One of my favorite parts of the holiday season is baking! I usually make several batches of cookies during the advent season along with fudge, hot drinks and lots of food. My baking is one of my main gifts for the holidays, giving them to my husband’s and my coworkers. This year, they’re also for the volunteers who are decorating the church with me this weekend.
Last year, I stayed up late listening to music and baking away. I was also pregnant and looking like a beached whale, with my husband trying to remind me I was supposed to be resting. This year, I wanted to try to include my older son in the baking extravaganza. He’s been interested in trying to help me cook, and when I told him I was going to make cookies he was really excited. So we cleared some good space in the kitchen, put on some aprons, and went at it.
I am, at heart, an Amelia Bedelia-esque sort of cook. I usually am a bit messy, and not always very strict about following recipes. I tend to tweak things according to my tastes, and rarely write down my changes. This is why I am convinced that I would make a terrible food blogger.
To start off the baking for the season, I decided to do chocolate chip and butterscotch chip cookies. I chose these because they are fairly easy and quick to throw together, and I thought would be easier for a toddler since there aren’t any chilling times to have to wait through. Those will come later when I dive head long into gingerbread and sugar cookies. He’ll love using cookie cutters and decorating though.
As I said before, Amelia Bedelia is my cooking spirit guide, and as such we naturally had to start off our baking escapade with a mess. It made both of my sons immensely happy when I accidentally sent a pouf of flour everywhere, giving them both a chance to get covered in it. But we quickly tidied up and started prepping the first batch of cookies. My mother took the baby and got him down for a nap, which I smartly scheduled my baking time around. Then Player 3 and I got down to work, until he got bored, which was about 5 minutes in.
I wasn’t too surprised about that, and I kept working while my son got out some toys and played. His interest returned when I started dropping the cookies onto parchment lined baking pans and getting them into the oven. And when they came out? Well, he was a captive audience then. This was when I discovered my first major challenge in baking with toddlers: How do I keep him from eating all the cookies?
It took some work, sharp ears, redirecting of attention, and rescuing quite a few cookies, but I managed to get the cookies baked with my little helper only ingesting 3 of them. I’m going to have to rethink how to cool the cookies if I’m going to attempt this again. It got a little hairy near the end, but cookies are baked and put up.
Here’s the rundown of what I learned into my first foray into actually involving my kids in my baking:
- Don’t force them to stay involved. If they want to go play, let them.
- If possible, have another adult around to run interference. My mom was able to help out since Matt was at work. At one point I was waving off two little ones who got a little too interested in the oven while I was switching trays around. Yikes!
- Hide sweets quickly so little hands don’t swipe too many, ruining their appetites for the yummy dinner you’re planning and upsetting their little tummies. This is another reason why a second grown up is great. (Thanks Mom!)
- Stay patient. This is one I need to work on. I have a real boundary pusher in my two-year old, and by the end, my patience was wearing thin and that often just makes things worse.
So, undeterred, I’m excited (and slightly terrified) to try this again!