Simple Tips for Baking with Kids (Recipe: Giant Oatmeal Cookies)

Written by Lynn of Cookie Baker Lynn.

As a parent, one of my goals for my children is that they should be able to take care of themselves after they’ve left the nest. I know a young woman who called home from her first month away at college, asking how to boil water. She had never had any kind of experience in the kitchen and was starting at ground level as an 18 year old.

How much better it is if we can start our kids at an early age, letting them get comfortable in the kitchen. I have two kids out of the nest and I love them telling me that they can still hear my voice in their heads teaching them how to hold the knife when cutting vegetables. We practiced cooking and baking together and today they are able to thrive in the kitchen.

I also have two children still at home, so there are many more teaching and baking opportunities ahead for us.

Switching Gears for Baking with Kids

For me, baking with kids requires a different mindset than my everyday baking. When I’m on my own I like to put on my headphones and listen to a book or dance to tunes while I create, my hands working almost independently, they’ve had so much practice. But when my children want to help, I need to take a breath and shift gears, going from fast, efficient mode to slower, teaching mode.

Along the way I’ve learned:

  • You can’t be in a rush. The day you have to make 5 dozen cookies for the bake sale is not the best day to start baking with your kids.
  • You can’t expect perfection. Learning involves mistakes.
  • You need to mentally relax and let the little stuff slide. My mantra is, “It’s just food.” So what if it’s uneven, wobbly, or a bit burned? It’s just food!

If baking with your children seems intimidating, remember that you as parent have been their first and best teacher. Who taught them to walk? You did. Who taught them to talk? You did! Will they ever learn anything more difficult than that? Not likely.

You are very qualified to teach your children how to prepare food for themselves, but there’s a few things to remember along the way.

  • Be patient.
  • Assign tasks at their ability level.
  • Supervise and direct.
  • Expect messes.
  • Expect to have fun.

All photos by Lynn Craig

Simple Steps to Baking with Kids

I’ll walk you through a recent baking session that I had with my kids and you can get an idea of what works for us and what you might like to try in your kitchen.

1. Decide what to make. Cookies are always welcome in my house, so we went with a classic oatmeal raisin cookie, with the twist of adding sunflower seeds.

2. Read through the recipe. All the way to the end. Why is this important? It helps you avoid unpleasant surprises, like the dough needing to be chilled overnight, or the recipe calling for a piece of equipment you don’t have.

3. Wash all hands and put on aprons. It’s not absolutely necessary that they have an apron, of course, but it does protect the clothes and make the children feel like they’re really bakers. Washing the hands is non-negotiable.

4. Divide up and assign tasks. Be sure that you assign tasks that they can successfully complete. Also, if you have more than one child, you don’t want them arguing over who gets to break the eggs. If one child can measure dry ingredients, then another child can measure liquids, and they can each break an egg (if there are two in the recipe).

TIP: I have my kids practice separating eggs when all that’s called for is whole eggs. There is zero stress if the yolk gets broken. It’s a good chance to introduce that skill without pressure attached.

5. Get all of the ingredients out on the counter. This does two things. It ensures that you actually have all of the ingredients. It also speeds up the process a bit so that impatient little hands won’t find inappropriate things to do while you’re searching for ingredients.

TIP: When the recipe calls for butter at room temperature, no need to put off the baking for an hour while the butter warms up. Just take turns holding a stick of butter (wrapped!) in an armpit (with a shirt on!). We call this armpit butter and the kids think it’s hilarious. It gently warms up the butter without putting melted holes in it like the microwave can.

6. Use safe and stable stools for smaller children so they can be a part of the action, too.

7. Clean up and put away as you go. Unless you’d like to raise a teenager who leaves the kitchen looking like a war zone whenever hunger strikes, another important lesson should be to clean up after yourself. And by doing it as you go, by the time the cookies come out of the oven, almost everything’s cleaned up!

So, with all that information under your belt, let’s get started!


