Now don’t get me wrong. This does not, in any way suggest that kids are meddling beasts! But after a hard day in the kitchen, mixing up a cake for a hundred people, the ‘beast’ truly does ruin my day by poking her pudgy fingers through three layers of my cake.
On the other hand, I remember the time I was often shooed away for ‘meddling’ in the kitchen, during my ‘beastly’ days. I see the genetic channel!
Kids love creating- may it be painting walls, or modelling goopy play-doh monsters I felt like a monster myself, quashing her ideas and banning her from what is an actual creative endeavor.
It is for this reason that I devised a plan!
Engage her and fool her. I started by placing upon her, tasks that I found utterly boring; buttering the pans, lining the cupcake tins, mixing the dry ingredients, and wiping the counters (YAY!).
The joy on her face on being given ‘Big Girl work’ was evident.The problem was partly solved, till the time my boring tasks became her boring tasks! The plan progressed- I presented her with a little bag of her own fondant tools. Now, while I roll out my fondant, I make sure that she has her share (A comfortable distance away from me!).
Baking is something all kids think is the most fun task in the world (after dinosaur loving).
The transformation of a gooey mass of batter into a delicate, delicious cake is for them, something close to magic. So let them join you. Let them create and explore the subtle chemistry of baking.
As long as they have their space, and their tools, things could hardly go wrong. It is hard to
trust in their culinary skills. I mean, they can hardly take a poop by themselves. But hey! I learned that giving them a shared responsibility allows them to stay within their ‘zone’ without losing out on the learning involved. My daughter is now four, and how she has grown.From standing by the kitchen door with smudged tear tracks on her face, she now has earned her trusted spot beside me.
She helps me punch out my flowers, measure out the sugar, and mix the ‘homogenous’ batter.
She still runs away when I ask her to wipe down the counters…
How did I do it?
I started by teaching her how to wash her hands. Booger fingers are dangerous! The goal is to get maximum lather on their hands. Make sure they clean the front, back and between the fingers.
Next is to get them into full combat gear. An apron works best.
Let them begin with tasks like buttering a pan. Hand them a pastry brush, and a bowl of melted
(and cooled) butter, and let them paint away.
Another easy task is mixing the dry ingredients, even if it’s just flour. Make sure the bowl is at least double the size required. Kids are enthusiastic, so expect vigorous hand movements that end up in clouds of flour.
Make sure they wipe down the counters as they go. Give them a dry duster. This teaches
them to clean up after themselves.
Once they are used to ‘helping’ you around the kitchen, let them progress. It’s a mother’s guess as to when to move on. Allow them to whisk eggs, stir the batter, pipe on cookies (of their own), and add sprinkles to cupcakes.
Annoyance finally gives way to surprise. Her eagerness to help me makes me realize that these ‘beasts’ are actually little puppets. They want to do everything their mama does.
I weep silent tears of joy when she speaks casually about ganache and fondant. A bubble of pride erupts every time I see a bold design that she has created.
And the best part- The awesome chemistry we share when we’re together. She respects my space, and I, hers.
The learning is long and arduous. But finally, it is graduation!