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4-year-old baking star's mom: Get kids in the kitchen

July 8, 2013 at 2:09 PM ET

baker
Courtesy Jill Fehrenbacher
Petey Rojas, 4, gets his mix on in the kitchen.

Petey Rojas has enjoyed baking since he was 2 years old – way before he was a YouTube star. One of the first dishes he made with his mother was vegan pumpkin chocolate chip cupcakes. When she saw how much fun her son was having, Jill Fehrenbacher thought it might translate into a great video for her website, Inhabitat.

Noticing a lack of how-to cooking videos with toddlers, Fehrenbacher posted the video of Petey baking the vegan cupcakes, the first of three created by Fehrenbacher with the help of a friend videographer.

“Petey likes to elaborate and ad-lib funny comments like, ‘the sugar looks like snow,’” Fehrenbacher told TODAY.com. “The first video came out really well and after that we thought this was really fun, let’s do more of these.”

baker
Courtesy Jill Fehrenbacher

A video of Petey baking vegan red velvet cupcakes for Valentine’s Day back in February went viral, catching the eye of mommy bloggers and the food world. Fehrenbacher was surprised by the sudden attention and number of interview requests she received. The New York City mother-son duo recently released another video, with Petey demonstrating how to bake vegan bread shaped like snakes and snails. He makes cute quips about whipping up yeast “soup” and contemplating how yeast lives in our bodies.

Each video takes about two hours to make as Fehrenbacher helps her son bake and remember lines. Petey occasionally gets distracted and needs help getting back on track.

Petey told TODAY.com his favorite recipe is pumpkin chocolate chip cupcakes, and that he wants “to try making noodles some day, and toast with vegan butter.”

“My favorite part of baking is pouring stuff,” Petey added.

For now he enjoys just having fun in the kitchen and hasn’t mentioned wanting to grow up and be a baker or chef yet to his mom. When asked what he does want be, he had a long list, including “a doctor, an astronaut, a paleontologist, an astronomer and a construction worker.”

Fehrenbacher encourages more parents to try baking with their kids.

“[Baking] may not be the first thing to come to people’s minds, but they [toddlers] love to get involved and if the recipes are simple, you supervise them, and keep them away from the oven, it’s a great learning project for young kids,” Fehrenbacher said.

We asked Fehrenbacher to give us her tips on getting kids’ hands dirty in the kitchen and she shared a mouthful.

1. Start young

“Kids of all ages love to get involved in the kitchen, but little ones especially are excited to have 'a job' and something important to do, so catch 'em while they're young and malleable,” she said.

2. Start with baking (bread or cupcakes are good, simple recipes)

“Baking is a great place to start with young kids because it generally doesn't involve knives, chopping or range-top heat, so it's safe for even the youngest kids; it produces something sweet and delicious that your child will enjoy eating when you're done; there are not a lot of ingredients or complicated steps if you pick a simple recipe, so it is something a young child can really engage in from start to finish without too much "take over" from the adult chaperone,” Fehrenbacher explained.

3. Stock up on colorful, child-friendly baking gear and an apron for your child

“Nothing is more affirming and encouraging for a pint-sized budding baker than to have their own child-friendly cookware and apron set. You'll want to have measuring cups, spoons, roller, spoons, etc. Make sure the apron fits and is easy to clean and the cookware is safe, actually works and sized to the hands of your child.”

4. Measure beforehand for the young ones

“If your kids are really young and can't understand the abstraction of measuring out cups and teaspoons, measure and prep all of the ingredients ahead of time so that your child can concentrate on the fun stuff - pouring and mixing! For older children (older than 6) who are in grade school, measuring out ingredients is actually a great way to work on reading and math skills.”

5. Make it fun!

“Tailor the activity to your child's age and attention span,” she said. “The younger your child, the more supervision and ‘heavy lifting’ will be required from the grownup. A 2-year-old can start baking but will need a lot of oversight, advance prep and help from their parent in terms of measuring ingredients, mixing and baking in the oven. The older kids get, the more they're able to do on their own.

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