Baking with kids... for a good cause
Try not to let the words ‘baking with kids’ fill you with terror. Along with experimenting with pots of brightly-coloured paint, tubes of glue and tubs of glitter, and maybe a set of felt-tip pens (which inevitably end up making their mark on everything except the paper provided), the thought of letting toddlers and young children do certain creative activities in your home seems like a disaster waiting to happen.
Okay, so with toddlers, there’s a very high chance that they will make a big mess. My advice would be to avoid or limit such activities, if you’re of a nervous disposition or stressed out, and especially if you’re about to move house (as I was earlier this year). Nice clean carpets and walls + paint, glue, glitter, inky pens or cake mixture + prospective buyers coming to view your home = not a good combination.
But once they are around the age of three, don’t underestimate your child’s ability to focus on the task in hand and have a fantastic learning experience. I’m feeling a lot more relaxed about letting my daughter wield a gloopy paintbrush, or crack eggs and sift flour, as she did the other day. “It’s like how they do things on ‘I Can Cook’ on Cbeebies,” she announced proudly, standing on her little chair beside me as the contents of her sieve whirled around us.
I think I was a little older than her when I was allowed to help my mum in the kitchen, but I have fond memories of assisting her – whether it was dolloping out the cake mixture into the tin (and gleefully licking the spatula afterwards) or carving out squares of a super-sweet, chewy treat we dubbed ‘Sticky Wicky’ (melted toffee slabs, margarine, marshmallows and Rice Krispies). YUM!
I guess the latter is probably not the healthiest thing you could make with your child. But it was a great way of introducing us to the concept that cooking could be really fun and we could invent our own recipes. Having a daughter myself, that’s what I want her to experience too - along with the knowledge that you also need to eat a balanced diet.
We often make a compromise when it comes to being healthy, so the home-made flapjacks we bake together have less sugar and fat than the recipe states and more oats, plus added ingredients like dried apricots. We bake this delicious light sponge which is made using whisked egg whites rather than butter, and we place fresh raspberries on top rather than smothering it with jam. We’ve added grated carrots and cream cheese to muffins to create a savoury version, and when it was Hallowe’en we used some of the hollowed-out pumpkin flesh for the filling in a quiche.
Children love stuff that’s hands-on and getting their fingers covered in edible goo is a bonus. And it’s a good way to fill what can sometimes feel like a very long afternoon with a young child, especially now it’s dark earlier and you’re more confined to your home. Plus, it’s a good way to impart a life-long skill which will come in handy as they grow up. At least, I’m hoping it will...
And it can sometimes raise cash for a good cause. With BBC Children In Need approaching (although I never really need an excuse to bake cakes), the Little Lady and I might well be taking up the Get Baking challenge and rustling up a few goodies to sell at her nursery. There are some really good tips and Get Baking recipe ideas if you fancy setting up a bake sale. I think we might try out the recipes for banana bread and lemon drizzle muffins, and perhaps the chocolate brownies. Mmmm. Plus, if you have a younger child take a look at the Grown-ups pages on the Cbeebies site for a few other ideas.
Good luck and I’ll let you know how we get on. I’ve got a feeling I will be the one licking the spatula, not the Little Lady...
Joanna Youngs is a member of the BBC Parent Panel.
Read Katy Ashworth's blog on cooking with very young children on the BBC Food site.
Check out the Get Baking booklet, featuring recipes from Great British Bake Off.
Find out how to set up a bake sale with Get Baking for Children in Need.
Fancy making your own bunting? It's an activity the children will enjoy too.