You're never too young or too old to bake happy memories together.

By Jackie Freeman
December 08, 2020
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Baking is the perfect way to get kids (and some grown-ups) of all ages started in the kitchen. It's a fun way to bond together as a family, while sneaking in some school work (hello math and science!). Plus, there's a built-in motivation factor: At the end of the process, you end up with a plate full of treats! I'll share tips and tricks to get everyone involved, at their age-appropriate skill level, plus some of the best recipes to get you started.

No matter your age or skill level, everyone who is helping in the kitchen should start off with these basic steps to ensure safety and success:

  • Everyone should start by washing their hands thoroughly.
  • For those who stand a little smaller, get a sturdy stepstool to help easily reach the countertop and see what's going on.
  • If you're worried about too much of a mess (because trust us, there will be a mess), you can lay out some newspaper, wax paper, parchment paper, or a tablecloth on your countertop to make clean up a breeze.
  • And, the most important rule? Have fun!

Toddlers and Preschoolers

This is the perfect age to get kids in the kitchen with cooking-baking projects. They'll love the tactile experience of working with dough, decorating, and just making a mess. Prep the cookie dough beforehand, and let your littles cut out designs with their favorite cookie cutters. (Use plastic cutters to avoid the sharp edges metal cutters can have.) Or if you're feeling more adventurous, you can pre-measure all of your ingredients and let them dump them into the bowl and get mixing. You could also bake cookies the night before and let them decorate the cooled results.

Credit: Wonka

Small thumbs are the perfect size for making holes in Raspberry and Almond Shortbread Thumbprints. Toddlers can even help spoon their favorite flavor of jam into the cookies (and lick the spoon afterwards).

Make The Best Rolled Sugar Cookies and let your little ones cut out their favorite shapes. They can paint the cooled baked cookies with icing and a (new and clean) paintbrush or their fingers.

Skip the baking (and a hot oven) all together with No Bake Granola Bars. Let your kids choose their favorite add-ins, for a healthy anytime snack.

Elementary Schoolers

Your "big" kids will love helping you pick and read recipes, measure ingredients, and mix the dough. Make sure you have a few extra ingredients on hand (flour, eggs, etc.) just in case there are any spills or misses. If using a mixer, let them help, but keep an eye out for fingers. If you really want to build their confidence and skills, have them help you preheat the oven and carefully place the batter or cookies in for baking (you may want to help remove the hot pans, though). They can move the cookies to cooling racks, and help make gift bags if you'll be giving any away. Let them help with clean up, too.

Credit: Laura

The name may sound funny (which is part of the appeal), but Easy Dump Cake is a real winner. It's the perfect project for first-time bakers. Feel free to add in any extras, like chopped nuts, dried fruit, or more chocolate chips!

With only three ingredients, you can practice reading and measuring ingredients in these yummy no-bake cookies. Chocolate Peanut Butter Cornflake Cookies are a kid (and grown-up) favorite, and they can feel pride in making them all by themselves (with a little supervision).

Chocolate Chips Cookies are a family favorite, and for good reason. Kids can help add ingredients to the mixer (watch for little fingers!) and practice following step-by-step instructions.

Tweens and Beyond

Let your older kids have a little freedom in the kitchen. This will help them build confidence and culinary skills that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. Not only can they measure and mix all ingredients, you can also ask them to double or halve the recipe, sneaking in a little extra circular school work. Now is a good time to introduce oven safety (making sure you have oven mitts that fit their hands well, and a safe place to rest hot baking trays). And, perhaps the most important life lesson from cookie making? Let them clean up the kitchen (tools, counters, and floors) when they're done.

Quick, easy, and easy enough for your tween to whip up as an afternoon snack on their own, Microwave Chocolate Mug Cake doesn't require the use of an oven. If you're worried about the cake making a mess in the microwave, encourage your tweens to use a small microwave-safe bowl instead.

Somewhere between snack and breakfast lies To Die For Blueberry Muffins. This is a good opportunity for your kids to flex their baking muscles, with both a batter and a crumb topping.

Do you like them fudgy, chewy, crispy, or cakey? Let your kids do a bit of research to determine their favorite brownie, whether it be Best Brownies (which are a bit cakey and fudgy) or Brooke's Best Bombshell Brownies (which are rich and chocolatey).