Ever wish you could come up with a summer activity for your kiddos that you could feel good about because it not only teaches them something new but saves you some time too? How about picking some perfectly ripe fruit, teaching your kids a bit about baking, and then miraculously having your family's dessert for the week made in the process?
Whether you have just a few hours or the whole day, scoping out some fresh summer produce and turning it into a dreamy dessert is a great way to spend quality time with your kids in the summer. And depending on their age and ability level, your kids might just discover a real passion for working in the kitchen and for some new foods...and you just might gain a new sous-chef in the process.
This project walks you through the ins and outs of harvesting and baking with kids through the lens of an afternoon spent making a peach pie. And once your kids master this made-from-scratch recipe, you can use this same strategy again and again for each newly ripe summer treasure.
To make the peach pie:
- Step stool / chair
- Fruit peeler (This automatic rotating peeler HERE is great for kids to use with parental guidance. It lets kids feel like they are completing the project themselves without using sharp knives or peelers.)
- Child-safe knife (A knife like the ones shown HERE are great so you can let your child be independent without wondering if they are going to lose a finger.)
- Cutting board
- Large mixing bowl
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Pie pan
- (2) butter knives
- Wooden mixing spoon
- Rolling pin
- Pie rolling mat
- Hand juicer
- Plastic wrap
For the pie crust:
- 2 cups flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup Crisco
- 1/2 cup cold water
- (+ 1/2 cup flour for rolling out the crust)
For the pie filling:
- Fresh peaches (approximately 8 large)*
- 1/2 cup sugar*
- 1 tsp cinnamon*
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice (or 1/2 fresh lemon, squeezed)
*Give your child a little freedom here, within reason.
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Step 1: Find Fresh Seasonal Produce
If you don't already know what's in season or what you can find freshly picked near you, take advantage of the pick-your-own portal HERE that will tell you where you can fresh produce near you.
There are four main ways to get fresh produce:
- Grow your own (We like to grow a couple easy items ourselves - like blackberries and rhubarb - and the kids learn a ton watching the process of the food grow.)
- Pick your own (It's always fun to find a local orchard or berry patch to go picking at...but make sure to go before it gets too hot and always wear shoes that can get muddy.)
- Farmer's market (Usually produce found here has been harvested locally and somehow always seems to be higher quality than anything you get at the grocery store.)
- Grocery store (This is the fastest and easiest, but rarely the yummiest.)
We started our summer at a strawberry patch and turned out picking efforts into strawberry shortcake. Then we harvested our own blackberries and made jam before making this peach pie. And we are already looking forward to apple crisp once summer comes to a close...
Step 2: Pick an Appropriate Project
Once you decide what fruit you want and how you are planning to get it, it's time to pick a recipe. Involving your children in this process is critical, because it gets their buy in and makes them excited for the project. Make sure to steer them toward a recipe you feel you could comfortably make on your own, because baking with kids is definitely not easier than baking on your own (and if you have anxiety about what you are making, there will be way too much angst in the process for you to enjoy this activity with your kids).
Note: If you aren't able to squeeze a trip to the grocery store in, Supercook is a great website to help you find out what you can make with the contents of your existing garden and pantry.
For our project, we purchased a half bushel of Red Haven peaches (my favorite summer harvest) from a local Amish farm market so my son could make a peach pie for his first grade teacher who had recently told him how much she loved pie.
Step 3: Plan for the Project
We all know most kids don't have the same attention span and dexterity for baking as a grown adult who is used to preparing meals all of the time. Because of this, it's important to go into the project with a solid plan so you can streamline certain steps of the process and/or break large projects into steps that can be completed with breaks.
- Tip #1: Get out your supplies in advance. You don't need to get everything out - my son loves to get the ingredients out of the pantry for me - but appliances or tools you will use should be handy before you begin.
- Tip #2: Kitchen counters fall around the average adult's waist height for a reason. We need leverage to be able to complete many kitchen tasks. Kiddos need the same. Make sure you find a stool or chair that your child can sit, stand, or kneel on to be at a height that works for the task they are completing. If there are trying to mix a thick pie dough at shoulder height, they will get frustrated and exhausted so help them enjoy the process by keeping their height in mind.
- Tip #3: Think about the timeline for the project. How long does the recipe say it will take? Whatever that time is should probably be doubled when cooking with kids. Also, think about whether or not the project has to be completed all at once or if it can be broken into steps. For this pie, the dough can be made and then chilled so you can take a little (or long) break before diving into the peach filling.
Step 4: Sneak in Some Learning
How many kids know how to correctly measure and level flour? Not too many, but yours can! Take the time to show your kids the correct way to do kitchen tasks. It's easy to assume they need help or need a simplified version of a task, but give them a chance and watch them absorb all the know-how you are willing to give.
Here are a few easy things to teach your child with this peach pie project:
- How to measure flour (HERE is a link to a great instructable refresher.)
- What is cutting and why do we do it for dough (a great explanation from The Spruce Eats can be found HERE.)
- How to hold a knife (End the project with all the fingers you started with! Read THIS knife tutorial from FineCooking.)
- Why sugar makes fruit juicy (Some serious science for curious minds can be explored HERE.)
