How to Bake With Kids: Tips and Ideas

Cooking with kids is a remarkably fun and rewarding experience, amd baking is one of the easiest (and fun) ways to cook with kids. Whether you have kids or not, you probably have at least one or two nieces, nephews, or friends' offspring to bake with. Even if you don't get picture-perfect cookies out of the experience you've just helped a child cook - sometimes for the first time.

Here are a few key tips in introducing your small friends to the baking arts:

1. Be prepared. Set out as much as possible ahead of time. If you're making cookies, cover the table with wax paper. Get the cookie cutters out - have everything ready because when you're dealing with a toddler you won't have an extra hand to look for extra flour, get another egg, or wipe up spills.

2. Let them use the mixer (and other appliances). There's nothing like the thrill of watching a stand mixer go round and round and round... just keep little fingers away from the spinning paddle. Let them turn the mixer on and off, and show them how the eggs increase in volume as you beat them.

3. Let them do it themselves. Make an extra cake and let them decorate it from top to bottom. Let them cut out cookies and scrape them up without worrying too much about how they look.

4. Decorate before you bake. We like to use egg wash tempera paint on cut-out cookies to confine the whole cookie-baking mess to one time. Then when the cookies are out of the oven they're immediately ready to eat - you don't have to wait for them to cool, then frost. Plus the egg wash is pretty without adding any more sugar to already sweet cookies.

5. Strap them in. Err... sounds strange, we know, but we find it's really helpful to put smaller children in the high chair or booster seat when doing crafts and making cookies. Then they have an entire tray of their own to roll out dough and play with sprinkles. If you're lucky, most of it will stay on the tray and you won't have to clean it off the floor later.

Do you bake with kids? Any other tips and ideas you've found useful?