Lessons from a Chocolate Chip Cookie

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By Rebecca Lemar
I hate baking with children. The amount of error and mess really aggravates me. I can be pretty anal and anxious when things don’t go my way and in parenting if I am not careful and mindful, I turn into the mother I don’t want to be. There are a couple of thoughts that help me recalibrate my parenting style when I tense up. One, I pretend that I am future me returning to this moment in time to experience something very special that I am clearly overlooking -These days with the children so young are numbered and precious, so relax, brighten up, and refocus I tell myself. Two, while it may seem counterintuitive, I will take on a big project (maybe even one I normally avoid) with my children to feed and gain inspiration, leaving me with satisfaction of accomplishing something fun and the children’s measure of success seems to be their joy. What better way to bring joy than to bake cookies together?

Here are Ten Lessons I got out of baking chocolate chip cookies with my two and four year old:

1. Be present: Living in the moment means we are happy exactly where we are at, absorbing the details and joyful to be making memories. These days with the children so young are numbered and precious, so relax, brighten up, and get creative.
2. The Importance of Clean Hands: Teaching the lesson of clean hands should last a lifetime. What a fun way to stress the importance of clean hands. Turn it into a song.
3. Cracking an Egg is Big Work: What has a hard, crispy shell, an icky gooey middle and requires mastery when cracking? You know eggsactly. What an amazing experience for little ones to handle opposite textures all wrapped up in nature’s perfect ovoid. Watching my son and daughter both crack and egg, I swear it’s the unused portion of a personality test. Dre cracks with precision and care and a look of disgust on his face. Ani cracks with speed, deliverance and amazing confidence no matter how many shells. Her favorite part is picking out the shells from the yolk actually.IMG_2766
4. Fractions and Math work: Even if children do not understand the concept of fractions, you are introducing them to the rich language of mathematics: 1/4 cup, ¼ teaspoon, 2 and ½ cups. HINT: If you are going to let children scoop out 1 cup of something, let them use a smaller measuring cup so they can be more successful at filling it correctly as well as practice the scooping. Ex: four ¼ cups of flour.
5. Control with Fire: There can be so many NOs in a day. Let this be a moment of trust, experience and yes for the child who thinks they are ready to cook with fire. Prepare a safe and sturdy stool for your child while they melt butter and use caution. Teach them HOW to be safe.
6. Let go of error: Spills, broken eggs, too much flour, messy floor, perfect measurements, ¼ cup of salt? Practice the art of not giving a hoot. Meh, NBD, right mom? Befriend error – at least for this half hour of baking. Let this be a lesson in caring less about the small stuff.
7. Practical Life Skills: Cooking and baking are wonderful, exclusively human things that we do. Nurturing a love of learning can start in the kitchen by teaching pouring, scooping, mixing, blending, but also counting, following directions and with experience, experimenting. Also, having gear to go along with an activity seems to ignite a fantastic importance, aren’t the little aprons just so sweet?
IMG_28968. Think small: When the time came to scoop the dough onto the ungreased cookie sheet, my mind said, big cookie! But with small children, think small. We scooped up small, toddler-sized cookie dough bites, a perfect portion for small mouths. Plus, you can guilt-free say, Ok you can have three cookies!! Three is a big deal to small children.
9. Multisensory experiences stimulate the brain: The different textures of eggs, flour, oil, extracts, granulated sugar and butter are all so amusing if you are young. Then the smells of these separate ingredients come together to make a COOKIE that we can’t wait to eat! Hard to believe it’s entirely educational.
10. When we do things together, it brings us together.

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