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ideas for baking cookies

July 22, 2009

Last week I baked cookies with three toddlers and a baby, and it went much better than I could have expected. A few quick (and completely lucky) decisions seem to keep the whole thing together, so I wanted to mention them and hear your ideas, too, on the best way to make cookies (or other treats) with young children.

1. I talked through it first.

I told the children in the very beginning that we were going to cook first, eat later. They would each have a turn working with me, and when their turn was over they would have to climb down from the stool. Once the cookies were in the oven we would all have a (non-cookie) snack together, and once snack was over we would get ready to decorate.

I know that sounds like I’m explaining to you that two plus two equals four, but so many times I forget to tell my child (or whatever child I’m teaching) what’s going to happen, and then I get frustrated because they are not cooperating with my plan. Did I think they were going to divine what I was expecting from them? Explaining ahead of time gives everyone equal footing, and makes enforcing rules later a matter of reminding, rather than continually re-teaching them.

Both my child and my neighbor’s children did exceptionally well with our plan. They never tried to eat the dough (I was shocked) or complained when their turn was over. Explaining to them ahead of time really helped.

2. I made the most of what I had.

We made beach-themed cookies out of Play-Doh shapes. I ran the set through the dishwasher the night before, and had shark, lobster, starfish, and sea horse cookie molds without having to buy or do anything out of the ordinary.

3. I gave them a little freedom.

This is so hard for me to do! I don’t want to waste dough or end up with creepy-looking cookies, but what’s the point of activities for children if I end up doing it in order to make sure it’s done “right”? Also, what am I communicating to my child if I’m constantly going behind him and “fixing” his work? Nothing good, I’m sure. So I had to let the cookies be a little crumbly and a little off-centered. The perfectionist in me groaned but the children had a lot more fun with me giving them a little freedom.

It’s your turn. What have you tried baking with your child? What has worked? What hasn’t?

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