Giant Oatmeal Cookies
Print
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened (armpit, if necessary)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (you can substitute 1/2 cup with White Whole Wheat, if you like)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats (see Tip 1 below*)
  • 1 cups raisins (soaked, see Tip 2 below**)
  • 1/2 cup raw, unsalted sunflower seeds
  • 2 Tbsp granulated sugar (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F with two racks dividing the oven into thirds. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a large mixing bowl place the butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla. Break the egg into a small bowl and add it into the large bowl. This way, any stray bits of shell can be easily removed from the small bowl, avoiding "crunchy" cookies. With the mixer on medium speed, beat until the mixture is smooth and well blended.
  3. With the mixer off, add the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on medium speed, beat until all the ingredients are well combined. Turn the mixer off.
  4. Drain the raisins and pat them dry on a paper towel. Add the oats, the raisins, and the sunflower seeds to the dough. Beat just until all the ingredients are combined.
  5. Put the 2 Tbsp sugar in a bowl, if you'd like to dip the cookies in it before baking. This gives a sparkly, slightly crunchy finish to the cookies.
  6. Scoop out the dough. (My daughter chose the Tablespoon scoop for dainty cookies. My son chose the muffin scoop for monster cookies. I divided the dough in half and let them each fill a cookie sheet.) If you'd like to, dip the cookies in the sugar. Place the dough balls on the prepared baking sheet, sugar side up.
  7. Using a light tapping motion to make a flat circle, about 1/2 inch thick for monster cookies, thinner for dainty ones.
  8. The dough will spread, so leave space between the cookies, more for the monsters than the dainties.
  9. Using hot pads, carefully open the oven door and place the baking sheets in the preheated oven. (This is a job for older children or a parent.) Bake until the cookies are very light golden brown, about 10 minutes.
  10. Using pot holders, remove the baking sheets from the oven. Set each on a rack to cool. When the cookies are cooled, remove them to a cooling rack with a spatula.
Notes
When you're baking with raisins, the first thing you should do is set the specified amount of raisins in a bowl and cover it with warm (preferably filtered) water. Allow the raisins to soak while you do the rest of the dough preparation (15 minutes, up to an hour). The raisins will plump up wonderfully. Drain them and set them on a paper towel to dry off before adding them to the dough. When they're baking, they will have some excess moisture to give up in the heat and still be juicy and delicious in the finished cookie.


TIP #1:If you don't have quick-cooking oats on hand, you can make them easily. Place a cup of regular rolled oats in a food processor and pulse it a few times.


TIP #2:One of the most common items that kids complain about in cookies is raisins. I have a theory about this. It's the fault of dry raisins. In the heat of the oven, they have no choice but to become hard and black. If you've ever had a burned raisin in a cookie, you'll know what I'm talking about. They're nasty. But they don't have to be.

Did you bake with your mother, father or grandparent when you were younger? How active were you in the kitchen as a child?

Editor’s note: This will be Lynn’s last post as a contributor here at Simple Bites, but you can still follow her baking adventures and smart writing over at Cookie Baker Lynn. Lynn, thank you for all the wisdom you have bestowed here over the past year!

About Lynn

Lynn Craig is a mother of four (two out of the nest, two to go) who homeschools, bakes obsessively, quilts sporadically, and occasionally finds time to clean the house. She and her husband live in Bellevue, Washington where she chronicles her kitchen triumphs and disasters on her blog Cookie Baker Lynn.

Subscribe For Free!

Like reading this post?
Get more delivered to your email inbox.

Comments

  1. These cookies look wonderful! I was lucky to have a mom that cooked often and was happy to show my siblings and I how it’s done. I love to cook with my kids but find that I’m too worried about the mess or getting it wrong. Thanks for the reminder that I need to slow down and just let then try. I think we will be making cookies as a family this week!

  2. I helped bake all the time as a child. It’s probably why I still love baking to this day. I’m glad that my mom took the time to teach my sister and I to cook.

  3. These are such fantastic tips… I am loving this post!!! Great recipe too!
    Amanda’s last post: Thank You Cookies For Mr Postman

  4. An absolutely great list of tips. I love involving my nephew and niece in cooking whenever I visit them. For her birthday, my niece asked for an apron and ‘cooking stuff’ so she got the Paula Deen for Kids set. My nephew has no idea he’s getting an apron and his own set for his birthday. I’m so glad they both love to cook!
    Amber | Bluebonnets & Brownies’s last post: Guest Post – German Chocolate Brownies

  5. Love the armpit butter! My 6-year-old son will make that his personal responsibility! :)

  6. Yum! Oatmeal cookies are a favorite around here.
    Shaina’s last post: Weekly Menu- 2-14-11

  7. Those cookies look AMAZING!! Oatmeal cookies are my all-time favorite.

    I really appreciate the tips. It can be a real test of patience to have a small child in the kitchen, but I know that it is very important!!