Step 5: Let the Kids Take Some Control
Let's be honest. There are some parts of baking that need to be pretty precise, but there are others that you can loosen the reigns on a bit. In this recipe, the number of peaches and the amount of sugar and cinnamon in the filling are great options to hand over to your children.
For our pie, most recipes I looked at quoted anywhere from a half up to a full cup of sugar. So, I asked my son how sweet he thought it should be and let him pick within that range. He loves cinnamon so I let him sprinkle in what he thought was the right amount (with guidance, of course). Need to poke a few holes to let the steam escape? Hand over the artistic reins to you child!
Letting your child customize the project in little ways give them a real feeling of ownership and pride in the outcome and is well worth sweating a few small bullets for.
Step 6: Don't Forget to Have a Little Nibble Along the Way
After cutting up four or five peaches, anyone deserves a little treat, and a kid will be thrilled to get to nibble at the project as you go along. My kids both get a kick out of eating the peeled skins of apples or peaches when I'm baking, and those are loaded with nutrients so you can feel great about letting your kids nibble away.
I almost always (when safe) let my kids taste some ingredients or lick the bowl of whatever we make and it makes all the difference in turning what could be a chore into a reward.
Step 7: Put It Into Practice - Making Peach Pie
Now that you've read through the strategy for making great summer baked good with your kids, here's a recipe for a yummy peach pie to get you started.
1. Make sure your gear is all ready - including appliances, aprons, stools, etc.
2. Wash up! My kids have three rules they recite to me before we begin any kitchen projects:
- Be Safe!
- Wash Hands!
- Don't let germs get in the food!
I recommend incorporating your own kitchen rules before you begin any projects.
3. Make the dough.
The following ingredients make enough dough for the top and bottom crusts of a pie. In a large mixing bowl, mix 2 cups flour and 1 tsp salt. Cut in 1 cup of Crisco. (Be patient. This may not come naturally for little ones.) Mix in cold water and combine until a ball is formed. (The dough will be very thick and you may need to help stir!) Split the dough into two equal halves and wrap each half in plastic wrap to refrigerate until later if you think this project may take you more time than less.
Tip #1: Use the Crisco left behind in your measuring cup to grease your pan.
Tip #2: Rinse out the bowl to reuse for the filling to save some dishes!
4. Make the filling. Peel and slice the peaches (approximately 8) into a large mixing bowl. We used a rotary peeler and kid safe knife to make this task manageable for a 6 year old. Keep a close eye on your child at all times when they are using a knife. Add 1 Tbsp lemon juice and sugar (~1/2 cup) and cinnamon (~1 tsp) to taste. Add 1/4 flour to thicken the mixture and set aside.
5. Roll out the crusts. Lightly flour your pastry mat or clean counter-top and knead the dough slightly until it is not sticky. Continue to make sure the work surface has a light coating of flour on it and begin to roll the dough into a circle slightly bigger than your pie plate. Gently lift the pie dough using the rolling pin and lay it over the greased pie pan. Press the dough gently to match the shape of the pan and trim the edges of the dough that extend beyond the edge of the pan.
Tip #3: While most recipies tell you to preheat your oven at the beginning of the project, you will likely not need to preheat your oven until you reach this step since your little one may be taking slightly longer than the recipe anticipates. Preheat the oven to 375F.
6. Fill the pie. Gently pour the filling into the pie and spread it evenly around the pan. Ideally you will have enough filling to mound slightly above the top of the pan. Once complete, repeat step 5 to create the top crust.
7. Seal the pie. Along the edge of your pie, the top and bottom crusts should be touching. Gently press them together and then fold them under, together. Once all edges have been tucked under, you can crimp the edges with a fork or your fingers to seal. You may want to check on your kiddo's work here. It's not the end of the world if you pie leaks a bit (ours did), but less is better. Once your pie is sealed, cut a few air holes in the top for steam to escape through. This is another great time to let your child customize the project by making the steam holes into a design of his own. My son chose to make a "B" and a "1" because his first grade teacher's name starts with a B. I loved it.
8. Bake the pie. You guys did it. Your pie is ready to go in the oven. Pop it in and set a timer to check on it after 45 minutes. Your pie is done when the crust has started to brown and you can hear the peaches boiling inside. Once done take it out to cool and chill before serving (to set up the filling inside and make it less runny).
Step 8: Some Final Thoughts
Activities like this require a little extra patience, but are well worth the investment. Go into the project assuming you may get some peach juice and flour on the floor and have some rags ready to clean up the counter and little sticky fingers. Try not to have a strict time agenda you need to keep to so you can stay relaxed and go at your child's pace. Sometimes it would be a lot easier to step in and take over, but try to let them learn and push through as much as possible. I helped my son with a couple of the last peaches when the novelty was starting to wear off and he was getting a little tired of chopping. And I helped him shape the dough when he was rolling it out (since I'm not a fan or reworking over-floured pie crusts), but all in all he managed to make a pretty darn beautiful pie almost by himself.
And don't forget: When you serve the pie and your kiddos are beaming, make sure to have everyone at the table thank them for all their hard, yummy work.
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