Passing the PASSION of Baking on to the Next Generation
“Can I help, Mama?!” utters my daughter frequently when she hears me start puttering in the kitchen. These words bring joy to my heart as I strive to teach her the joy to be found in fluting a beautiful pie, or rolling out the fluffiest cinnamon roll dough.
I could write 10 different articles on how to teach your kids to cook, but that’s not what I want. I want to instill in my children (and help you teach your children) how to LOVE spending time crafting food in the kitchen.
Let me start by saying, I love to bake. Not cook, mind you, but bake. This was a passion my mom passed on to me, and I don’t ever remember NOT being in the kitchen. My mom would often bake us a valentine in the form of a cherry pie or welcome us home from college with warm turnovers bathed in frosting. The memories made in the kitchen and around the dining room table are ones that I cherish from my childhood. I want to pass those same passions on to the next generation (AKA: my kids).
There are a million and one articles on the internet about what activities you should engage your children in at different ages in the kitchen, and how to teach them to cook or bake. BUT, I want to teach my children to LOVE being in the kitchen, baking cookies, muffins, and any other delicious treat they can dream up.
SO, that leads me to my first point, and perhaps the most important one to teaching your children to be passionate about baking.
LET IT GO
If you are anything like me, you started humming right then along with Ana and Elsa… too many cartoons in my mom-world. But truly, this is the first lesson in teaching your kids to love being in the kitchen with you. Let it go, forgive the mess, the spills, the mistakes, the extra time it WILL take to make the same dish, and cherish these priceless moments. I’m a control freak by nature and struggle with this one, so I work on it every time I hear those first four words: “Can I help, Mama?”.
YES, it will take longer; YES, it will make a big mess; YES, it won’t look as picture perfect (but then does it ever?).
However, YES, it will make memories; YES, it will teach her skills that she will use the rest of her life; YES it provides relationship-building moments that I otherwise would have missed. If I’m not able to relax enough so that my child is able to relax and have fun, then he/she will never ENJOY the art of baking. So, I take a chill pill, put on my apron, and embrace the mess.
WHEN TO START
There are hundreds of articles out there that talk about what kitchen tasks your child should engage in at different ages. I say, “Nonsense!” (mostly). My kids have been in the kitchen with me since their births. My oldest daughter used to sit in her bouncy seat on the kitchen counter as I narrated the recipe to her. My 22-month-old loves to stir the cream into my coffee (because let’s admit it, a Mom never gets to drink her coffee hot anyway). My five-year-old begs to roll out the pie dough. And as a result? I have a 7 year old that can follow a recipe, a barely-verbal toddler who can scramble eggs, and a 5-year-old that can make brownies out of a box.
And no, I’m not saying to allow your toddler to wield a butcher knife, but as a mom you know what activities are safe for each of your children to assist with in your kitchen. The last thing you need is another mom telling you what and what not you should let your kids do.
So, start at the very beginning, as soon as they are born. Let them see you enjoying the craft of baking, and that will plant the seed in them (pun intended).
MAKE THE KITCHEN THEIR PLAYGROUND
Make it fun! We are teaching a passion (if that’s a thing). I want to instill in my children a LOVE for baking, and what better way to do it than making the kitchen a place they can experiment, create, craft, and EAT! Taste different (safe) ingredients as they are added to recipes, create monsters out of bread dough, allow them to be the CREATIVE children they were created to be! Pick recipes they enjoy. Get crazy and make pizza with wacky faces out of peperoni. One of my favorite activities is pizza night with my kiddos. About once a month, the children and I make personal pizzas. The children enjoy rolling out their own dough and “decorating” their own pizzas. So, we cranked it up a notch one week and played Italian music while we crafted away at our supper. The next time, we only allowed each other to speak with an Italian accent while the pizza making was going on. The sky is the limit!
PRAISE, PRAISE, PRAISE
As my wise father says, “We naturally do what we are praised for.” Praise your children for cracking an egg into the bowl, for “helping” you stir the eggs, for dumping the ingredients into the mixer, whatever it is. The result will be a child who strives for those compliments. A child who begs to be in the kitchen with you, soaking up that quality time. Even if their efforts are not “perfect”….then again, neither are my baking skills.
A little story here…. My seven-year-old daughter LOVES blueberry muffins. This summer, she desperately wanted to make muffins with some fresh blueberries she had picked. So, we dug out my stand-by recipe, and I did my best to not help her (backwards I know). BUT, she virtually made the entire recipe by herself. A week later, she wanted to bake muffins to give to our neighbors whose cat had just died. So, she dug out the recipe, made them entirely unassisted, and even DOUBLED the recipe! (Can anyone say “math skills” here). Seriously, kids learn SO MUCH from hands-on work in the kitchen. I could argue it is just as good for them as going to school!
The neighbors LOVED their muffins, my daughter’s self-esteem skyrocketed, and she frequently asks to make blueberry muffins. Bonus tip, with the new Taste of Home Muffin pans that we’ve discovered, there is even less- scrubbing as I HATE cleaning muffin tins. These are a breeze to clean.
Just because I love blueberry muffins so much, I included the recipe my daughter enjoys making below. She calls it “Mommy’s secret recipe”. And she knows our secret ingredient is cinnamon. Ooops, the secret is out now….
So, roll up your sleeves, let life get sticky, and they will catch on to your passion. Compliment them, make the space their playground, and enjoy the precious moments because someday, they will be passing on their passions to their children, and who doesn’t want fresh-baked muffins from their granddaughter someday?
Mommy’s “Secret” Blueberry Muffins
2 Tbsp Margarine or butter (melted)
1 Cup Sugar
2 Cups Flour
2 ½ tsp Baking Powder
½ tsp Cinnamon
¾ Cup Milk
1 Cup Blueberries
Instructions: Combine all ingredients except blueberries. Mix well. Fold in Blueberries. Pour into 18, 2” muffin tins, greased or papered. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes.
Note: sometimes we sprinkle sugar crystals on the top before baking for a little “special pixie dust” so they are “extra delicious”.
Editor's Note: Check out the new Taste of Home Muffin Pans Below!