A four-year-old has a limited attention span and, given the opportunity while helping with a baking project, they will undoubtedly add extra flour or other ingredients, scatter huge amounts of flour, and eat batter until they feel sick. To prevent such opportunities, while still engaging them in baking projects, set the stage before you begin. The French culinary term is mise en place, putting everything in place before you begin. Have all of your ingredients ready before you invite your child to help. I find that if I have everything arranged as though I am going to host a cooking show, the process goes much more smoothly than if I have to leave my daughter’s side for any reason!

I wish I always utilized mise en place, when cooking or baking–with or without children. However, I usually jump into cooking with too much haste, hurriedly beginning with the first ingredients before I have the rest prepared. I imagine that if I got into the habit of laying everything out at the beginning, cooking would feel more leisurely!


The following recipe for butter cookies is one of the easiest recipes I’ve come across to make with little ones, as it comes together in one bowl and the dough is easy for children to hold and shape. Also, I appreciate that this recipe makes a relatively small batch, limiting the over-consumption of cookies by both child and mother!


Butter Cookies with Chocolate Chips

Adapted from Three-Ingredient Butter Cookies by Big Girls Small Kitchen

  • Yield: 20–25 cookies
  • 25 minutes


  • 1 stick of butter
  • ¼ cup plus one tablespoon sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 handful chocolate chips


  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter for about one minute. (I let my daughter help with this, with one hand over hers on the hand mixer).
  3. Add the sugar and continue to beat for several minutes, until well-blended.
  4. Add the flour to the butter-sugar mixture and blend with a spoon or spatula.
  5. When the soft dough has formed, form into walnut-sized balls and press into shape. Arrange over parchment paper on a baking sheet, one to two inches apart (I’ve found that the cookies don’t spread much).
  6. Place one chocolate chip in the center of each cookie. Or use two chocolate chips to make eyes and another for a mouth. Bake for 15–20 minutes, or until cookies begin to achieve a slight golden color. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes on the sheet before transferring to a cooling rack or plate to cool completely.

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