Many Hands Make Light Work…Baking With the Smalls

“A single leaf working alone provides no shade.”  ~Chuck Page

Ok. So lately I have lost my baking mojo. I’ve always enjoyed baking, but now it just seems like work. I want to eat the baking, but I don’t want to bake the baking. This is a problem. The bananas are turning black and the apples are wrinkling up and I’m just sitting there watching it happen.

So today, I pulled in some reinforcements. Some very small ones. But small does not mean incapable. It is quite the opposite, really.  Many people have the misconception that baking with kids is harder and messier, and just not worth it. I disagree wholeheartedly. Except maybe on the “messier” bit. It is indeed, messier.

Not only are the children eager to help, they take on jobs that would normally have been yours…making your load a little bit lighter. Toddlers can scoop, stir, add raisins, or chocolate chips. Preschoolers can measure, crack eggs, whisk, and push buttons on the electric mixer.  School aged smalls can help read the recipe and find the correct measuring tools, as well as all the other jobs listed for ones younger than them.

The obvious bonus at the end of the day, is that you get your baking done and your lunch snacks are taken care of for the week. But the more important bonus of baking with children, is they will learn and practice countless skills as they help. Fine-motor skills, cognitive thinking, observation skills, prediction, risk-taking, math, science, and literacy skills, and a full-out 5 sensory experience…all wrapped up in 12 little chocolate muffins.

The key is to give each child an age appropriate task. The smallest of the smalls was given the task of “measuring” the flour while the preschoolers smashed bananas with a fork. Now, of course she is not measuring out perfect cups of flour. I let her scoop and pour at will and then dumped the flour back into the canister…

Once we had dumped the flour back in, I helped her scoop and level off a proper cup…

The sugar is another story. I don’t like to clean sugar off my floor and chairs and feet for a week after we bake, so I always help with the sugar…

Everything always gets good and mixed when there is a toddler in charge!

Now, this is where your preschoolers come in handy. They are really good at the more complicated tasks like scraping and pouring…

And when they can start to recognize letters and numbers, they can help you with the recipe…

Even if they don’t understand the concept of fractions yet, they can still see numbers! And this little process of baking will help them gain an early concept of what a “fraction of something” actually means.

Now for the risk-taking portion of baking. Cracking the egg.  And for this little guy, it was a serious risk. He had never done it before and was so worried! I coached him through the first tap, but it wasn’t quite hard enough. So he took one more try…

Good thing we have some willing egg-layers in the back yard!

Now for the job that everyone can do!

I divided up the cups so each child had the same number and they filled up all the holes, making it ready for me to pour in the batter.

The children each got a handful of chocolate chips to put on top of the unbaked muffins…

A little cleaning up and 20 minutes later, we had a batch of muffins and a house that smelled delicious!

Snack time…

So there you have it. You baking is done and your kids are smarter. It doesn’t get any better!

Here is the recipe for these little muffins if you’d like. I’m not sure when and how I found this recipe. I’ve been using it for a long time. It’s stained, written on, and a bit crumpled. What I do know, is that it was printed off the internet at some point, and it says,

“Double-Chocolate Banana Muffins, presented by Varners’ Caboose-A Very Unique Bed & Breakfast”

1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup cocoa

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp baking powder

1 and 1/3 mashed ripe bananas (2-3 medium)

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 egg

1 cup regular or mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

In a large bowl, combine the first 6 ingredients. In a small bowl, combine bananas, oil and egg. Stir into dry ingredients, just until moistened. Fold in chocolate chips. *I gave each child a handful and let them put their chips on top of the muffins before baking. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups 3/4 full. Bale at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes, or until muffins test done with a toothpick.

Yields: about 1 dozen.

Enjoy your afternoon and stop staring at those brown bananas and get baking! Hehehehehe!

Thanks for stopping by!

~Arlee, Small Potatoes


20 thoughts on “Many Hands Make Light Work…Baking With the Smalls

  1. Beautiful photos! I love to bake with my daughter and yes she tends to put all the little ingredients in one spots but she is getting better except for the chocolate chips that tends to get lost in her little mouth

  2. Yum! I’m going to try these! I am always watching a few of the bananas from my bunch brown so I freeze them so they are handy for muffins, bread, and smoothies!

  3. I love cooking with my kids too – and with Two Foot Guru just starting to read pretty much everything independently she loves to read out the recipe to us too.

  4. Great photos and I agree with you whole heartily about little hands helping with the baking. I know my little one loves to help me every time I bake something.

  5. Beautiful pictures! I teach preschool and we have been cooking & baking for the past 4 years. I also teach a hands on cooking class for summer rec for 5-12 yr olds. I LOVE working with smalls! Oh the mess is SO worth it. I’m going to try this recipe this fall…perhaps when we read If You Give a Moose a Muffin. Thank you.

  6. Yum, these look delicious. I need to do more baking with Miss nearly-turning 4 and Miss just-turned 2 and know we would all enjoy this recipe. Now, where are those browning bananas…?

  7. Hi I’m new to your site I found a link on wordplay. I really enjoyed your post my daughter is two and loves to be involved in cooking, certainly involved In cracking eggs. I was writing to find out where you got your glass canisters? They are beautiful and would make cooking a lot easier. Right now my flour stays in the bag and isn’t very convenient for a two year old. Thanks.

  8. I enjoyed reading this post very much 🙂 I recently have read “If You Give A Moose A Muffin” to my wee ones. I think the next time I read that book and make muffins, I am going to use your recipe 😉

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