The June holidays are upon us. That does add some anxiety to parents as they wonder how to keep their children engaged for 5 to 6 weeks. Most would have planned ahead and signed them up for several activities. My grand-daughter started Pre-Nursery classes in January this year and although I was skeptical and thought it was too early for her to go to school, school has taught her many things and she enjoys it very much. In many ways, she is now ready to take instructions and assist in activities with adult supervision.
I had cooked and baked with my own children when they were about 5 and older and they had watched me bake sometimes below that age. My grand-daughter had “helped her mummy bake cookies one or twice prior to our this baking activity. It had been such an enjoyable time and a wonderful bonding activity for both of us that I felt I should share this experience with my readers at the very start of June holidays! Please don’t be afraid to try this out with your toddler or older children.
STEP 1. Choosing the Recipe
I chose a recipe which bakes something which a toddler can identify with, viz cupcakes or muffins. This recipe does not need any electric mixer. Talk with toddler about what you are baking. Show her a photo.
It helps when the recipe involves several steps which a toddler can take part in as this keeps her attention. As I was planning to bake with my grand-daughter this idea came to me. I read and comprehended the recipe first. Then, I converted the chosen recipe into a pictorial one. The ingredients appear on the left side whilst the method for each group of ingredients appears on the right. It was unnecessary to write out the full method as my toddler is too young to read.
Doing this also helps me, the “teacher”. So much easier to read and check!
HINT: I had used this method of converting simple recipes into pictorial recipes when I first start training new helpers who don’t have a good command of English.
STEP 2. Gather all the utensils and ingredients.
Place them on a table top which is not too high for toddler. Good lighting helps. I used a 2-step kitchen ladder so that my grand-daughter will be at a comfortable height.
Should the toddler be involved with gathering of utensils and ingredients?
The advantage of toddler’s involvement at this stage is sharing with her your comments about them. The flip side would be that this would lengthen the whole process if she is too young.
I gathered them without my grand-daughter and when she came to my home, she was very excited to see them all laid out. A big signal that we are all ready to bake.
At this stage, just point out one or 2 special items.
STEP 3. Preheating the oven at the right temperature.
I set the oven at the correct temperature. The pictorial recipe makes it easier. Top right hand corner.
STEP 4. Washing hands
Do this before baking. This reinforces hygiene and builds this good habit.
Explain that her ears, eyes and nose will be used alot. Her listening well will help it all to be a success.
HINT: There are some steps which she could complete by herself without much prompting and some which requires some explanation and guidance. Sometimes, you hold her hands and move along with her.
STEP 1. Lining the muffin pans.
She helped by lining the mini muffin pans with the baking paper cups. I was so pleased with her help. Without any prompting from me, she carefully separated the cups and ensured that only one liner sat in each cup! Lots of praising keep her attention.
Step 2. Measuring the Dry Ingredients.
To make it much easier for toddler to scoop and measure
(a) my pictorial recipe shows 3 x 1/2 cups (instead of 1 1/2 cups);
(b) I pour the dry ingredients into a deep container instead of leaving it in the bag.
I guided her hand as she dipped the teaspoon into the baking powder to show her how to make level spoonfuls and she counted the number of teaspoons.
Step 3. Sifting the dry ingredients.
She is too young to hold a sift and to shake the dry ingredients into a large bowl without loosing half. Here’s my solution. The balloon whisk and asking her to make big circles with it in the sift.
STEP 4. The Wet Ingredients
We looked at the pictorial recipe and talked about the lemon zest and enjoyed its fragrance; and counted the eggs. She had a taste of creamy style yoghurt and shared that she liked it.
I cracked the eggs into a separate deep bowl to guard against spillage. We counted the egg yolks to make sure we had cracked the correct number of eggs. She wanted to “beat” the eggs herself so I reminded her to hold the bowl with one hand whilst she uses the other to stir the eggs. Place a piece of damp towel below to prevent slipping. I explained why I needed to help her beat the eggs again.
She measured the sugar into another bowl with my guidance, then I measured the sticky yoghurt and messy oil into the same bowl. Advising her that the whole mixture was too heavy and stiff for her to mix by herself, I mixed the other wet ingredients. Then the egg is added and more mixing is done. She paid close attention to the whole process.
STEP 5 Combining Wet and Dry Ingredients.
With the whisk in her hand, she gave the dry ingredients are few quick stirs. I poured the Wet Ingredients slowly in small portions into the large bowl. She used both hands to stir to mix each addition till it became too heavy for her little hands. I took over to ensure that both were well mixed.
STEP 6. Filling the lined muffin pans and baking.
I dropped a teaspoon of batter into each cup cake liner, then she adds 3 blueberries (frozen berries were used) into each. Then, I topped each cup to the brim with more batter. Into the oven to bake for about 25 mins. Cool and serve.
HINT: We had made 3 different types of cupcakes. Fig and lemon, and 2 types of blueberry cupcakes. One had only one blueberry on top whilst the other tray had 3 frozen berries inside. From the photo below, you will see that the 2 trays at the top have risen much higher than the one below ( frozen berries inside). Baking times varies.