*Winners of the giveaway are Louise start of e-mail address is edl…) and Juanita (start of e-mail address is ser…). Ladies, you should’ve received an e-mail from me already. I look forward to hearing from you soon. ♥
Mixing chocolate, cream cheese, and other ingredients into a bowl, Rose breathed deep. Her home smelled of Christmastime, and for good reason. It would be Christmas Eve in two days. Grace was on a chair beside her with her four-year-old hands holding a small hammer as she smashed Oreo cookies that were in a plastic baggie.
Grace whacked the hammer against the Oreos and giggled. “I just mash ‘em up good.” She tapped the hammer against the broken pieces of cookie.
“Ya, you do.” Rose put her arm around Grace. “You’re such a good helper.”
Grace never looked up. “I know. What will you do without me once I’m in school.”
“I don’t know, but your confidence is a gift to me all on its own.”
“That warm feeling in your belly that says you’re good at things.”
~~Excerpt from The Angel of Forest Hill
(This is a guest post from Erin, Cindy’s daughter-in-law)
In Cindy’s newest Christmas novella, The Angel of Forest Hill (releasing next week on October 4!), this sweet scene shows our heroine, Rose, baking with four-year-old, Grace.
The scene from the novella and from my kitchen are similar to many scenes that Cindy, I, and many of you have lived out in real life. It’s something the Amish embrace with every child. For the Amish, scenes of adults encouraging children to work beside them is every bit as important as spiritual teachings, and—when the adult gives encouragement, appreciation, and smiles—children usually hop on board with great enthusiasm.
Young children love playing with toys, but they also love to “work” and join in the tasks that make up our daily lives. Imitation activities, such as a child helping a parent or loved one bake help the child gain confidence. Other great imitation activities include cleaning in age-appropriate ways (for example, my four-year-old, Lucy loves to spray non-toxic cleaning spray on the kitchen table, counters, and coffee table and then wipe it down with me), setting the table, and washing or drying dishes. Even though these tasks seem mundane, children learn valuable skills and become more sure of themselves.
As parents we often find it much easier to complete the “boring” tasks ourselves, as children can be very time consuming in their “help.” But it is completely worth it as they grow, a process which happens surprisingly quick!
Although I’m definitely no expert, here are some “tips” I’d like to share from my limited experience on how to make cooking or baking with young children more enjoyable and less frustrating, for both caregiver and child.
#1. Embrace messes.
This is my kids’ play area…after maybe an hour of free-play! I promise it was clean this morning. 😉 But after they helped me bake and clean the kitchen, they played while I finished up in the kitchen.
Life with preschool-age or younger children is MESSY. With how much energy it takes to just pick up after their regular messes, it seems impossible to add anymore messy tasks to my plate some days. But I have never regretted using that extra energy. I’ve found if I sweat the mess they make, I am less in the moment, and I enjoy my day with them a lot less. Yes, the flour will go everywhere. They will spill the brown sugar (probably on purpose) and taste the crumbs. I go ahead and have extra eggs on hand, because one will not fully make it into the bowl. When they work with water in the sink, I throw a towel down on the floor because it inevitably will get wet. I try to live in the expectation of chaos, and somehow it’s not so bad. 😉
#2. Age appropriate expectations.
Speaking of messes, it’s unrealistic of me to expect a child under age five to have the dexterity to get all the ingredients exactly where they are supposed to go.
Often, I will measure and pour the measured ingredients into easy-to-handle bowls, then have the child pour the bowl into the mix. When they crack eggs, I have them crack one at a time into separate bowls, that way if an egg cracks into tiny shell particles, it won’t be in the batter.
For my two-year-old, I’ll have him line muffin tins with ‘cupcake liners’ if we are making muffins. I’ll let him unwrap butter or hold an upcoming ingredient, and he’s so excited that I’ll soon need what he’s holding. My four-year-old can use a butter knife to chop soft ingredients like butter or pour liquid more steadily (and usually get it to where it needs to be), or she can mix dry ingredients with a whisk without the ingredients flying across the room. With different ages, they have different skill sets that they are developing.
#3. Be in the moment and document when you are able.
It’s easy to zone out sometimes, but the cliche is true: the days are long but the years are short. Children grow so fast, and memories of helping a parent or caregiver in the kitchen are precious for all involved. Take some pictures if you are able, or have your spouse, another available adult, or older child do it. The pictures are invaluable!
This pic is from when Lucy and I were cooking for a previous blog post of Cindy’s–two and a half whole years ago! I was pregnant with my now two-year old, Caleb. Time does fly!
Lucy and Caleb now.
The recipe below is the one that Rose and Grace are cooking in The Angel of Forest Hill. We decided that since there is chocolate in it, we needed to test it out. Good excuse, right? 😉 Maybe you can make it with a special toddler in your life.
Double Chocolate Cheesecake
24 Oreo cookies, crushed (makes about two cups)
¼ cup butter, melted
4 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 4-ounce bars Baker’s semisweet chocolate, melted and then cooled*
½ cup blueberries **
Preheat oven 325˚. Mix Oreo crumbs and butter, and press into the bottom of a 9” x 13” cake pan lined with foil. Bake 10 minutes. Beat cream cheese, sugar, flour, and vanilla with a mixer until blended. Add chocolate and mix well. Add eggs one at a time, beating on low speed after each egg, just until blended. Pour mixture over crust. Bake 45 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool to room temperature. Then refrigerate for at least four hours. Use the foil to lift the cheesecake from the pan. Top with berries**.
* Method for melting chocolate via realsimple: Bring about an inch of water to a simmer in a saucepan. Set a heatproof bowl in the mouth of the pot, making sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl. Stir chocolate occasionally as it softens. When you have just a few small unmelted chunks, remove bowl from heat and the residual heat will melt the rest.
**Optional topping. We omitted this and added a chocolate swirl with additional melted chocolate.
Recipe by Carol Steele James, Feed My Sheep,www.Facebook.com/FeedMySheepCookbook/. Used by permission.
For a chance to win a copy of The Angel of Forest Hill please leave a comment below. If you’re a first-time commenter, please read the “Helpful tips” section below.
Only comments made on my website will count as an entry. So if you’re reading this blog anywhere other than on my website and you’d like to enter the giveaway, please hop over to my site (link directly below) and leave a comment to enter.
The deadline for entering this giveaway is Monday, October 3, at noon Eastern Time. TWO winners will be chosen using Random.org and will be contacted privately. As always, please remember that all of my giveaways are limited to US residents only. Please visit my giveaway rules and FAQ page for a complete explanation of the terms and conditions of this giveaway.
Helpful info for first-time commenters:
- The third field in the comment form states: Got a website? This is simply a question. You may leave that field blank. If WordPress would let me, I would remove that question. <smile>
- If it appears your comment didn’t “go through,” it probably went to “moderation,” which is a holding place where WordPress keeps some of the comments until I approve them. If that happens to you, I will approve it ASAP.