One Sunday afternoon, when my then-10-year-old was bored out of her mind, I pitched this idea:
How would you like to learn to bake something from start to finish, all by yourself?
Her eyes got big. “Like chocolate chip cookies? All by myself? With the oven and everything?!”
Yep, that’s what I had in mind.
First, we set expectations: it was going to take several days. We’d start by making a couple of batches together, and she’d gradually take on more responsibility. Eventually, she’d be able to make a batch of cookies from scratch all by herself.
Right away, we set to work on Batch #1. She insisted that we use the recipe on the back of the chocolate chip package.
Because we envisioned our baking as a training session, we both engaged differently in the activity. I was more deliberate in explaining the steps, and she followed along with more attentively. Batch #1 was a success! (Do you have leftover chocolate chips? Put them to use in this Cheerful Chocolate Chip Celebration Mug Cake!)
The next day, we made Batch #2 (same recipe), and the outcome was pretty much the same. Instead of eating the cookies ourselves, we gave them to a neighbor (result: positive feedback, increased motivation!)
By the time we got to Batch #3, she was ready for more independence. So, this time, instead of standing alongside her in the kitchen, I sat nearby – well out of her way, but still on-hand to answer questions (Where do we keep the vanilla? How do I know when the butter is creamed?). She called me in for the final steps: sliding the baking sheet into the oven, and out again when the cookies were done. We reviewed how to do that safely. More delicious cookies ensued!
By Batch #4, she was ready to bake the cookies by herself, hot oven, and all. I stayed nearby just in case, but she followed and executed all the steps independently. The cookies turned out great, and she was so proud of herself! It wasn’t long before she started playing with the recipe – adding walnuts, coconut flakes, and cornflakes (trust me – try adding cornflakes to your chocolate chip cookie dough!). Ever since, she gamely offers to whip up a batch of cookies for graduations, teacher gifts, and potlucks. She’s happy to pitch in and I’m happy to have an extra pair of competent hands in the kitchen. Win-win!
Do you have similar aspirations for your child? Could they use more practice mixing, rolling, chilling, cutting, and proofing? Here at Sticky Fingers Cooking, we’re celebrating summer with the release of Baking Boot Camp, our latest cookbook designed to grow kids’ confidence in the kitchen! You’ll find more than 70 recipes for beginners and intermediate chefs, as well as our popular “un-recipes” specially created to capitalize on kids’ natural desire to imagine, experiment, and play!
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