Let’s start with this: I’m not sure if this is the (Initial) Guide to Cooking with Young Kids or the (Initial) Guide to Baking with Young Kids. Cooking sounds right (or, at least, less wrong) so that’s what I’m going with.
That to say, I’m not an expert in the kitchen. I’m not good with the official terminology of this field. I microwave frequently, I don’t have a strong opinion in the electric versus gas range debate, and I’ve previously encouraged you to consider purchasing such fancy kitchen gadgets as something that helps make non-circular pancakes and another thing that basically stirs popcorn kernels. Emeril Ramsay I’m not.
But I really enjoy making tasty, edible stuff with my kids. And – better yet – they enjoy it too. Pancakes, waffles, banana bread (except for the time when peppermint oil was accidentally added), and donuts have been hits. Tapioca pudding … not so much. There’s dadcraft to be found in the kitchen, it has been said. Here are a few of the keys that we’ve discovered:
Take It to the Floor
We’re going to start with my finest dadcraft discovery in the kitchen: as much as possible, take the fun to the floor. This likely occurred to me when I realized how wholly unfun it is to watch a child tempt fate, squirming precariously while sitting on the kitchen counter. Or perhaps it was when I realized how wholly unfun it is to watch a child tempt fate, standing and squirming precariously on a chair next to the counter. However it arrived, the realization was this (and this applies to a lot of dadcraft, actually): it’s easier for me to get down on the kids’ level then it is for them to get up to my level.
Thus, move the mixer, the bowls, the utensils, and the ingredients to the floor. Now everything is within reach and easily visible. Bonus: spills don’t splatter so bad when they don’t have as far to fall.
One of my suggested pancake recipes requires two ingredients (pancake mix and water) and one activity (stir) before you get to the griddle. Pretty, uh, straightforward. My kids and I have made this on countless Saturday mornings, mixer on the floor, pancake mix bag next to the mixer, mix carefully and not-so-carefully ladled into the bowl, water measured and poured in, and then stirring commencing. This simple recipe and process introduces the fundamentals of Cooking with Dad while also delivering a tasty outcome.
Once you and your team are comfortable with those fundamentals, start pushing the limits (bagels, for instance … though you’re wise to look at the “Total Time” and add justabit to that number). But don’t be afraid to start simple … and return to the simple with regularity.
Get ‘Em Involved
This is implicit in all of the above, but I think it’s worth noting directly: involve your kids in each step of the process. To the extent that it’s possible, let them help you pick the recipe and shop for the needed ingredients. Have them pull those foods and spices out of the pantry and find and retrieve the necessary utensils and bowls out of drawers and cabinets. Even if it’s with your hand guiding/steadying/enabling, have them scoop, measure, and stir. Have them turn the mixer on and off, set the oven temp, and put ingredients back in the pantry when they’ve been used.
When you Start Simple, the consequences for a kid messing up an aspect of their involvement are pretty low. When you have them involved, they learn to deal with a mess-up (and the resulting mess), you get practice chilling out, and nothing too important is at stake.
This is just the (Initial) Guide to Cooking/Baking with Young Kids; somewhat amazingly, I have more to share from my thin, insufficient knowledge of this field. Even so, I hope that this is enough to get you rolling in a new field of dadcraft. I think it’s quite likely that tasty fun is ahead for both you and your brood.
We recommend finding fun in the kitchen, and making pizza and/or cupcakes fit the bill. And – in the vein of getting down on your kids’ level rather than always requiring that they get up to your’s, remember to hike slowly (though maybe this August you should hike without them).