Would you believe, in a 2018 survey more than half the children were found not knowing how to measure or weigh food items? And yet, despite almost 90% of parents saying it was important to learn to cook from a young age, and 70% saying it helped them bond, over half of the parents hadn’t encouraged their kids into the kitchen! With the added pressures on families since the pandemic, I wouldn't be surprised if those figures are still the same, if not worse.
Baking is the perfect way to introduce kids to cooking, especially as baking for the whole family is something so many said they found fun. It’s positive reinforcement of a crucial life skill and is great practice for reading, working with numbers and motor-skills - all the stuff they need to start learning from a young age.
But it’s not just a skills thing - being included in the food prep at home can help broaden their tastes and get them to try new flavours and textures somewhere they’re comfortable. And learning how to follow processes and adapt them, especially if they’ve got allergies, really will set them up with food confidence and foster independence as they get older.
With all this in mind we really want to encourage adults into the kitchen with their kids so here’s a list of our favourite bakes to do with children. They’re all easy to do and don’t need fancy equipment so you can focus on enjoying yourselves!
Our Hero Sponge has gained cult popularity with good reason. The method is incredibly simple and can be easily mixed with a bowl and spoon (so no big mixer to lug onto the work top and catch little fingers). And not only that there’s lots of flavour variations, modifications for vegans and allergies, and adjustments for different sized layers or cupcakes too. Which means you can bake with confidence and enjoy the experience. You could even use it to make your own cake sandwiches which have been flying out of the bakery recently.
If it sounds like just what you need, the original Hero Sponge recipe is available here for free, and the other variations are quick and easy pdf downloads you can buy - just hit the Recipes button on the top bar to find them.
We love our Hero Sponge so much we’ve even put it on a mug (with 6 variations) which is just right for smaller kids who love to cook but aren’t properly reading yet.
Illustrations take them through all the measurements and the process so they can properly join in, and there’s no need to rifle through a recipe pile or worry about sticky fingers as it’s ready and waiting in the cupboard, and can then go straight in the dishwasher once the cake is in the oven and you’ve drunk your giant 15oz cuppa from it.
The world of kids cook books is, frankly, pretty tedious. Which is exactly why I started writing our own.
Often kids recipes are dull and unengaging for the kids, adults, or both, so baking feels bland and uninspiring which it shouldn’t ever be. They're mostly written for adults being so wordy, but with drab recipes like star shaped cucumber sandwiches. And even if it’s tasty you’ll rarely go back to it again if the process wasn't fun.
Our Story Bakes, on the other hand, have rhyming stories with bright and colourful illustrations. Each book focuses on one hero, their friends, and one recipe, combining an adventure with baking for delicious results. They’re written with younger kids in mind so they’re short, sharp and get the job done and since they’re story books they can be read and still spread the joy of cooking even when you’re not in the kitchen.
If you want to give one a go you can find free pdf versions here on the blog and also paperback books - which make great gifts FYI - are available from the Storybakes section above.
Sometimes you don’t have the time for a full bake, or maybe your kids’ attention span is still a bit too short. If that’s the case then doing a Fake Bake will still get them involved in combining flavours and getting creative, but quicker. In fact even if your kids are a bit older the challenge of setting a budget, a time limit and seeing what you can do is still a really fun one. And although our Fake Bake Cakes are full-size cakes, who’s to say you can’t do the same thing on a big traybake, a pack of cupcakes or even cookies or doughnuts?!
With bank holidays and the Coronation not too far away the Victoria Sponge inspired one would be good to save for later too. We can’t list them all but there really is a version for everyone and every occasion.
Kids can use the tools of the trade too!
I’m not suggesting you get out your sharpest knives or heavy mixer and let them loose. But a huge part of getting the kids involved is getting stuck in with techniques too. Letting them learn with certain pro tools is still safe and will also give them a massive confidence boost. And since they’re cost effective for you to reuse time and again as well, we’d say they were worth having in the house.
We’ve got a whole post on the best pro tools to have at home, so we’re not repeating it all here. But a hand whisk, rubber spatula, turntable and even a cake scraper will all be safe in small hands (with your help of course!).
Baking with children is never neat and tidy but the positives absolutely outweigh the negative (ie the mess). Plus let’s not ignore the facts - it kills time when the day feels long AND it’ll keep the kitchen stocked up with snacks which is especially helpful with school holidays [permanently] just around the corner!