Baking with kids has so many developmental benefits (more details on that here), but it’s also almost always a chaotic experience. Before jumping in with my kids, I take a minute to internally accept that we are about to create some amount of mess. We also repeat a friend’s genius mantra together: “If you can’t listen, you can’t help.”
I have found, however, that certain recipes go more smoothly than others. Here are some things I look for in kid-friendly recipes. Maybe you’re subconsciously making these choices already too! You’ll find links to some of our favorite recipes to try together at the bottom of this post.
1. Mostly basic ingredients
Finding a kid-friendly recipe that involves mainly spices and the usual baking staples keeps things easy. My kids have learned what baking soda, baking powder, flour, butter, sugar, and eggs are and have become pretty reliable when working with them. One or two new ingredients can be fun, but when we have too many sometimes curiosity will get the better of them. It gets hard to keep them from trying to taste, open, or pour whatever the exciting ingredient is. Also, I automatically assume I will lose approximately 5-15% of my flour before it makes it in the oven, because that’s my 2 year old’s spiritual gift – flour disasters. So, I add a little more dry ingredients than called for to offset what I know will happen during the process.
2. Mostly simple steps
I have a recipe for chai pear scones that is 100% to die for. It is also 100% complex and thus something I choose to bake when the kids are asleep or I only have one helper to manage. However, there are plenty of delicious recipes that have a single new skill or one complex step the kids can help with that will teach them the skills they need to one day help me make those scones. Learning to use a new tool, such as a pastry cutter, cheese grater, or sifter, is an important curiosity-inducing part of baking together, but just like new ingredients, it is easier to manage in small doses.
3. The fewer the dishes, the better
This is probably obvious, but sometimes I get overzealous and think using 3 mixing bowls and 6 different measuring devices for one recipe isn’t a big deal. When baking with kids, you know clean-up is already going to be intense, so cut yourself a break by using as few dishes as possible. Reuse measuring cups and spoons, maybe skip the extra little mixing bowl step, and dump that right in. Your future dish-washing self will be grateful.
Here are some of our favorite recipes to try!
Ginger Molasses Cookies from Gimme Some Oven
Take time to smell every ingredient and talk about them! If your kids are super brave, they could even taste a tiny bit of each spice and the molasses. Such a wonderful sensory experience with so many easy-to-use but unique ingredients involved.
Easy Homemade Biscuits from Sugar Spun Run
Ingredients don’t get any simpler than this, but this is a great recipe to learn how to use a box grater with the frozen butter stick that keeps little fingers far away from the cutting action (you can finish once it gets close,) and a chance to get fingers messy shaping and folding the dough and cutting the biscuits.
Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal
(Serves 2 adults, 2 kids)
This is probably somewhere on the internet, but it’s so easy my 4 year old can practically make it by himself!
1 tbsp butter
1 apple, diced as small as you like
A few dashes of cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg
Splash of maple syrup or honey
3 cup milk
1.5 cups old fashioned oats
Salt, if desired
This recipe is super forgiving, so feel free to let the kids try their hand at adding the ingredients and deciding amounts, with some help!
1. Chop the apples until you have them to your desired size.
2. Toss the butter, apples, cinnamon, and nutmeg into a sauce pan on medium.
3. Once the apples start to soften, approx. 5-7 minutes, add maple syrup or honey and let it caramelize.
4. Add milk and bring to a low boil. Add oats, turn down to medium-low, and cook 10-15 minutes, or until you reach desired consistency.
5. Serve! Let your kids add whatever toppings you have around. We like chia and hemp seeds, walnuts, raisins, and honey.
If you have more than 4 people in the family you can always add more oats/milk. Just keep it to a 1 part oats to 2 parts milk ratio, or sub some water instead of doing all milk! We like ours extra thick and creamy. 🙂
What are your favorite things to make with your kids?