This is, by far, the most common question I get asked when I talk about baking with the smalls. Firstly, it's important to remember that I stay at home with the little ones, so I am not contending with workhorse, nursery / school runs and the like. Baking day in our house (usually a Friday) is a lovely, calm change from baby groups, busy outdoor play and lots of domestic jobs. It slows the pace and gives us time to chat and enjoy each other's company whilst doing something together as a team. But that doesn't mean that you can't bake with your smalls if you are running the gauntlet of full time job and full time parent. Like most things, it just takes a tiny bit of planning. Some simple steps to minimise mess and stress can speed up the process and you'll find some ideas for helping with that on my 'Top Tips' blog post here. But here I will address the more fundamental question of when to set aside time to bake and why. With the summer holidays coming up, I hope the following little tips might help you find some time to enjoy being in the kitchen with your little ones.
1. Find the perfect time of day.
Baking used to be my go to activity for afternoons with my two year old. The perfect gap filler between nap time and tea time so we could eat the bake for pudding. Recently though this has been working less well. She's more fractious after her nap, often needing cuddles, quiet time and gentle play to get back into the swing of things. So I've switched to morning baking. This works well for us now, because I can often set up the night before by pre-weighing the ingredients (see more about this on my 'top-tips' post) and even sometimes lay everything out on the tuff spot for a really hands on bake. A morning bake also means that smallest is usually napping, so I don't yet have to contend with both of them around the bowl, although I have written a blog about baking with multiple smalls, which you can find here. Think about your routine and when your small person is most alert and happy. Tired toddlers, plus flour is not a good combination. For older children, an after school bake might be possible if you can weigh or lay it out the night before or in the morning, so it's just mix and pour. A nice way to get chatting about their day and avoid the inevitable answer of, ' Oh. nothing' when you ask them what they've been doing at school.
2. Find the right recipe
Don't be too ambitious. If it's a hot day then you don't want to be in the kitchen for hours. You might not want the baking to be a whole day event. In which case go for something with an 'all in one' method or lots of dry ingredients to quickly mix. Something that doesn't need to be decorated like flapjack or oat cookies. On the other hand, on a rainy day baking is the perfect thing to adapt for a day's entertainment. Make the cake, make the icing whilst it bakes, make decorations or a gift box whilst it cools, decorate it and eat it!
Some quick and easy recipes on my blog and instagram account can be found here:
3. Make it part of the occasion
The easiest way to fit baking into your schedule is to make it part of something you were already doing. Is it someone's birthday? Are you hosting a play date? Having lunch with friends or planning a family picnic? If so, then make baking part of the preparations.
The day before a trip plan to make something for the picnic lunch. Make something together in the morning before friends come for dinner, so you're containing the child mess to a quick clean up when you want the house to look its best. You'll be getting the kitchen messy anyway if you're cooking later - better one clean up than two.
Baking is a great playdate activity if you pre-weigh ingredients, limit equipment and pick the right recipe. It's probably the kind of day you're in a more mess-tolerant frame of mind too. You can see an example of a play date set up on my IGTV here. I would much rather clean up one isolated area with the hoover rather than spend my entire evening gathering up toys and mess around the whole house. Plus if you're giving them a meal they make their own pudding!
4. Adjust your definition of baking.
The golden rule is always to put less pressure on yourself. If you use a packet mix, no one's going to judge you. If you make 'no bake refrigerator cake' you've all had just as much fun. Did you know you can use your microwave to bake? A mug cake was a revelation to me. It actually tastes nice and it's magic watching it grow so quickly through the microwave door. A great one when time is short or for a quick cheer up if the summer holiday strops kick in. You can find the one I made here, but there are lots of nice ones online.
Good luck and don't forget to show me what you bake using #bakefulplay