Independence in the Kitchen - Baking with a One-Year-Old
I'm often inspired by what I observe in Montessori classrooms, especially toddler rooms. So often in these controlled environments we see what the toddler is truly capable of, and it's amazing. Yes, toddlers can bake. They don't need to be our assistants, or sit and watch while we do all the work. We can prepare the environment and assist them.
As I've observed in Montessori classrooms and as I have done with my other toddlers, I have put out everything Otto (22 months) needs to bake muffins. All of the ingredients are pre-measured, all he has to do is pour and stir.
Baking exposes the child to real life practical skills, it's also a wonderful sensory experience. I know not every toddler likes baking but if parents put as much effort into it as they put into sensory bins/buckets and trays, children would reap the benefits.
Every time I do this with Otto his skills increase. But he's still curious, he will still spend five minutes poking the egg or feeling the sugar with his fingers.
Baking this way isn't hugely messy. I prepare the ingredients while Otto is napping and afterwards just put everything into the dishwasher. His table needs a wipe down and the floor needs a sweep but it's not crazy messy. Even if it was, it wouldn't put me off.
We started baking with Otto around 14 months, skills like stirring take time to develop. Like all Montessori work, we take it at the child's pace, no pushing, no pressure.
As with many toddlers, he sees a mess and wants to clean it up. Keep a child size cloth nearby!! He actually just wipes it all on the floor but he's trying.
Let's talk about child size mixing bowls. I love clear bowls (like pyrex) as the child can easily see what is in them. But I also love small mixing bowls that have a handle, I find toddlers often like to hold onto a handle to keep the bowl steady while they are mixing. The bowl that Otto is using here has two handles but is also wide and more on the shallow side, so it works really well for him, he can easily pour ingredients into in, he can see what is inside it, he doesn't have to reach up to mix in it. Your child will survive whatever bowl you use, but a small bowl might help. At this age/stage I always give the mixture a quick stir at the end, to ensure it is all combined.
Mini muffins work well at this age as it's just one scoop, the large muffin trays get a lot messier. This is precise work, it requires concentration and coordination.
Otto slides the muffin tray into the oven. I check the oven and get the muffins out when ready. Otto is now finished baking, Otis (my eight year old) uses the rest of the mixture to make larger muffins. Toddlers can move onto the next thing quickly, I wouldn't expect Otto to stick at this for too long.
These mini muffins only take around five minutes to cook. Otto pulls them out of the muffin tray and onto the cooling rack.
Onto a plate for sharing with his brothers.
Hang up the apron and we are finished. He can independently put his apron on, take it off and hang it up. We use Montessori style aprons with the velcro on the side and elastic neck. Otto doesn't want to help wash up, at this age, I'm completely ok with that.
This is a little snapshot of what is currently in Otto's baking drawer. Most of our child size baking tools are c/o Manine Montessori.
This is what his table looked like before he started, with all ingredients pre-measured. He could have peeled the banana himself and I'll remember that for next time. Keep in mind it's easier for the toddler to mash very ripe bananas!