I invited Louise from Building Blocks and Acorns to share with us today. I’ve been busy writing a new book, which is finished so I can get back to writing here tomorrow, but in the meantime, I know you’re going to enjoy hearing about the fun and learning that can be had baking with your little ones!
Hi! I’m Louise and I write over at Building Blocks and Acorns, where I share the activities I do with my two year old son (lovingly known as ‘Darth,’ thanks to my husband’s love of all things Star Wars,) on my days off as a Primary teacher and Nursery worker. Often, the activities we do have a nature or sensory focus. Baking is one of the best ways of developing your little one’s skills, whilst having lots of sensory fun!
We often do baking together, so I’ve learnt a few things along the way about how to make baking with a toddler a success. You don’t have to be a great baker at all – it’s the process and the bonding experience that is important. Which leads me nicely onto tip number 1:
Don’t bake for other people (at first, anyway!)
Make sure that you don’t rope your toddler into helping to make that birthday cake or other important treat! See it as an activity to do together and don’t worry if the biscuits burn or the buns don’t rise!
Choose your timing
If you know that your little one will be needing their nap soon, or that your friend is coming to visit in an hour… don’t bake! It should be an enjoyable experience and you will need time to clean you, your toddler and your kitchen up afterwards. Also, your toddler may be less inclined to follow your instructions or be willing to help if they are tired.
Get your toddler (or your ingredients) at child-height.
Choose a space that is clean and free from distractions, but also that is accessible for your little one. They need to be able to see and help out.
Make sure that you have all of the ingredients you need and a recipe ready, so that when the time is right, you can get baking. It helps to try and measure out the ingredients beforehand, if you have a younger toddler who may wish to keep piling the sugar or flour in! Remember things like greasing or lining any tins you might need and pre-heating your oven, too!
Let them explore their senses
Take the time to smell the ingredients. Whilst we were making ginger biscuits, we stopped to smell the different spices and dark sugar that was going into the mix.
Get stuck in!
If your child is wiling to (and they have clean hands,) let them handle the mixture. This adds to their sensory experience and helps to associate it with a positive experience. If they’re a little more reluctant, that’s okay – let them see you touching the mixture and they may wish to join in. If there’s still lumps in your mixture afterwards, pop it into a food mixer and let them turn it on – lump free, but they’ve still had a go with their hands!
Let them take sensible risks…
I’m not suggesting you let your toddler use the oven or put anything in a pan, but even though there’s a good chance that egg might break… let them have a go at cracking it! Help and support them, using language they will understand “gently, like this…” “now your turn…” If it’s safe and you have a backup in case it does go wrong, let them go for it! Just remember to not make a big fuss if that egg does break. Clean it up and use that language that they will understand, again. “oh dear! Let’s be very gentle with this egg. Two little taps…” etc.
Let them play…
Although ‘Darth’ was desperate to use the cutters, he also really wanted to feel the rolled-out dough and press his fingers into it! His hands were clean, so I let him explore for a couple of minutes before bringing his focus back to making biscuits. Giving him that time to explore meant that he was using his senses, but also had a ‘break’ from having to concentrate. It can be a lot for some toddlers, especially younger ones, to focus their attention for the whole process. Let them have a go at playing with the ingredients a little before each new step.
Develop language and counting skills
Baking is a great way of developing language skills for your little one. When using a rolling pin, you can say ‘forwards, backwards, forwards etc.’ so that they understand the difference between the two. Give a running commentary on everything that you or your child is doing on the task, so that they pick up the new language. Emphasis the important words. “Mummy is stirring the flour… stirring.” When you’re putting the biscuits on the baking tray, or the cupcake mixture into the cases, that’s a great opportunity to get counting, too!
Don’t worry about the finished product
So those biscuits burnt, or the cupcakes didn’t rise? Don’t worry! Have a ‘little something’ on hand as an edible alternative to the sweet treat your little one was expecting, to make it easier for them to understand. “Oh dear, those biscuits have burnt because they were in the oven for too long. Never mind, you can have this instead…” (It’s easy to get distracted with a little one!) If whatever you’ve baked has turned out well, then great! Enjoy! But don’t worry if it hasn’t. You’ve had a great bonding experience and your toddler has developed new and existing skills. Now… time to wash up!
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