  8. I was certainly one of those who went off to college w/ no idea of what she was doing in the kitchen so I’m making it a life goal that my kids won’t have the same experience (and sometimes embarrassment) that I did.

    Love the tips and think these cookies look wonderful :-)

    Thank you, Lynn, for all you’ve contributed here at Simple Bites. You’ll be missed but I look forward to keeping up with you on your Cookie Baker blog. Best Wishes!
    Kara @Simple Kids’s last post: Creative Pretend Play Props and Ideas

  9. This is one of the best compilations of instructions and suggestions on how to cook with kids that I’ve ever seen. Having cooked and baked with kids I read the post and kept nodding my head. Your kids are SO lucky Lynn!
    Elle’s last post: La-la-la-la-laminate

  10. I absolutely love this post! I think teaching children to be comfortable in the kitchen, is something that all children must learn. I remember going to college and being shocked when I found many of my roommates, not able to cook for themselves. I still have one 32 year old friend who refuses to try cooking. He eats out everyday.
    samina’s last post: Chickpeas and Brown Rice-Gluten Free

  11. I was not very active in the kitchen as a child. My mother tried to teach both my sister and I how to cook/bake, but while my sister loved it, I hated it. I was more interested in spending time with my dad in the garage or doing yard work. So, off I went to college, not knowing how to make anything that wasn’t frozen. Once I was off the college meal plan, I realized I should have spent a little more time in the kitchen with mom. So, everytime I went home for a visit, I would bring a list of items I needed to learn how to cook. And my mom was more than happy to help me learn since I was finally ready. So, I guess I’d like to encourage all of the other parents to remember that not all children will be interested in learning to cook when you are interested in teaching them. But, don’t get frustrated, because eventually they will likely come to see the value in it.

  12. I love the giant oatmeal cookies. No children left in my nest but perhaps some grand children in my future?
    I love the idea of armpit butter. You just know they are going to pass on the armpit butter technique to their children or fight over who gets to armpit first this time!
    Simplebites will miss your cookie wisdom and lovely writings. x
    Melinda’s last post: Gorgeous Peanut Butter Cookies

  13. Lynn, Lynn, LYNN! This is an EXCELLENT post! You totally GET the hazards of cooking with kids, and you knock them out (the hazards, not the kids) methodically, one by one. It actually feels doable (probably because it is…if I would just slow down for two seconds) and I am MUCH inspired to get my butt in gear. Thank you!

    Also, the cookies look delicious, and the armpit butter tip is fabulous.
    Jennifer Jo’s last post: Just stuff

  14. Great tips and gorgeous cookies!
    Wenderly’s last post: Heart Felt

  15. my Mom didn’t do much baking and I don’t remember spending much time in the kitchen with her learning to cook. I did learn some from my grandmother. After being married and having 2 young children, a friend took me under her wing and taught me about canning and baking, etc. We did it over the phone! When my kids were taking naps and hers were in school – we’d work on a project we had planned ahead of time and she’d answer my questions and give me hints and tips. Of course, back then – the phones had cords and that made this even more interesting. T

  16. Fantastic stuff – I actually have food in my blood and I’m with you on your post. There is nothing more important than teaching your children about cooking from a early age. When I grew my mother never had those yummy treats in the house. She said if you want them you need to cook them, so that’s where my passion for food was developed. Now I find myself hopefully installing the same values on my kids, by getting them to cook.

    That oatmeal receipe looks like a cracker – yum!

    James @littlenomads

  17. Those looks phenomenal! Great blog; happy I found you!
    Mary @ Delightful Bitefuls’s last post: Cupids Finds

  18. I find that my kids are much more likely to try eating something new if they’ve helped prepare it. I got them to eat spinach that way (at least once) by making roll-up pizzas!
    Erin’s last post: Pampering giveaway!!!

