Or three of four?
In the awesome aftermath of guest blogging for the brilliant @fiveminutemum I had quite a few chats with people wanting to bake with more than one small. In fact, someone wanted tips for baking with 12 pre-schoolers at once - there's a thought. But I like a challenge and it's something I'm going to have to tackle pretty soon with smallest small soon to be on the move and keen to participate. So with that in mind I've put together another set of tips for days when you want to put a little bit more effort into a bake, involving more of the family, a playdate scenario or even a small birthday party activity.
1. Get down with it.
Get them all on the floor level with the ingredients, scoops and mixing bowl. As ever, the closer you can get the little ones to the mixing bowl, the more control they'll have and the less they'll spill. If you have a splat mat or painting mat then put that down on the floor or, even better, a tuff spot. Bowls of ingredients, scoops, utensils and mixing bowls all go in here. Children can sit in the tuff tray, lie down, move around. It all means less mess. A tuff spot can just be tipped or hoovered out and a splat mat folded and shaken outside. Even if you just do it on the floor, it should only need a quick hoover or sweep. Personally, this is all preferable to stopping to clear up room after room of sporadically abandoned toys.
2. Set it up for sharing
The layout of the ingredients and kit is key for early success. As many scoops or implements as there are children to avoid fighting. A range of implements and containers is always good so that everyone finds something that sparks their interest. Some children will like spoons in little dishes, whilst others will want to tip the biggest bowl straight in. Put ingredients in a circle so that all the children can access something and put the main mixing bowl in the middle. Recipes like flapjack are great for shared baking as everything can get tipped into the bowl at once and exact measurements don't matter. If you're baking with more than two children then double the ingredients and have two mixing bowls so that it doesn't become too unruly.
3. Mind the gap.
If you have children of widely differing ages, think about stationed baking. Give different children different responsibilities. Older children could weigh out using the scales and pass to smaller ones to scoop into the mixing bowl. Play pass the parcel style mixing so everyone gets a turn. You can even play music. Must put together a baking playlist! If you have two older children and two younger, double the ingredients and have the older ones make one big cake, while the littler ones stick with fairy buns. Real tinies in highchairs or toddlers under 2 who aren't fussed about being involved in the main activity can be given a bowl of dry ingredients to stir and explore or make a treasure basket of baking themed toys or kitchen utensils for them to play with. I've done this quite successfully with my two and it's lovely when the oldest breaks off from the bake or follows it by chatting to the smaller one about what we're doing and kicks off some imaginative play.
4. Many ways to bake.
Change the way you bake according to the ages, abilities and attention spans of your children alongside an awareness of how long you've got to do the activity. You can pre weigh ingredients into easy to pick up containers, so that all the have to do is pour each bowl into the mix. In this case, my all time favourite scoops are key to cutting down mess when scooping and poring. Alternatively, pour unspecified amounts of each ingredient into over sized bowls, provide American Cup measures and specify how many scoops of each are needed. Older children could do this with visual clues. Why not hide a plastic / magnetic number in each bowl of dry ingredients for them to find so that they know how many cups to add? Just make sure it doesn't end up in the final mix! You don't have to bake from start to finish. If it's a quick tea time play date then have a cake already baked and iced and just provide sprinkles to decorate then they can eat it for pudding. If little ones don't like messy hands, make biscuit dough in advance and go from the rolling, cutting stage.
5. Spread the love
If you have a slightly longer play date, use the time whilst the bake is in the oven to extend the activity. Children can design gift tags or decorate little boxes or paper bags and take their baking home as a gift. All of this can be set up in advance and done at the kitchen table. If the majority of their time is spend in one room, there's less chaos created and less to clean up.