Debunking the "Baking with kids" myth

OK. Who ever said that baking with your kid is a fun family pastime? That’s a lie. It’s a very stressful activity. I only decided to organize it because I saw this cute silicone baking sheet with gingerbread men shapes in one craft store, and decided that Koopa would enjoy making gingerbread cookies with it (and that I would enjoy it too, because that’s what parents are supposed to enjoy, right?). He was indeed excited about it and about the idea of making little men and then decorating and eating them. And I was excited too, but, boy, I had no idea what I was in for.

Just to make it clear, I don’t bake much. I sometimes bake with friends, but on those occasions I’m usually the three-year-old, being told what to do, and licking my dough-covered fingers while my bake-mate is not looking. So this was really my first experience baking in my grown-up capacity.

Step one. Combine all the dry ingredients. That part seemed ok at first. Our working surface got completely covered with flour within 5 seconds. That’s ok. Except… is the flour also supposed to spread all over the apartment during this whole process? Like, should I just chill out while my child is working on his fine motor skills (playing with the dry ingredients in the bowl), while also improving his gross ones (running around wildly around the living room in circles)? Somehow I managed to convince him to stay in one place, somewhere near our working area. Big mistake. Would have been safer to have him running around. Turned away for 2 seconds just to turn back and see him shaking the ginger vigorously into the bowl and I have no idea how much he added. OK, chill out. That’s GINGERbread cookies after all. They’re supposed to have lots of ginger in them. Turned away for another 2 seconds – a big pile of baking soda on the table, and Koopa attempting to make a snowman out of it. OK, the dry ingredients stage is over. Phew.

Step two. The wet ingredients. Maybe the fun part begins now. Maybe when people talk about having fun baking with their kids, they talk specifically about the wet ingredients stage? Maybe? Hopefully? No, not really. Cream butter and sugar together in a blender or food processor. Koopa had to evacuate the kitchen because of the anticipated blender noise. Meanwhile, I found out that the ‘cream’ setting on our blender wasn’t working, and the ‘blend’ setting was making terrifying sounds but wasn’t creaming anything. So, really, a large part of the wet-ingredients stage was spent with Koopa scared and crying in the bedroom and shouting, “Are you done? Stop making these terrible sounds!”, me crying over the stupid blender with the stupid butter and sugar in it, and our neighbors probably wondering what the hell is going on and considering calling the police and/or child protection services.

Next, there is me, with the bowl of disgusting mess of butter and sugar on my lap, trying to cream it all by hand, swearing and explaining to Koopa in great detail why I hate baking. Don’t get me wrong. I like butter. And sugar. I even like them together, but only in the form of ready-made cookies, when I don’t have to cream anything by hand. I have to give credit to Koopa, though, who was very encouraging during this stage, standing beside me and offering his support: “Its ok Mommy, you just keep at it. You’re doing a very good job.” Finally I remembered that we had a hand-held mixer and that did the job better than me. Gnomik had to evacuate again because the mixer sounds are even more terrible than those of the blender.

The only really fun part was actually shaping the dough into the little men shapes. This one I think we both enjoyed. But did we have to go to all this trouble to get there? We could have easily used play doh for this and would have had just as much fun. Especially since nobody in our family likes gingerbread cookies ANYWAY.

Next time I feel the urge to have some quality family time in the kitchen, I’ll just pickle something. How about some quality pickling time with your kid?

About Tanya Mozias Slavin

Tanya Mozias Slavin is a writer, linguist and a mother of two. She was born in Russia, grew up in Israel and has lived in Canada and the US, where she worked on Oji-Cree, an endangered aboriginal language of Canada. She now lives in the UK and writes about parenting, languages, multiculturalism, and everything in between. Her essays and articles have appeared in Washington Post, Brain, Child, The Forward, Scary Mommy and other places.
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