillage and still use the egg. I always make sure to repeat that hands have to be washed after cracking the egg.
Clean-Up As You Go
Our kitchen isn’t huge and so it is easy for me to start putting things back as soon as we are finished using them. Ingredients go back in the pantry and dirty utensils get dumped in the sink. It is important for me to have Asha also be part of the clean up effort so that she understands that being in the kitchen starts with clean hands and ends with a clean kitchen. After having done this a few times, I have noticed how she is more careful when it comes to mixing, pouring, etc. because she doesn’t want to have too much of a mess to clean up later.
Take Your Time
When I was little, I used to play in my mom’s tea cup cabinet and pretend to have a cooking show. I just talked and talked by myself as if there was an audience listening to everything I had to say. Asha, too is a talker and keeps describing what she is doing over and over again (sometimes she pretends to be my teacher and will repeat the exact instruction I gave her to me). This means that a cake that would take 10 minutes to prep usually ends up taking 20 or 30 minutes. So what! Enjoy the time. Have a cup of coffee to sip while listening to the cutest chatter ever!
Be Proud, Be Very Proud
So the cake is in the oven, the kitchen has been cleaned, and now she is basically moved on to something else. When the cake is ready, I make sure she gets to see it as I pull it out of the oven. I basically go on and on about how I couldn’t have done it without her. How it is the best cake ever. How she was an expert at the procedure, etc. She digs this! The effort becomes the reward (instead of the cake) and I swear there is no bickering when I say we have to wait (a long time sometimes) before eating the fruit of our labor.
Eat Your Cake
Of course these tips are not limited to baking and can be used anytime kids want to help in the kitchen. Asha has basically graduated to chopping with a butter knife and will help with salads and such. I am basically considering this an investment to my future cake eating self! Our kids are almost making coffee for us in the morning thanks to Devang, so this can’t be too far off right? ;)
I know I can’t be the only one having so much fun in the kitchen with my little people. I want to hear form you too so hit up the comments folks! And happy baking!