A few years ago I started a blog called, ‘The Mini Baker’, which was aimed at encouraging parents to involve their kids in the cooking process. Something that in concept form is a great idea, but in reality can be stressful and overwhelming.
Including kids in the cooking process is an important part of creating a healthy understanding and relationship with food. And this is something, as a Mum, I hope to empower my children with.
But, it’s been a journey! Pre kids, cooking was my happy place. I loved it. I loved creating new recipes, experimenting with flavour and the sound of beaters was music to my ears and a good cake made me buckle at the knees!
So naturally, in my ideal world, I thought I’d be able to share this space with my toddlers when the time calling. Turns out, I wasn’t the carefree mother I dreamt about being.
While I had the dream of ‘The Mini Baker’ being a place to inspire other parents to cook with their kids, it was just as important to me to be authentic in that space. So I made the choice to step back from that space and pick it up again when it wasn’t something I ‘had’ to do but something I enjoyed doing.
So, anything that I share with you here is because we truly enjoy it. Because, to us, authenticity is essential. And if we aren’t practicing it, we won’t preach it.
Here are a few things that I have learnt along the way:
1. Change expectations - the goal when cooking with kids is to enjoy your time together - let them pour, let them taste test, explore the food together. Now isn’t the time to try perfect the perfect cake!
2. It will be messy! - if your kids are anything like mine, they’ll be throwing things in the bowl as fast as you can blink, the bench will get messy and so will the floor. And that’s ok, planning a bath afterwards helps!
3. Start with things you’ve made before - now isn’t the time to try a new recipe. You want most of your energy and attention to be focused on what the kids are doing, rather than trying to decipher a new recipe. And, generally speaking, toddlers have a short attention span so a recipe you are well acquainted with will be quicker for you to execute.
4. It’s ok to just include them in part of the cooking - for example, when we made pasta, we made the dough together but when it came to rolling and cutting, I did that on my own. By that stage, they had enough.
Cooking with kids is such a fun activity. It gives them a sense of accomplishment and starts to build their understanding of food, which will give them skills they’ll be grateful for, for life. It may or may not be a completely different experience to what you’ve experienced before - for me it was! So I had to learn to adjust and in that I’ve had to learn to make space again for the creative cooking I enjoyed so much before kids and that’s been fun!
And this time (with some help from a delicious homemade sauce) it turned out GREAT!