Weekday early evening/late afternoon, also known as the witching hour: A mother, her 3 year old son, and her 17 month old daughter are in the kitchen. Butter, white sugar, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, flour, baking powder, salt, chocolate chips, and M&Ms haphazardly scatter countertops. Thin dustings of both flour and sugar coat the island. The mother and toddler stand at the Kitchen-Aid mixer, and the baby sits in her high chair nearby, gnawing on a quarter of a graham cracker.
“We have the opportunity to show love to the Stewart family by making them some yummy food,” the mother attempts to teach. “They just had a new baby. Do you remember when your sister was a baby?” the mother asks.
“I want to eat a cookie,” the toddler says and reaches for the unopened bag of chocolate chips.
“I want to do it,” the toddler demands, reaching into the bowl to rip the spatula from the mother’s hand. Flour quickly falls to the floor like snow. He has already helped crack the eggs, leaving a thin film of runny egg whites on the counter. The baby screeches like a bird, alerting the mother she has finished her afternoon snack and also desires to be in on the action.
“Please don’t put your hands in the bowl,” the mother pleads, “remember, these cookies are for a family who just had a baby. We don’t want to share our germs.”
The toddler reaches in and shoves a handful of mini chocolate chips and M&Ms into his mouth, like a chipmunk preparing for winter. The mother holds the baby on her hip and removes the toddler’s hand from the bowl. The baby points to the chocolate, aware she was denied the illicit snack.
The dough is mixed, like toys in the nearby playroom bins. The only remaining step is pressing four M&Ms into the top of each rolled cookie. Although the toddler pleads to assist, the mother declares this a “Mama Job.” She is halfway through the cookies when the baby squawks. “Oh no, he shoved her down again,” the mother thinks. She is expecting a resulting cry, but instead the baby laughs.
Puzzled, the mother looks up from the cookie sheet. Her loose ponytail brushes the back of her neck with the movement, and she audibly exhales. Normally the mother spends witching hour at the park or drawing chalk butterflies on the driveway attempting to fill the seemingly endless two hour stretch with fresh air and activity. However, a MealTrain reminder email indicated a promised meal the next day. The mother is trying to foster a love for the kitchen and model a family value of charity. She takes a deep breath in.
The mother expects to find the baby on her back and the triumphant toddler standing nearby with an open mouth victory grin on his face. Instead, she discovers the toddler has kidnapped the nearly empty chocolate chip bag and is alternating eating one chocolate chip and handing one to his sister. Chocolate drips down their chins in rivers of drool and pools on their shirts.
The mother laughs, too, and asks the toddler for a chocolate chip.
Is baking with preschoolers slow? Yes.
Is it messy? Yes.
Does baking with preschoolers take longer than if I would have done it by myself? Yes.
But is it worth it? Yes!!
Benefits of baking with preschoolers:
- Teaches math (measuring) and science (how ingredients combine, why food bakes)
- Develops fine motor skills (scooping, dumping, stirring)
- Teaches a life skill
- Teaches generosity and love, when baked goods are shared
- Teaches delayed gratification (it takes time to mix, bake, and cool)
- Smells and tastes delicious
- Creates time spent together in the kitchen, memories we’ll share
Below are some of our favorite treats to bake!
- Original NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Chocolate Chip Cookies. We’ve tried many different chocolate chip cookie recipes and come back to this classic. Consistently chocolatey, soft, and sweet. We love mini chocolate chips for added chocolate per bite!
- M&M Cookies. These are bakery level delicious. Soft, sweet, colorful!
- Pumpkin Bread. We make this bread at least four times per fall. It is well seasoned and makes two large loaves. Freeze one or share with a neighbor. We use two cups of sugar instead of three (and it’s plenty sweet!).
- Halloween Candy Cookie Bars. Do you still have Halloween candy around your house? Just me? This is a perfect “use the rest of our candy” treat. It’s large and sweet and perfect for a potluck.
- Peanut Butter Blossoms. Classic peanut butter and chocolate combination is perfect. My preschoolers love helping unwrap the Hershey kisses (and eating as many as they can sneak).
- Snickerdoodles. Snickerdoodles take me back to a chin length haircut and American Girl dolls. They have been a favorite since elementary school. We bake often from Sally’s Baking Addiction. These cookies are chewy, flavorful, and freeze well.