Baking with toddlers is a great way to share some quality time with them. But just how should you start? What are the best recipes to bake in the kitchen with your toddler?
I have spent a lot of time baking and cooking in the kitchen with kids! I’ve also spend a good deal of time teaching other parents how to get in the kitchen with their kids. Here are some of my best tips and easy recipes to get started!
The Logistics: Baking With Toddlers
Baking is something that your whole family can enjoy! Little kids are a great addition to the kitchen, and they can start helping you in the kitchen a lot earlier than you might imagine.
In most cases, as soon as your child can stand at around 1 year old, they can start participating.
One of the biggest things that can assist with your time in the kitchen is a kitchen helper. Getting your kids in a comfortable position that allows them to reach the counter is key!
Especially when your little chefs are still wiggle worms and moving all over the place! A kitchen helper can help to keep them safe at the counter and allow you to focus on something other than whether they’re going to fall off their chair or step stool.
Outside of that, I don’t find the need for many toddler-specific cooking items. Kids get a kick out of using what you are.
And by letting them use the adult measuring cups, spoons, bowls, and whatever else you might need, you’ll be teaching them how to use them properly from the beginning. Without actually needing to teach them anything1 (Modeling works wonders in cooking as well as eating at the table!)
What to Consider When Baking With Toddlers
It can be tempting to try focusing on only healthy recipes when you are in the kitchen with your kids. And for younger kids under 2, finding recipes without added sugar is certainly not a bad idea.
But beyond that, simply focus on having fun with your kids! Try cooking your favorite recipes. That can be sweet treats that you love, or even savory recipes.
When it comes to getting kids in the kitchen, we tend to go to baking first. It’s a fun way to get them involved and excited in the kitchen, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
But don’t feel like you have to limit it to baking! Try getting them involved in your dinner recipes, too! Cooking and baking are both great skills for your kids to have! Focus on teaching them family-friendly recipes that will work for meals as well as desserts!
Things to Remember While in the Kitchen With Toddlers
Baking with your toddler can be full of so many fun moments for both you and them. But it can also take a little patience! In full disclosure, it might take more than a little at first…
Getting them in the kitchen from a young age has the added bonus of helping your child to be comfortable in the kitchen. They also learn a ton of skills naturally and authentically, like counting and adding. But they need a little help from you to get to where it is a fun experience for them.
One of the best things you can do is try to remember the end result you are looking for. For most of us, it really is to spend quality time with our kids. And hopefully we’ll get something delicious out of it, too!
But if you first bring them in the kitchen with you and you have 15 minutes to get something done, that’s likely not the best introduction for them. Do your best to make time for your cooking project to go a lot longer than intended!
Maybe they’ll decide they really like stirring and don’t want to give up the spoon for 5 minutes. Maybe they’ll spill flour everywhere while trying to get it in the bowl. Or maybe they’ll reach the limits of their attention span after 5 minutes and want to take a break.
You never know what is going to crop up while in the kitchen with your young bakers, and building that into your schedule is one of the best ways to reduce the stress around baking with them.
Have a Backup Activity When Baking With Kids
Kids, and toddlers especially, have short attention spans. If you have a lot to do in the kitchen, for instance you’re making a bunch of holiday cookies, it’s best to have an alternate activity for them to do when they need a break.
I usually find that welcoming their help and giving them tasks to help with, like pouring a measuring cup of something into a bowl, or measuring out something from a jar, is a great way to prolong their attention.
But let them know up front that if they want to stop, they can. Have a place where they can safely play next to you, or somewhere that is a safe place within eyeshot for when they need it. Giving them the option to take breaks often will actually encourage them to stay in the kitchen longer with you!
What to Look For in Recipes to Bake With Toddlers
Baking with your kids is not generally the time to pull out your most complicated recipes. Although when you have older children who have had a bit of experience, it can be a great challenge for them!
When it comes to toddlers and kids that are just starting to get into the kitchen, a simple recipe with simple steps and simple ingredients is the name of the game.
Your attention will likely be on helping to keep your kitchen from looking like something exploded. You don’t have time to be making a puff pastry from scratch or laminating dough!
The other thing you’re likely to spend time doing? Keeping your toddler from trying to sample every ingredient, lick their hands and stick them in the bowl, or sampling that cookie dough with raw egg in it.
