Guest Post: Let Them Make Cake (or: How My Kids Brought Joy Back Into the Kitchen)

I am so blessed to have the most amazing writers offer to write guest posts this month!!  Heather and I met at a local meet-up for families getting their children out into nature.  Today she is sharing about spending time in the kitchen with her boys.  This brings back so many wonderful memories with my own boys when they were the same age.

 Let Them Make Cake : How My Kids Brought Joy Back Into the Kitchen

I was going to write about my passion for hiking and getting out in nature with my three boys, particularly since that is how I met Meaghan.

But as I was brainstorming... Roo (my 5 year old --five and three quarters actually) said, with chocolate chips in hand, "I want to make something".  And so I got out some ingredients and he did.

Roo and Sweet Pea co-creators in the kitchen
It's been going on since he was old enough to hold a spatula in his hands, these kitchen adventures with Roo --first, simply as a 'passenger', watching me stir and chop, and gradually as a participant and collaborator in the kitchen.  One of his first sentences was "let's make", at which point we'd pull out the blender and make humus, or alfredo sauce or muffins, or granola.  We would follow recipes, naming and tasting the ingredients.

A Young Sous Chef
I've made a point of being as hands off as possible while accounting for his abilities (and my acceptance of mess at that particular moment) as well as my taste preferences (tahini in moderation, please).  I got into the routine of setting the ingredients out pre-measured so that I could stay close by and prevent eggs from slipping to the floor, and so that no matter what happened, it would still be OK, even if it didn't turn out the way the recipe called for.  It also helped me focus on being with Roo, instead of frantically grabbing the next ingredient before he dipped his hands into raw egg (I'm not always the calmest cook).  Know thyself!

Planning ahead helps create calm for me = more fun for the boys

I stopped measuring after he had learned to level a measuring cup with a knife (or his fingers) and when he could pour syrup or break egg yolks without tipping the bowl (mostly).

Happiness is mixing dough for something tasty.

And then the day came several months ago when he said he wanted to make something without a recipe.  It started with syrup and honey (ah, the primary motive, I think, was licking the spoon).  It included an egg, or maybe two, some almond milk, flour (at my suggestion), some baking soda (at my urging) as well as spinach and ketchup.  I did well to bite my tongue, and I envisioned the many wonderful culinary experiments and the cooking "failures" (too runny, not sweet enough, burnt) that would lead him to a career as a chef (professionally, or more simply but no less worthy, for his future family).  It turned out well: he ate it but said it needed more honey.

Sweet Pea ready to flip some walnut lentil burgers.​

The latest recipe just last week included help from Sweet Pee, his three year old brother who usually would rather wash dishes (aka splash in water and pour stuff).  The concoction is called "Chocolate Power Wrench" and has carob chips, 2 eggs, almond milk, coconut flour, almond flour, and baking soda (his idea).  Both boys have been enjoying its sweet souffl√© consistency and have been wondering why the chips sank to the bottom.  The scientist in me is curious about food chemistry.  The reluctant cook in me is enticed.  And the mom in me is proud.

"Making" stuff with them has made the kitchen more fun (and not really that much messier).  It forces me to practice my patience and to let go.  It brings joy into the kitchen on days that sometimes seem to be burdened by the constant question of "what will I make for dinner?", and it helps me enjoy the process just as much as (or more than) the outcome.

No time to invite boys to do the cooking?  I still have help prepping raw vegetables.​

​Fine motor dexterity, measuring, and life skills all rolled into one.​

Heather Boyd is an amazing mom to three young boys.  They are often in the woods, and spending precious moments playing together. She is considering starting her own blog, which I can't wait to read!!  Let me know if you'd like to get in contact with her to write for you too!