Baking with Grandchildren: Five Layer Bars

Baking with ChildrenBaking with grandchildren is a great activity.  The recipe should be a simple one with not too many ingredients.  The recipe is just the beginning of Grandma’s plan.  The recipe should be divided up into child tasks depending on the number of grandchildren and the ages of the grandchildren doing the activity.   Of course, Grandma must try to be fair and give each child a chance to participate, but the appearance of fairness is more important still, especially when use of appliances that may be dangerous to a young child.  Teaching cleanliness and safety is part of the process.

Yes, cooking and baking is a great learning experience, but most of all, children remember this for a long time.  Remember to have a camera ready to memorialize the activity in pictures for the grandchildren’s annual photo album from beginning to the best part, eating the finished product.  Grandma has to be ready to accept a big mess so have lots of old towels and paper towels available.

Now the recipe for Five Layer Bars.  This is a Paula Deen recipe I found on  We made it for dessert for Thanksgiving.  It is perfect for any special family dinner.

Five Layer Bars Ingredients:

  • ½ cup chopped pecans (we left out the nuts because we have little ones)
  • 1 cup butterscotch morsels
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate morsels
  • Graham cracker crust ( buy it or make it with 1 ½ graham cracker crumbs and 1 stick melted butter)
  • 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Use a 9’ by 13’ baking dish.  Buy or make graham cracker crust.  Sprinkle remaining dry ingredients over the crumb crust.  Pour sweetened condensed milk over the layers.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Allow to cool and cut into bars.

Now to preparation.  Prepare yourselves, grandmas, to accept the mess.  I have the grandchildren lay old towels in front of the sink, everywhere on the floor in kitchen, on the work surface.  I have rolls of paper towels near the sink and the workspace.  The garbage pail is handy.  Then we all wash our hands with soap and sing the alphabet song.  ( I do remember Katie Couric  on the Today Show on NBC saying that is how long we must wash our hands to get them germ free).

At this point, with the grandchild reader holding the written recipe, we bring out all that we need to bake, double check, count, smell, touch.  With the smallest, we can even make some music banging spoons and pans.  We can parade with the music too.  We can make up a cupcake song. Hi. Ho. Hi. Ho. …  Remember, the journey is the fun.  Who cares to hurry.  Pictures! Now, grandma divided up the tasks in her head so each gets a chance.  Pictures!

The best thing about this recipe are the new tastes.  The likelihood is that the grandchildren have tasted chocolate morsels, but maybe not semisweet chocolate and most likely not butterscotch!  It takes 15 times of exposure for the grandchildren to like a new taste, but not so much with sweets!  The grandchildren seemed to like both the butterscotch and semisweet.

Coconut may also be a new taste.  You might want to have a whole coconut too, break it open, allow the children to taste coconut milk and smell the coconut.  It might be fun to compare the fresh coconut taste with the shredded coconut and see which they like better.

Sprinkling ingredients is fun and easy as this recipe is fun and easy.  Grandma does the oven thing.  Hot. Hot. Hot. This is a lesson too.  Timer on. Timer off.  Cooling patience is a challenge.

These five layer bars are delicious and addictive.  Fattening too—so be careful Grandmas! Each grandchild has a picture taken with his or her bar he or she made.  Most of the time baths are needed after this stage.  But, kitchen cleanup is a shared task first.  Towels go in the washer.

So much learning with our smelling, tasting, reading, sprinkling, baking, and eating with Grandma.  So much fun, hugs, and delicious



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