In desperate times your mixing bowl is your new best friend. In these strange and uncertain times, we find solace in whatever we can. For me, of course, that solace comes from baking. I didn't think we could do ant *more* baking in the week, but I think I'm about to be proved wrong.
Baking is the perfect activity for long days at home. You can adapt it for a quick busy of activity or make it last all day. For older children it’s a nice way to pllayfully sneak in language, number and cognitive skills. Younger ones practice fine motor skills and whole host of other educationally beneficial stuff. But most of all, because kids tend to concentrate when they're baking, it can give you some much needed quality time for talking and a chance to check in with everyone.For a basic shopping list of baking essentials check here.
1. Super Quick and Easy Bakes
* Just decorate. You don’t always have to attempt a whole bake. You don’t even have to bake! Buy some plain biscuits, a cake or cupcakes from the supermarket (maybe buy some now for the freezer) and just decorate. Frosting for cakes is super easy to make and of made with Stork rather than butter is less sickly and more likely to get eaten. Shop bought icing pens and sprinkles are great for biscuits (warm them in warm water first to make them easier to squeeze) or make a biscuit bath to easily cover them. Full details on all these techniques on the blog. If icing a whole cake let them slap the icing on with plastic spoons and give them pots of sweets, biscuits or sprinkles to chuck on the top. A happier 10 mins there never was. Do the whole thing on a tuff tray or splat mat to make clean up easier and as with all baking, pre measuring ingredients and using nice high sided scoops or easy to pour pots and cups will make the whole thing quicker and less messy.
The quickest start to finish bakes. Scones, flapjacks and shortbread are probably the quickest things to rustle up with very few ingredients and can be varied endless times. Recipes for all these on the blog. Cupcakes are also quite quick if you don’t ice or decorate.
2. Whole Day Bakes.
Make your bake fit around your routine. More on this in my 'how do you find the time' blog post, but here's a few tips.
* Pre weigh ingredients the night before and make the dough / batter in the morning. Nothing will spoil if you then want to do something else for a bit. Prepare for baking (cutting out biscuits, filling cake cases etc) just before a nap or tv time then everything will be cool and ready to decorate by the time you next want an activity. Then you have a post dinner treat all ready to go or your afternoon treat with a story.
* Learning opportunities. Older bakers may enjoy reading a recipe and teaching a younger sibling. Alternatively, simplify a recipe and leave one sentence instructions for children to read or work out and bake independently. Sometimes, if I use a recipe measured in cups, I hide magnetic numbers in the bowls of ingredients so biggest can work out how many to put in the bowl.
* Measure and weigh to learn about weight and numbers by all means, but reduce mess by pouring ingredients into wide containers first and scoop them onto scales. Key is not having children try to tip, pour or scoop from bags of flour etc.and getting them as close to the mixing bowl as possible.
* Bread is a perfect whole day bake that you can come back to at each stage. Loads of science in bread making too. It doesn't have to be scary. Quick break like Soda bread is a good place to start, but Mr Bakeful Play has some good recipes and tips too.
3. Interactive baking.
I love to play date bake and with all our technology these days, don’t let social isolation stop you. Why not have a virtual bake off? Send a picture message to a friend with a recipe and theme and send each other pictures of your final bake. Even better, FaceTime / Skype / Zoom each other for a virtual tea party whilst you eat your bakes. You could even Skype the whole bake. One friend reads out the recipe whilst the other bakes or take turns.
4. Creativity & Play.
* Draw around biscuit cutters to design lovely treats. Stick the pictures up on a wall and create a play bakery. Use play food, cut the pictures out to sell the ‘biscuits’ or even extend play by getting out the play dough.
* Older children might like to make a recipe poem. A recipe for the perfect pet, a happy mummy, a super robot etc. Add a pinch or this, a dash of that. Give them recipe words cut up or with gaps and get them to complete of think of rhyming words together for things like cake, sugar, stir and pour. Illustrate the poem and / or make biscuits in the shape of the thing you’ve designed.
* Make your own baking fuzzy felt. Cut out shapes of cup cakes, biscuits etc. and then lots of smaller shapes to make sprinkles. Fit the shapes together, change the cupcake toppings.