(Pro tip: Avoid the egg all together and start with vegan recipes until they learn that they can’t sample!)
If that sounds stressful, it can be. But I also find that if you go in expecting it, being prepared to laugh about it, and having a bit of a plan, it helps.
Think of those simple steps that you might be able to get their help with ahead of time. Things like dumping a cup of flour that you scooped out into the bowl. Or pouring something out of a liquid measuring cup that they hold with you.
There are lots of small things that your toddler can help with in the kitchen! For ideas of how they can help, and how to minimize your stress in the kitchen, be sure to check out the Kids in the Kitchen workshop. In it, I walk you through exactly how to get your kids cooking with you in the kitchen and enjoying it!
Easy Baking Recipes to Start With
Muffins are one of the easiest types of kid-friendly recipes to bake. They’re easy for both kids to help with and parents to direct. Not to mention even younger kids can help to spoon the batter into the liners.
Try the carrot cake, spinach, and peanut butter muffins from the snacks ebook. They are great nutritionally dense muffins sweetened only with ripe bananas. A great option especially if you have younger children below the age of two.
These Baby Apple Banana Oat Muffins from Sally’s Baking Addiction are another great option. They do have a bit of sugar, so I’d recommend leaving it out or choosing a different option for kids under 2.
Pumpkin Gingerbread Muffins from Oh She Glows. These are a muffin version of one of my favorite loafs of all time. The fact that they are vegan means that you don’t have to worry about raw egg when baking with younger kids. These call for spelt flour, but using all-purpose white flour is also an option. Always a big hit with parents and kids alike.
Cookies are another style of recipe that can be very simple and easy to make with kids. Having your toddler help to bake cookies is a great way to introduce them to baking!
These Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies from Oh She Glows are our favorite cookies, hands down. They’re simple to make and delicious, with just the right balance of chewiness and chocolate chips. Since there are no eggs, it takes away some of the concern with your toddler sampling the cookie dough. We use regular butter instead of vegan in them, and it works really well.
Banana Chia Cookies from the Snacks Ebook. These cookies are one of the easiest recipes to make! Done in a food processor with only a handful of ingredients, they’re a great starter cookie for kids. Pushing the button down is something that even the youngest of kids enjoy.
These Christmas Cookie Sparkles from Sally’s Baking Addiction are a cream cheese sugar cookie that might not be what you traditionally think of as kid-friendly as they require refrigeration after mixing. But I actually find that having a break between mixing and baking helps with a toddler’s short attention span! Rolling this dough into balls and then dipping them into the sanding sugar is always a big hit in my house. And even if the cookies don’t get fully covered in it, it’s hard to tell once they’re baked!
Quick Breads and Doughs
Stirring flour, rolling out dough, and then going “pat, pat” with their hands, as my toddler so adorably does, is always a big hit in our house. Here are some quick and easy examples for you, but remember- there is no perfect recipe! If you have a similar family-favorite recipe, that will work just as well!
Easy Whole Wheat Pizza Dough from Cookie and Kate. This is a pizza dough that requires no proofing time and only takes a minute to throw together and get baking. That is my kind of recipe right there! Done in the food processor, your toddler might love helping to push the button. But I also tend to just mix it all with a spoon and my hands in a big mixing bowl instead, and have had great success with less to wash at the end. Let your toddler roll it out with you, or have them spread on the pizza sauce and add the toppings with you for a great dinner recipe.
Buttermilk Biscuits from Smitten Kitchen. Helping you to blend in the butter or stir them all up is a great job for your toddler. We usually do them as drop biscuits, but if you have a child that loves to roll things out and use cookie cutters, they also work for that.
Honey Whole-Wheat Pancakes from Simple Bites. A go-to pancake recipe of ours, and always an easy one to do with kids. As your toddler gets older, flipping pancakes are one of the first stove skills that they can master! (For help with how to do it, and safely, grab the Kids in the Kitchen workshop!) These taste just as good when omitting the honey for your under 2 crowd, and we tend to make it like that for the whole family.
No matter what recipes you choose to make with your toddler, I hope you have a great time in the kitchen with them. It can be stressful when you first start. I can’t deny that! But it is well worth it in the end, and not only will you get quality time with your child, you’ll get something (hopefully) edible out of it.