Valentine’s Month is upon us. I was searching for ways to incorporate our daughter’s new-found love of all things Food Network into our holiday recognition. I did not want to fall victim to the overly-commercialized sensationalization of the holiday itself. This year I thought, since she loves her sweets, cooking shows, and is learning her way around measuring and ingredient knowledge, baking Valentine’s Day cookies was a perfect way to celebrate.
I posted the delicious recipes below, so don’t miss those! But, before you get there, I wanted to share what these moments of baking together brought up for me as a parent, as I watched our daughter and worked alongside her. And I wanted to share too what the six-year-old took away from our day-long cooking spree.
There are dozens of reasons I love cooking, particularly baking cookies with our daughter, and each new experience gives me dozens more to appreciate.
“Mom Takeaways” from our Valentine’s Day baking session
When she spills, which I absolutely know she will, I get the opportunity to respond with calm and kindness.
Who hasn’t spilled in the kitchen? Each spill was an opportunity to talk about how we could avoid spills, (slowing down, putting the measuring cup over the mixing bowl, using a small scoop versus a huge scoop). And each time she spilled, I was able to react to the spill by simply cleaning it up, or helping her clean it up, instead of getting frustrated or annoyed.
I get to see her feel (and be) independent and creative all at the same time.
Normally if she asked me to use a sharp knife I’d say no. Typically when I’m making dinner I’m in too much of a hurry to allow her access to items like a blender or mixer. I was there to guide her and step in if she needed me and remind her of safety but also allow her to do as much, or as little, as she was comfortable with.
We have quality time to talk, about anything and everything, with no “agenda”.
We weren’t in a hurry, weren’t going anywhere, and there were no other distractions. This was precious uninterrupted time to talk – about life, school, our favorite memories, what we wanted to do the coming week. There were sneaky teachable moments, too. I asked her questions about what amounts were larger, showed her how to read recipes, and asked her questions about what she thought an ingredient might taste like. She also asked me some thoughtful questions. Did I always love baking? What was my favorite food to make with my mom? What happens if we bake something too long or not long enough?
When we try out a new skill or activity, I’m always curious what she thinks. It’s often very different from my own perspective, and usually also sweetly profound. I wanted to know how she felt about our baking together and so, as we were finishing our clean-up I asked her to reflect on our time cooking together.
“Kid Takeaways” from the day
It’s better to clean up one small mess of one type of cookie before doing the other cookies because then we have the right dishes and cleaning up at the very end is easier.
And yes, you better believe that I had her participating in all the clean-up. From dishes to sweeping the floor at the end of our day. She made the connection later in the day and before getting out her box of LEGOs, put her arts and crafts items away first.
I got to find out that 1/2 is bigger than 1/3 and that cups and spoons both have those ‘measures’ (her word, not mine).
It was fascinating to me that she said this, especially because during the baking she kept reminding herself that “1/2 is bigger than 1/3 even though 3 is bigger than 2.” Watching her read the recipe and find the same measurements on the measuring cups, identify which amount was larger or smaller, and even recognize what she had to do if we had only a 1 cup measuring cup but the recipe called for 2 1/3 cups.
Giving cookies away to people that we love is better than eating them all ourselves because then we don’t get a stomachache.
Ah, out of the mouths of babes, am I right? I appreciate her sweetness in this moment so much. She made special plates for her teacher and then set some aside for her friends as well.
So, as this greeting-card oriented season of love is upon us, I encourage you to cook up opportunities for heart-melting moments of your own and enjoy the mess and sweetness of baking in the kitchen with those you love.