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I've baked with Pumpkin for ages. I've baked with both girls "helping" me - pizza dough, cookies, etc. Today I tried something new - I baked chocolate chip cookies with three helpers!
Yup, today, Pumpkin (age 5), Penguin (age 2.5) and "Rachelle" (age 5, Pumpkin's classmate & child I babysit) and I made chocolate chip cookies. Here are some tips, hints, and pointers.
- Model the pre-cooking steps of making sure you have a cleared off counter/space to work, looking over recipe, and making sure you've got all the ingredients you need. Then, when you actually don't have enough vanilla, you'll know before you get started.
- Even if the grocery store is only a half mile away, and your helpers are sure they want to walk/take turns in the wagon, drive anyway. The little bit of exercise you get from walking (slowly) and pulling the wagon will not compensate you for the time or hassle involved. Trust me.
- Aprons are good. They make it fun, and official, and do help protect everyone's clothes. Also, don't just have the kids push up their sleeves; YOU roll them up past their elbows.
- 3 kids = 3 batches of cookies. WAY easier if nobody has to share bowls or spoons or wait for their turn to stir. It doesn't really take any more time to measure or for them to mix up, and if you don't want to bake them all then, just freeze the dough. You'll be glad later.
- We have two 2-step stools from Target (like this, but one's white & one's natural). One lives in the kitchen anyway so they can reach the sink, but the other one normally resides upstairs for reaching the laundry chute. They work great to get the kids to the right height at the counter. Plus, it makes them stay in one space so they're not interfering with each other. We used a smaller step stool for Rachelle since she's taller anyway.
- I usually place myself between the two kids to minimize "bothering." That way I can also take a turn stirring as needed.
- When you put them up at the counter, take a look at what they're near... Penguin does not get to stand on the side next to the knife block!
- A bowl with a handle can be easier for a little one when the stirring gets tough. It keeps the bowl from turning and gives 'em some leverage. :) I've heard you can put a damp wash cloth under a bowl to keep it from turning, too, but I've never tried it.
- Also under things I've heard of but never tried, I've heard that you can make temporary child-height counters by opening two cupboard doors and putting a board across them. Never tried it, but it sounds handy.
- As soon as the first batch is out of the oven and cool enough, reward your helpers with the fruits of their labors! And while they have their warm cookies & milk, you can quickly wipe up the worst of the spills, throw any sticky/doughy bowls and spoons into the water to soak, and maybe do some of the other tidying up.