Don't Stress the Mess
It's inevitable: when kids get in the kitchen, messes happen—so why waste your energy fighting it? Instead, take a deep breath and remember why you're there in the first place. Spreading a few sheets of parchment paper on your countertop or a plastic garbage bag on the floor can help catch spills and make tidying up a little easier. And, of course, kids can share in clean up duty—after all, that's part of baking, too!
Kids are often more capable in the kitchen than adults realize—but if yours are little, chances are you still don't want their delicate fingers messing about with an electric mixer or a proper knife. That's why it's nice, if possible, to keep a few child-sized utensils and tools on hand. They don't need to be anything fancy; petite wooden spoons and rubber spatulas are ideal for mixing batters. And disposable plastic knives are safe for even the littlest bakers—and great for frosting cupcakes and spreading icing!
Ever notice how kids are 100% more likely to eat something if they pick it out? Children don't have a ton of control over their day-to-day lives—so when you offer them the chance to make a decision, even about a small thing, it's usually a big hit. So, when you're baking together, try narrowing down the options to two or three ideas, but let them be the ones to choose what mix to use or recipe to try.
Do the Math
Baking together is an opportunity for fun family bonding—but it’s also a low-stress way to sneak in some learning. Think about it: when kids count eggs or measure out cupfuls of water or milk, they're working on basic addition. When they measure out ¼ cup or ½ cup, they are learning about fractions. Ask them to help you out by reading the recipe instructions, and they’ll not only practice literacy skills but also work on following directions. And when cookies or muffins are involved, it doesn’t feel like homework. (You know what they say about a spoonful of sugar!)
Maybe your finished product isn't Instagram ready? Consider it a lesson in patience. Also, remind your kids (and yourself!) that this isn't a competition—and that often, making mistakes is the best way to learn and grow. Plus, most of the time even ugly ducklings taste delicious!
After you've all eaten your fill—and complemented each other on a job well done!—avoid tummy aches and teach generosity by encouraging your kids to share any leftovers with friends, neighbors, relatives, or someone in need. These little gestures are always appreciated—and indeed, your kids may realize they make everything a little sweeter!