I love to bake and I have this fantasy of teaching my kids to bake alongside me. In my fantasy they are listening to me in awe, their cheeks marked by adorably placed smears of flour and the cake goes into the oven with us all smiling at our shared success.
In reality, baking with my boys usually ends with both of them trying to push each other off the stool, most of the ingredients ending up on the floor and me vowing "never again".
Recently, however, I discovered a new concept for entertaining my kids in the kitchen, I like the call it "the bakesperiment".
Going against everything I believe in as a cook I gave my eldest child, aged 8, a whole range of ingredients and told him to just make something up. The look of unadulterated joy on his face was worth the food waste and the horror of having to try the "cheese cake" he made.
Literally, it was a mixture of cake ingredients (egg, flour, sugar) with some grated cheese thrown in because, as he pointed out, "cheese is yummy". Then he microwaved his creation until "cooked".
Supportive parents that we are we both tried some of the cake when it came out of the microwave and it was surprisingly edible. Meanwhile, on a different kitchen bench, far enough removed from the "bakesperiment" I was able to whip up a rather delightful apple cake.
The experience got me thinking. Maybe that is the key to surviving kid "help" in the kitchen? A bit of clever misdirection.
Here are some more baking experiments, or cunning parental manipulation if you prefer, that will keep you sane and the kids entertained in the kitchen these school holidays.
You will need
- Put everything in front of your kids and tell them to "make a cake", encourage them to add flavours if they like, such as vanilla or cinnamon. Let them lead the way, no measuring and only help when they ask you to. A great way to let them know you are engaged with the activity is to describe what they are doing as they go and praise any successes.
- Either bake it in the oven or, for more impatient kids, the microwave. Again, let them decide.
- Be brave and try a little of their creation and take note of how proud of themselves they are.
Dough play, not Play-Doh
This is a clever way to prep food and keep the kids occupied is when you are making dough. While mixing dough for bread or pizza I always make a little extra and roll it into balls for my youngest, aged 3, to play with.
It entertains him for hours, a bit like playdough would, but it also gives him the sense that he has "helped". This basic bread dough recipe is a great one to try, it has step-by-step instructions and troubleshooting tips.
Basic bread dough recipe here.
All you need for this kitchen based activity is a few large potatoes, a knife and some food colouring or paint. What evil am I conjuring with these kitchen staples you ask? Well, you and the kids are going to make stamps and then use them to get their art on. Here I use watered down food colouring, but you can use paints if you prefer.
You will need
6-10 large potatoes
A sharp paring knife
Gel or liquid food colouring
Paper, cardboard or canvas to paint on
- The carving is a little tricky and can be risky with young children so this is a task better done with older kids or with very close supervision.
- Start by cutting your potato in half, horizontally. Each half can be a new stamp.
- Use your knife to carve into the raised section in whatever design you like. Simple shapes like stars, crescent moons and heart shapes work well. You can do it freehand, use a cookie cutter if you have them or draw onto the potato first so you have a line to follow. Just remember the parts of the potato that remain will make up your stamp, so don't remove any sections you want to keep.
- Lastly, get your paint or food colouring ready, placing different colours in separate bowls. If using gel food colours, just use a small amount and mix with a little water. Dip your potato stamps into the colour of your choice and get crafty.
Note: The potato will suck in a lot of colour, which is hard to remove, so try to stick to one colour per potato stamp.