It takes skill to be a baker. But it takes a whole set of skills to bake with kids.
By Becca Edwards
It takes skill to be a baker. But it takes a whole set of skills to bake with kids. As a mother of three daughters, you can bet your Betty Crocker I know this to be true. I have tried and failed. Admittedly a clean freak and lacking more than a cupful of patience, I just do not have the right ingredients. (However, like the next Pillsbury Bake-Off winning recipe, this is a work in progress. I just need to keep tweaking things.)
“When I was a single mom of two kids, I was not as fun to bake with,” began Delane Marynowski. “I used to tell my children, ‘I promise I’ll be fun when I’m a grandma.’”
Marynowski is our neighbor. When we moved into the neighborhood four years ago, she surprised us with a welcome box of homemade cream puffs. Raised in a Weight Watchers household, I rarely eat sweets, but there was no denying these cream puffs. There was the comforting and doughy smell of the pastry. And the visual awareness of its delicateness. The knowledge that with one bite that delicateness would just succumb to our taste buds. The siren song of chocolate. In short, with all the senses at 350-plus degrees, the cream puffs were just too powerful.
Our family devoured them. It was that night that Ruth Love, my middle daughter with a sweet tooth, had an epiphany: One day she would learn how to make cream puffs like Mrs. Marynowski.
That day came when Ruth Love, a naturally shy child, stirred up some courage and asked Mrs. Marynowski to share her cream puff recipe. Marynowski, who is known by many locals for her kindness and thoughtfulness, proceeded to invite Ruth Love over for a cooking class.
The twosome whipped up not just cream puffs but a friendship, too. This friendship and love of baking carried over even during the quarantine, when a face-masked Marynowski would deliver ingredients and handmade instructions for a new recipe outside our door once a week. It brought Ruth Love so much joy that, at age 12, she is now determined to one day own her own bakery.
“I just love baking now. You can be creative. You can bond with other people. You can learn new things. And there is a lot of math and science involved,” said Ruth Love.
Marynowski smiles as Ruth Love talks about baking. She remembers when her son and daughter used to pick, peel, and make quarts and quarts of applesauce, apple pie, and apple crisps. “Even when they became older, they still wanted to do it with me,” said Marynowski. “Even when they were at university, they would pick a weekend to come home and bake. And, as adults they pick, peel and bake with their kids.”
Marynowski also remembers baking with her mother as a child. “Mom was an incredible baker. We had homemade desserts every night.”
As Marynowski continues, a key concept rises to the top. Baking with kids, especially passed-down recipes, serves up more than just a sweet treat. “Recipes are memories. Certain smells like cinnamon bring back memories and, as you get older, you cherish these memories,” said Marynowski.
Delane Marynowski’s tips for baking with kids
Patience It’s not only a virtue but the true flavor of baking with kids. Allow yourself enough time to do the recipe so you do not feel rushed. (Note: With 31 years as a physical education teacher, mother of two and grandmother of 14, Marynowski claims she had to learn patience over time, but anyone who knows her would “bake” on it that she was always patient.)
Balance Let the child be a child and yet have structure.
Individualize Each child learns differently, so treat each child as an individual. You do not want to squash their spirit.
Be hands on Allow the child to roll up his/her sleeves and do math as he/she measures, feels different ingredients and mixtures, and appreciates the art and science of baking.
Be realistic Pick a recipe that fits the child’s age, stage, attention-span and personality.
Get messy Have faith in your aprons, dish soap’s ability and post-baking cleaning skills, and ignore the mess until your dish is in the oven. When it is clean-up time, make it fun with music or a special drink like sparkling cider or herbal tea.
Enjoy Like life, baking is about the process. The outcome is, of course, delicious, but savor the journey just as much as the result.