Before I became a Big Sister, I thought about all the activities my Little and I would enjoy together. These ideas mostly stemmed from memories of what I had fun doing as a kid. One activity I always loved was baking- whether it was in my Easy Bake Oven, or even pretending with my Kitchen Littles playset. I knew that once I became a Big Sister, the kitchen would definitely be a setting for some of our activities.
Coincidentally, at the beginning of our match relationship, my Little wanted to be a baker. Her professional aspirations have shifted since then, but baking and cooking are still activities we enjoy together. We’ve had our fair share of kitchen “flops,” as there were some dishes that were new for me, too (macarons are not as easy as they look, people), but they are always fun and interesting to make, in the process.
Something I didn’t realize until we started these types of outings is, baking and cooking can be a fun way to show Littles the way we interact with math and science in our everyday lives. We measure liquids and solids, add fractions together, and differentiate between teaspoons and tablespoons. To get her thinking about this, I ask my Little questions throughout the process like, “If this recipe calls for 1 cup of flour, how many times do we have to scoop flour with this 1/4 measuring cup?”
One challenge with cooking can be my Little’s picky eating. When her only menu request ever is pizza, our recipe options can be limited. However, an outing in the kitchen can itself be a safe space for experimentation, even with foods that my Little loves. For instance, she loves pizza, but she usually limits herself to pepperoni as a topping. While I will provide pepperoni, I’ll also get a variety of other toppings when we make pizza- peppers, onions, asparagus, pancetta, basil, spinach. This gives her room to try other toppings, without making what can feel like an uneasy sacrifice to experimentation at a restaurant.
Even seemingly simple dishes can become more hands on. Thinking of making pasta? Rather than buying dried noodles at the grocery store, why not try your hand at making them from scratch? All you need is flour and eggs- no pasta maker required! You can also make the pasta sauce with actual tomatoes and spices instead of the jarred stuff. Now your Little knows what their food is really made of, if they didn’t know before!
Here are a few dishes my Little and I have tried our hands at together.
- We made this with dough, cheese, canned tomato sauce, and toppings from Trader Joe’s. We’ve also attempted pizza with homemade dough (I made it before she arrived since it takes time to rise).
- Homemade pasta and tomato sauce
- Mirror cake
- This took some day-before prep on my part. I baked a cake from box mix the night before and stuck it in the freezer until we glazed it. Otherwise, we would’ve had to bake the cake ourselves and waited for it to cool.
- Our macarons didn’t turn out exactly as we’d thought they would, but it was a fun process to mix and measure!
- Molten chocolate lava cake
- This was delicious and easy to make.
- Sugar cookies
- These are also fantastic and simple. Personally, this is my favorite recipe for soft, cut-out sugar cookies.
- Greek yogurt fruit tart
- Last year, BBBSLA hosted a baking contest at one of their outdoor events. They’d noted the treat had to be healthy, so we made a fruit tart. My Little loved decorating it with the different colored fruits.
- Box mixes
- Last year’s holiday party included an “ugly baking contest,” meaning the ugliest dessert would win! I baked a brownie the night before from a box mix, and my Little decorated it with a variety of icings and toppings before we headed out to the party. It was a big hit among the judges!
- In Strawberry Picking & Baking, I wrote about how we picked strawberries. It was fun to put those berries to use in a simple, no-bake pie made with a pre-bought pie crust and cheesecake-flavored JELL-O.
Do you and your Little get creative in the kitchen? Let us know in the comments the types of foods you have tried making!