  19. I only baked on my own when I was old enough which is a shame. My mother and grandmother, both superb bakers and cooks, did not relish sharing or teaching. I did watch a fair amount but wish I had really observed what they were doing. I have grandchildren now and let them get their hands in everything. I don’t want them to be intimidated by cooking or baking. You are absolutely spot on~it’s just food. Kids learn so much in a relaxed atmosphere.
    Vicki B’s last post: Quail Free Egg Indulgence Cake

  20. Oh my….and how fun to make cookies with kids…I totally need to do that more with my own nieces and nephews. These look just lovely for a girly tea party! Thanks for sharing!

  21. I didn’t have much experience in the kitchen when I started out, either. These cookies look lovely!

  22. I am all about getting children in the kitchen, there is so much great learning that goes on! I have to work on tip number 7, I’d never thought of how far-reaching that could be :)
    I had to laugh that these are GIANT cookies – I made some chocolate chip cookies with my son last week, and he made them so unbelievably large! I guess that’s what happens when you cook with a 4 year old…
    Jennifer’s last post: Marinated Chicken Hearts

  23. I love this recipe and your strategies. I have four kids, ranging from 18 months to 11 years and all of them help me in the kitchen. I start them VERY young, and that’s proven to be a good strategy because my eleven year old daughters (twins) bake at least once or twice a week. They make snacks every weekend and wrap them individually in saran wrap, for the kids to take to school all week.
    Thanks for these tips.
    Rivki Locker (Ordinary Blogger)’s last post: Cookbook Review- The Essential New York Times Cookbook

  24. My twin girls love baking with me. We’ve even made chef’s hat for them out of 9x 12 sheets of white paper.
    I just posted a very similar recipe on my blog.
    http://mycreativekitchen.com/Home/tabid/163/EntryID/52/Default.aspx

  25. I can’t imagine never having been taught to cook & bake as I was growing up. But I know plenty of people who never had that kind of experience. These are great tips. And those cookies look wonderful!
    Brenda @ a farmgirl’s dabbles’s last post: Shrimp and Pasta in Tomato-Chile Cream Sauce

  26. I don’t have kids or anything, but that was actually pretty interesting, especially about the egg separating – what a great idea. Cheers.
    Zo @ Two Spoons’s last post: Easy baked custards- topped with nectarine syrup

  27. Related to the raisin soaking tip–if you (or someone you’re baking for) really don’t like raisins, any dried berry will substitute just fine. I buy dried cranberries and blueberries at Costco and use a mixture.

  28. so many great tips- for me, safety is key, so I usually will have only one kid in the kitchen- and stay away from the Kitchen aid while it’s working! :)

    http://remnantofremnant.blogspot.com/2011/02/garlic-je-taime.html

  29. Didn’t get to help in the kitchen much while I was a child but I learned to love cooking and baking as I grew older.

    I let my four year old twin grandchildren help me. I divide up every ingredient into two small portions and they take turns adding their share when I ask for it. If there’s just one egg, I split that in two, as well. And I let them each stir with a wooden spoon. Then I turn the light on in the oven so they can see the cookies (or whatever) rise.

    Takes a loooooong time to bake that way but they are so proud of themselves.
    cherylk’s last post: The Epitome of Thoughtfulness

  30. Oh these photos are adorable! I miss getting to cook with my 6 year old niece and this reminded me of just how much I miss it! P.S. The oatmeal cookies sound great!

  31. The cookies are in the oven now and my 18 month old and 4 year old loved making them!!!!

    Great reminder to be patient and to not worry about the mess…I needed to read that!

  32. Yea! Through blogging, I found out that both my cousin and I (we grew up on opposite sides of the country) have fond memories of making cinnamon rolls with our GREAT grandmother. Wish I had her recipe…

    I don’t remember being “taught” to cook, but we were always welcome in the kitchen and given small tasks to help. I do the same with my kids. Nobody should be intimidated by the kitchen – IT’S JUST FOOD!!

    Love the egg separating tip!
    Alissa’s last post: Wordless Wednesday- Snow Day

  33. Great post! I don’t have kids (yet) but I love your advice! Especially the “remember, it’s only food” part…sometimes I get caught up trying to make everything “perfect”. I made these cookies yesterday and they are probably the best oatmeal cookies I have ever made! I used 1/2 whole wheat flour and put in the sunflower seeds & they taste SO GOOD! Thanks for the great recipe.

  34. Just found this post. I love your tips. Great advice for cooking with kids..
    thanks
    Elaine

Speak Your Mind

*

Rate this recipe:  

CommentLuv badge