Friday Funtivity: Homemade Granola Bars

My 2-year-old loves to cook! He especially loves to cook with mom or dad. He and I used to cook almost daily, but with the arrival of my second child, I don’t have as much time to make meals–and let’s just face it, things take almost twice as long when I have extra helping hands!

However, today his Preschool Playgroup was canceled, so Baby Z was able to get in an extra nap and R and I used that time to make homemade granola bars!  They weren’t perfect, but they were yummy–and even if they had tasted terrible, it was time spent with my son that I would have missed out on if I had insisted on making them myself.  Sometimes, you just have to use cooking as a craft!

Here are a few tips for craft-cooking with your kids!

  • Pick a recipe in which measurements don’t have to be exact.  If a child can put “scoops” instead of exact “cups,” his job (and yours) is much easier!
  • No-bake recipes are great for little helpers because they allow for instant gratification.
  • Recipes that don’t involve eggs allow for little fingers to taste-test without fear of sickness.  The idea of the project is not to continually say, “No, no! Don’t eat that!”
  • Know your child’s likes.  Some children have texture aversions (my child is one of them!) and don’t want to touch messy or wet ingredients.  While it might be a great cure to encourage him to mash the potatoes up with his hands, some kids would be terrified of doing this.  If your aim is for the child to enjoy the experience, offer the chance to get messy, but don’t force him.  You can always work on his idiosyncrasies later!  If your child does not mind getting his hands dirty, you can see the next post for some ideas and recipes!!
  • Recipes that call for expensive ingredients should be used with more experienced kids or “at your own risk!”  Many a dish in this house has been ruined by a heavy toddler hand or a slip of his wrist a little early landing sugar on the counter instead of the bowl!  We also look for recipes that don’t have many liquid ingredients.
  • Use a bigger bowl than you will need to allow for sloppy stirring (or “chopping” as my Jr. Chef likes to do).
  • “Stage” your cooking project.  This is especially important for younger children.  If you have everything ready, you save time which is helpful with a short attention span.  It also allows the child to feel completely involved since you aren’t constantly telling him he has to wait while you measure things out.  Think of a television cooking show–all of the ingredients are pre-measured in bowls or cups so the host just has to throw them into the bowl.  (In fact, a friend of mine lets her daughter play TV Cooking Host and they video tape her own little cooking show.  I am sure they will enjoy looking back on these in the future!!)
  • Do your prep-work!  This is similar to staging, but is important even for those who don’t need to stage because their children are big enough to measure most ingredients alone.  Prepping involves knowing what you are going to make, knowing you have all the ingredients, and knowing that all the tools you need are clean and ready for use.  In our house, I have regretted not doing my prep work before I tell my son we are going to cook!  Just this morning, we almost had to can the granola bars because I couldn’t find any vanilla in the house (thankfully, it just fell behind the spice rack).

What can you add to these tips?  I’d love to hear about your cooking crafts in the comments section!

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