I was speaking with a friend on the phone the other week and she said 'have you done any baking together?'
Up until that point I had always thought that Harriet (14mo) was too young to help in the kitchen and she wouldn't understand what to do. I just baked whilst she played around me and watched when she wanted to. I have to say, this made me think that I wasn't being the best mum. Maybe I wasn't giving her the credit she deserved. Our children grow so quickly and at such a rapid rate that I almost still see her as a baby. She amazes me everyday with a new trick or sound so why couldn't she help stir some eggs and flour.
So, the next time I decided to bake, I brought Harriet into the kitchen and plonked her onto the side (I was very close, don't worry). I measured out the ingredients into little bowls to try and limit the mess (I have a clean freak problem) and gave Harriet a wooden spoon. She sat and held the spoon in the mixing bowl and I poured in the eggs and soft butter. Then, like a child, Harriet started to mix them together. Yes, it wasn't the most efficient mixing I had ever witnessed, and it was a little messier than I would have hoped but considering I had never thought about allowing her to help, it was pretty amazing!
Once she had finished with her mixing efforts, I helpfully continued and added the rest of the ingredients with Harriet watching and playing with the measuring cups. She was enjoying herself and I was loving that I was baking with my daughter. WIN WIN!
So at the end of this, the kitchen was still in one piece, I had witnessed Harriet mixing which I never thought she would do until she was at least 3 and we had delicious cake at the end of it to enjoy.
I have memories of baking with my mum as a child. My mum was a great quiche baker and often baked them in bulk. This meant lots of pastry and often off cuts that I would bake with. My lucky dad would be the one that would have to eat my boring tasting baked pastry. I thought they were the best thing because I had made them, and all I had actually done is roll out some left over pastry and use cookie cutters. Looking back, I watched my poor dad eat dry flavourless pastry whilst I watched with a huge smile on my face waiting for the 'yum, delicious'. No wonder he often said that he'd 'eat it later with a cup of tea'.
Therefor, my conclusion would be that if you are baking and you have a young toddler, its never too early to get them involved. (I'm hoping it's not just me that has been neglecting my child's baking needs).