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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Baking with kids: Chocolate-banana cookies, recreating the magic – Part I

A while ago I bragged about how my son, who is 5 years old, wrote a recipe for Chocolate-banana cookies. A recipe! From scratch! All by himself! And no one asked him too.

He made mommy, that’s me, very proud, of course.
That was in September (2008) and I have finally found the time to share with you some tips on how we do it. I’ll tell you right now, it wasn’t always fun to bake or cook together – we started when he was about 3 – but more about that later.

Today I want to share with you some secrets and photos from behind the scene. The timing is perfect because cookie season is about to start and a lot of holiday cookie baking is going to take place in many homes. People are already excited about it, for example, check out the cakespy.com blog, but don’t participate in the poll because I did and I want to win. If you participate it will lower my chances to win one of the cool prizes. I’m just kidding. You know that. Right?!
So, anyway, back to baking with your kid/s.

First, here is the recipe.

The recipe is written in Hebrew. He wrote the title - Chocolate banana cookies. The ingredients: flour, sugar, eggs, butter, salt, bananas, chocolate, etc. The quantities, well, mainly in “scoops”, a somewhat vague measuring unit, but this is how they talked about it in his former class when they were sharing and passing lunch around the table. Some quantities are in teaspoons and cups. So here comes an important point: I had to figure out how much to let him do what he wants (and maybe fail), and how much to intervene and give him advice (so he has a better chance to succeed)?

I wanted to recipe to be his, not mine.
I knew that some of the quantities just won’t work. For example, any adult can tell in advance, a baker or not – that 3 teaspoons of flour are not enough to make cookies. So we had a long discussion to figure out what is exactly a “scoop” and looked at other recipes for advice. We have also agreed to adjust the quantities as we go along and added more and more and more flour to the mixer bowl until the consistency looked OK, a total of 2 ½ cups of flour.

So as you can see, there is a fine line between how much the child leads the process and how much you are in charge. When we just started baking together, about 2 years ago, I was more in charge and he had to work on his listening skills and follow my instructions. A few times I had to end up the process because it turned into a battle. Not fun. But today when he has already learned how to work, I can give him more freedom.

In this project he had a lot of freedom to lead, but that is after 2 years of experience.

I learned a lot too. The 2 most important things are, I think:

1. Forget about perfection. It’s not going to be the same as if you did it by yourself. Yep. And not as much fun either as spending the time and doing this project together with your kid/s, and also giving them important life skills.

2. Loosen up. It’s OK to make a mess. This is how they learn. Their motor skills will get better as they grow. You can clean up later together.

Now let's move forward.

First, we wash our hands (there is a potential for the first battle right there), and prepare the "mise en place", or gathering and preparing all the ingredients and tools you are going to need at your work station, as well as reading the recipe.

Learning about measuring cups and spoons is a great way to teach fractions, and math in general.

Peeling fruit is great to develop motor skills. Of course for a kindergartener it’s not hard to do, but little ones can feel a great sense of accomplishment by doing it.

… as well as mashing the fruit...

more peeling to do...

and measuring...

Sifting the dry ingredients can make a mess when their fine motor skills are not yet fully developed. You can have flour all over the floor, so stand next to them and guide/help them.

Scooping is a bit tricky. I usually scoop the batter out from the bowl with the cookie scooper and let him drop it on the baking sheet.

Have fun.

1 comment:

Diana said...

That is so adorable! I don't have kids yet but I so look forward to cooking with my own one day.