My daughter and I were gifted a cooking class especially for kids her age. While the class was primarily geared towards her, the best thing I got out of it was learning various techniques to get her involved in cooking. She is my oldest at 3 1/2 years. So, while I see myself as a fairly seasoned cook, coming up with ideas on ways to teach my children is a constant learning curve for me and changing as they grow and change as well.
This is a very simple recipe with a very simple resulting taste as well. I have not tried to change it up to make a more elaborate tasting result because I think the fun in this is actually the creating part with your children. This particular post will focus on getting them involved in the cooking so that the end result is an awesome accomplishment they can be proud of.
3/4 c. Butter (Softened)
3/4 c. Sugar
1/2 tsp. Almond Extract
2 c. Flour
1/4 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
Red and Green Food Coloring
1/3 c. Mini Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
Measuring cups and spoons
Two mixing bowls
Two medium sized plastic bags
I have found when it comes to cooking with my kids, or even it general, it’s nice to get everything you need out and ready so it’s at your finger tips. This can also prevent a potential mess if you are scrambling for an ingredient while your child has free reign over the flour jar. “Mise en place” as professionals say, which is a French phrase for “putting in place”. Hand some of the ingredients, bowls, or measuring cups to your child as you are getting them out of the cabinets, explaining simply to them what each item is. It’s amazing to me how much retention of this information even a 3 year old can have.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Before working with the food, make sure everyone washes their hands, explaining the importance of hygiene. Be ready to go back to the sink several times during the process as well as it is likely a few messes will occur along the way. In one mixing bowl, let your child peel the paper off the softened butter. Then help them measure the sugar and add it to the butter. Depending on your child’s age, this can be a good opportunity to have them find the right measurement or count how many scoops to add in. Add the extract to this mix as well. While I personally like to measure the extract myself as the adult (because a little goes a long way), you can get your kiddo involved by letting them ‘waft’ the bottle to smell the extract and then ask them what their observations are about it (what does it smell like, do they like the smell, etc). Next add the egg. Your child can gently tap the egg on a flat surface until it begins to crack and then you can help them poke a thumb through and pull the shell apart. I’ve have varying luck with this method depending on how brittle my egg shells are. While technically not the ‘proper’ way to crack an egg, if I have a brittle shell I sometimes find it easier to crack it more cleanly on an edge. The flat surface method though works best for kids to prevent breaking the yolk or splitting the egg too hard. Wash hands after handling the egg.
Next put the dry ingredients in a separate mixing bowl. Help your child measure the flour, baking powder, and salt. If you have a small plastic square or rectangular scraper, you can teach them to fill the measuring device, tap it to settle the ingredient, and scrape the excess off the top. Mix these ingredients together with few gentle stirs with a spoon.
Time to get the mixer out. I used my hand mixer for this recipe though I may have overworked it because it’s a low power mixer and my butter wasn’t softened enough. The hand mixer allows you and your little one to handle the machine together, though I’ll probably go with my stand mixer the next time around. Start by creaming the butter, sugar, extract and egg mixture. Then, gradually add the flour mixture in little by little. Once all the flour is mixed in, you should have a dough mixture much like play dough.
Set out some parchment paper as a working surface for your kids. Split the dough into two parts, one part being 3/4 and the other only about 1/4 of the total. Place each part of dough separately into the plastic bags. For the larger dough ball add the red food coloring. Add green to the smaller ball of dough. Have your child help mix the coloring into the dough while it’s still in the bag (this keeps your hands from getting stained in the initial mixing). Once mixed fairly well, take the dough out and separate into smaller parts to let the kids mix it directly in their hands. I separated the red and green dough into four smaller parts each. Break out the chocolate chips (aka the ‘watermelon seeds’) to fold and mix into the red dough balls (see above). The kids should have some fun squishing the chocolate chips into the dough. You’ll then want to have them roll the red dough balls into mini cylinders. Take the green dough balls and flatten them into rectangles to ‘wrap’ around the red cylinders (see below). Finally, using the dental floss, slice the cookies and place them on parchment paper on a cookie sheet.
Bake at 350 for 9 to 11 minutes, until firm. Let cool a few minutes and then let them enjoy their ‘watermelon’ masterpieces!