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How to let them help without losing your head

Submitted by on Wednesday, 23 December 2009 No Comment

projects_with_kidsI love it when the guys help me with projects. I really, really, do.

We’ve made fish cakes with enough icing to sink the Titanic and cookies crammed with so many sprinkles you could lose a tooth trying to take a bite.

There are times, though, when I want something to look half decent, which means that their little helping hands are anything but. I don’t blame them for being confused – why is it OK to pitch in sometimes but not others? I also don’t blame me for being frustrated. The combination has led to some ugliness.

Those days are over now that I’ve figured out the key to happy baking with the guys. Give them something to do. Let them think it matters even if it doesn’t. Let it be all their own, in all it’s icing-licking, sprinkles-dumping glory. Their little project will keep them occupied for as long as their attention span will hold, after which you’ll have the kitchen blissfully to yourself.

Like many -oh, OK, make that most – of my brilliant parenting strategies, this one was born of sheer desperation as I struggled to finish baking cut-out cookies one night. It’s not my favorite task in the world to begin with, but I do it because of the payoff of the finished product.

Tired of hearing them beg for a cookie  of their own, I dug out a six-inch cutter and plopped it in the dough. And then I did it again.

“We’re going to bake cookie brothers,” I said. “And tomorrow when I decorate the cookies, you’ll have your own.”

Their eyes lit up as if I’d handed them the Hope Diamond. Or maybe a Wii, which is actually far more valuable in their world.

“That great big cookie brother, all for me?” Boots asked, incredulous.

“Yep. All for you.”

kid_projectsThe next day, as I dragged out the frosting and sprinkles for the real deal, the guys grabbed their cookie brothers out of the bucket. Fortunately, I was able to insert a baking pan between them and the counter. It came in handy later, if for no other reason than to catch sprinkles that could be recycled.

The results were cookie brothers in hues unknown to the natural human complexion, covered in sprinkles, chocolate chips and Skittles. As a bonus, they happily munched their own creations and left the “for company” cookies alone.

I’d call the project a success.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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