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8 Tips for Baking with Toddlers

I remember having this idyllic image of Arthur and I baking cakes in the kitchen together. I was happy. He was happy. It was perfect. Then we baked together for the first time and my-oh-my it wasn't pretty. I foolishly didn't consider quite how much mess he'd make, how little he'd listen, how much of the mixture he'd try and eat and how quickly he'd lose interest. I felt so disheartened that it wasn't the idyllic mother and son baking session I'd planned out in my head.

And then I thought about it realistically. I remembered that he's a 2 year old toddler. I remembered that a little mess wasn't going to hurt anyone, that it didn't really matter if he didn't do things quite the way I wanted him to or that he lost interest after a few minutes. All that mattered was that he had fun and got something out of it. My new, more relaxed approach to baking with my toddler has completely changed the whole experience for us and I've found that each time we bake together, he's showing more and more interest and wanting to get involved. When I mention baking together, he gets so excited and you can really tell he's enjoying himself. It's worth the mess, I promise!

I know I can't be the only mum out there that had a bit of an 'expectations vs. reality' moment when they baked with their toddler for the first time, so I thought I'd share a few of my tips on how to make it a more enjoyable and beneficial experience for you both! So here goes...

1. Expect it to be messy
There's no way around it - baking with a toddler is messy. They're bound to mix with such enthusiasm that ingredients escape from the bowl. Flour will be tipped across your work surfaces. Egg shell probably will land in the mixture. But does it matter? Not really. Especially when you see just how much they're enjoying it! Just remember to pop them in old clothes before you start and wear an apron yourself. Their sticky hands are bound to be wiped on you at some point or other!

2. Let them get involved in safe activities
Obviously there are some baking tasks that toddlers shouldn't carry out, such as chopping and putting things in the oven but there are plenty they can get involved with. Arthur loves helping me weigh out ingredients (which admittedly doesn't always go to plan), crack eggs into the bowl, pour in ingredients and use a wooden spoon to do a little mixing. The other day I also let him put his hand on top of mine when I was using the hand mixer to make our white chocolate and raspberry muffin mix and he loved it! Seeing his little face light up because he was getting to do something new was priceless.

3. Keep your recipes simple
Don't expect to create a Pinterest-worthy, multi-layered rainbow cake, adorned with edible glitter and a unicorn horn. Keep it quick and simple! Rice crispy cakes, cookies, fairy cakes and muffins are all fairly simple to make and are therefore a good shout if you're baking with a toddler. You can save the complicated bakes for when you're in the kitchen alone!

4. Get the timing right
If your toddler is tired or hungry, baking together probably won't go as smoothly as you hoped. Timing is everything. They need to be alert enough to participate and enjoy it. And if they're hungry, they'll be trying to eat anything and everything, so after they've had lunch or a snack is probably a good time to start!

5. Talk them through each step
When I'm baking with Arthur, I tend to go into full-on 'I'm on a cooking-tv-show' mode. What I mean by that is, I talk Arthur through every single step we're doing to bake the cake, cookie, muffin or whatever it is we're baking. I've found that this not only teaches him new words but helps him remember certain steps, so that next time we're baking together, he's telling me what we're doing! Baking can be both fun and educational!

6. Have patience
It may sound obvious but you've got to be patient and remember they're only two, three or however old your little one is. Everything will take much longer than when you do it yourself (so allow for extra time), they may have a little tantrum if they don't get their own way at some point and there will probably be times where you have to stop in the middle of the bake because they're just not feeling it! The key is to keep calm, have patience and remember why you're doing it.

As I said before, with Arthur, the more we've baked together, the more he's participated and enjoyed it! Like everything, it's a learning experience for them and they're not going to get it straight away but it will be something they enjoy and as they get older, remember, as quality time with their parent.

7. Teach them to be hygenic
Although it's fine to get a little messy, you still need to keep things hygienic. Encourage your toddler to wash their hands before they start and finish baking and have a cloth ready so they can help you wipe down the surfaces in between. It's all basic stuff but important things for toddlers to learn and remember!

8. Offer lots of encouragement and praise
Toddlers love nothing more than being told they're doing a good job! Offer lots of praise as you bake together and they'll not only enjoy it much more but be motivated to keep trying. Arthur's actually started using words of encouragement towards me and offers praise in return, which is just the cutest thing ever!

And finally, it's not really a baking tip but I definitely recommend getting your little one a toy kitchen. Since we've started baking together, I've found that Arthur gets more enjoyment out of his toy kitchen and baking accessories. Because he understands a few of the motions you go through to bake and cook, he's able to enjoy imaginative play with his toy kitchen a lot more. George at Asda has some lovely toy kitchens and the Early Learning Centre has great baking toys, including a battery operated mixer, which Arthur loves!

Do you have any tips to add for baking with a toddler? I'd love to hear them!
Megan x
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