Baking and cooking are common activities in family life and perfect for documentary family photography. The little ones help (aka boss their mom around and eat too much dough) and parents engage and teach their children. Above all, everyone loves the outcome. Yum!

Kids love to help. They really really want to help. To foster a child’s natural helpfulness requires slowing down for their parents. Sending the little one off to play gets the job done quicker. Sure. But they want to participate in the real work that’s taking place. Creating something of value. And for me cakes and cookies are VERY valuable 🙂

My Mum was never very patient with my brother and I helping in the kitchen but the two of us loved to bake. We loved eating cake even more, so instead of waiting until cake appeared (on Sundays) we took matters in our own hands often enough. We mastered all sorts of bundt cakes very quickly and I must say, to this day, I prefer “dry cakes”, cookies and crumbles to multi-layered cream heavy gateaus. My grandfather taught us how to eat bundt cake ‘properly’: you make little pieces of cake, throw them in a big bowl of hot chocolate and eat it all with a spoon 🙂 He eats breakfast like this to this very day and he is 94. Here is the proof: You can never have enough hot-chocolate-dipped-bundt-cake!

Even very young children can help weigh out ingredients, sift flour, help break eggs and mix. The golden rule when cooking and baking with kids is to let the mess happen. If mess makes you stressed, look at ways to contain the disaster zone. A large tray underneath any sprinkling or mixing can really help and when weighing out, give your children a spoon to scoop out flour and sugar rather than upturning a whole bag into your measuring bowl.

Be prepared and foresee trouble ahead. Have tools and ingredients ready otherwise you will have to do baking ‘octopus-style’ to look for extra flour, get another egg, or wipe up spills. Let the child 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 an eye on little fingers.

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. The result doesn’t have to be perfect just eatable (I’ve seen some crocodile tears over burned cookies, believe me). What could be more fun than colouring and drizzling a sticky icing onto cupcakes and cakes?

There are many clever and informative books about cooking and baking with children available. However, in 2015 “We heart Cooking” by Lilly and Audrey Andrews caught my eye. Lilly and Audrey, who call themselves “the twin chefs,” are younger than most cookbook authors. But they have been sharpening their kitchen skills for more than half their lives. As toddlers, they loved to hang out in the kitchen while their parents cooked dinner. At age 5, they baked their first dish without help: a batch of pumpkin muffins. Their book is full of simple recipes and funny anecdotes about their experiences in the kitchen. Audrey said “If you make something yourself and give it a try, I feel like you’ll probably wind up liking it.”Well put young lady! Because apart from the bonding experience of cooking and baking as a family, this is a very good reason to involve your children in the activity.


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