Not-So-Easy-Bake Oven

Now, Why Did I Think Baking With Kids Would Be Fun?

I really, really should have known better.

Emma Chao/Scary Mommy; Getty Images

I have so many wonderful memories watching my mother bake while I was a child: licking cake batter off the mixer paddles, scraping chocolate icing out of the bottom of the bowl, paying close attention as she smoothed the egg whites out over my grandmother’s cinnamon bars and rolled wedding cookies between her hands. And when I had a child, I knew that I too wanted to make wonderful memories in the kitchen.

But I also remember many, many times when I woke up to things my mom had baked overnight for various occasions. This was partly because she was a busy woman. But I now understand another reason she often made things after we went to bed: because it is an absolute disaster trying to bake with children. Please, just let me make these chocolate chip cookies in peace, at midnight if necessary!

I once made the mistake of buying my kid a children’s cookbook. I have now hidden that cookbook, because every weekend she wanted to bake something. 1) We don’t need to eat a cake every weekend 2) I’m not a Great British Baking Show contestant and cannot produce a gorgeous unicorn themed confection, even without the “assistance” of a kindergartener. It would be one thing if she were 11, with much better patience and motor control. But she’s not, and so I find myself huffily fishing eggshell pieces out of the brownie batter and arguing with somebody — whose butt I’ve spent a lot of my life wiping — about the right way to stir.

Then she never actually wants to eat all the baked goods, leaving me with an entire Tupperware full of cookies to eat.

This is all very contrary to the image of baking with mom that you’ll get from popular culture, especially baking at the holidays. All those TV Christmas movies are downright obsessed with Christmas cookies, and grandma’s special Christmas cookie recipe, and how it isn’t Christmas without the cookies. Watch a couple of them, and you’ll see entire families with matching Christmas aprons, specifically for this one day a year, and a milk crate’s worth of cookie cutters. Everyone gathers around their expansive kitchen table or island and goes to town on what looks like 4 full batches of dough, angelic smiles on every face and not a single muttered expletive over the fact that the unicorn cookie cutter looks like a blob. Who lives like this??? Not us, that’s for sure!

Obviously, baking is just one example of something that seems fun and relaxing and memory-making to do with kids, until you actually try to do it. See also: going to the beach, Christmas tree shopping, apple picking, several wintertime sports, a really high percentage of crafts, and basically any organized tour of anything, anywhere, of any kind.

It’s just that it’s very easy to forget the level that kids are actually operating on and get frustrated before remembering that, duh, they’re kids. Of course they can’t break an egg without getting shell in the yolk, and of course they want to do it themselves. Didn’t we all?

But I have to admit, there is a circumstance where baking with small children is, actually, exactly everything I want: when it involves a broader community of people. I recently had friends over for cookie decorating and promptly threw out my back, which means that I ended up sitting in my kitchen and watching everybody else do it. At one point, I looked up and saw a friend patiently collaborating with my kid on making icing of the proper consistency. Another memory of success: a playdate where the hosts presented each of the kids with their own baking tray of precut dough to decorate. It makes sense that really; I’d enjoy watching my kid bake with my mom most of all.

I stand by the fact that baking with your child in isolation is one of those classic oh-God-this-was-supposed-to-be-fun activities. But it’s like everything else in parenting: doing it in isolation stinks and will bring you to the absolute edge of your temper (and beyond). Doing it with a village? Pretty great, actually.

Kelly Faircloth is the executive editor at Scary Mommy, where she commissions freelance pieces; if you’ve got a story you’d like to share, pitch her here! She’d love to hear from you.

Previously, Kelly worked at, where she was a senior editor and also wrote about royal gossip and romance novels, along with body image and history. She grew up in Georgia between a river and a railroad, and she has a lot of questions about the world-building in Paw Patrol.