Baking with Children: What they learn

by Lily Maznah Muas

Ahh.. Don’t you love the smell of cookies in the oven, or a freshly baked cake?  Even more so if they are home-baked with love.

Baking is a fun activity with delicious results that can be done together with your children.  Baking is a great bonding time for the family too. Keep in mind that practice makes perfect, so the more you allow your children to try, the better the results will be (and less stressful for the parents).  However if you have children in the kitchen, do make sure all safety measures are taken care of first. Expect there will be spills and messes, so keep towels handy to clean up as soon as they occur.

Photo: Alimkids Bukit Jelutong

So, let’s get started!  What do children learn as they bake?

1.Touch The Texture

Most ingredients that we use to bake have different textures.  Let children learn about different textures such as the soft fluffy flour, the coarse sugar, the slippery yolk and the hard walnuts.  Put aside these items and allow then to feel them with their hands. Ask them to describe what they feel. Discovering new texture means learning new vocabulary and enhances their language skills.  Do a comparison between different types of ingredients to find out which is the most slippery, or the hardest.

Children love rolling and shaping the cookie dough.  Let them explore these with their hands and discover different shapes they can create with the dough.  

2. Solids, Liquids and Gas

A pack of butter kept in the fridge is solid.  Put it in a pan over fire, it will melt into liquid.  How about chocolates? What is the best way to melt chocolates?  Over boiling water is the best as chocolates burn easily. Learning and seeing how different items react to heat is an introduction to science.  How about steaming method of cooking? Water is boiled and the vapour is used to cook our chocolate cake. Who would have thought science is so interesting and tasty!

3. What Is This Smell?

Love the smell of lemon?  How about baking a lemon cake?  Just add some grated lemon rind into the batter and you can enjoy your lemon cake for tea.   Baking an apple pie? Add some cinnamon powder to the apples and your kitchen will smell heavenly.  Fancy some vanilla cupcakes? Just add vanilla pods or vanilla essence to create delicious cupcakes.

Allow children to smell the different essence and spices.  Explore mixing different essences to create one of your own.  Play some games where they are blindfolded and try to guess the ingredients based on their smell.  It will be fun!

4. Maths Skills

The recipe says “Add one and a half cup of flour” and you only have a measuring spoon of half a cup.  How many spoons do you need to fill? This is a great way to introduce the concept of fraction to older children.   For younger children, you can teach them counting by counting out loud the number of spoons of flour was added. You can also ask them to get 4 eggs or 2 cups of water as a way to learn about numbers.

Numerical concepts (more, less, same) can also be learned while baking.   For example, when baking for 50 cupcakes, we need 2 eggs. If we want to bake 100 cupcakes, do we need more, or less eggs?  If more, how many would that be? What about for 200 cupcakes? Be creative and make the learning fun.

5. Motor skills

Photo from Alimkids Bukit Jelutong

A simple act like cracking an egg requires skills in young children.   They may create a lot of mess when they try for the first few times, but with practice, they will be able to do it skillfully.  Show them how to do it and allow them to try repeatedly. Beating the egg manually is also a good exercise of their motor skill as well as beating the batter with a mixing spoon.  

Children love colourful sprinkles on top of their cakes and cookies.  Did you know that sprinkling these colourful small candies using fingers is an exercise of fine motor skills?  

Apart from learning the above, baking also help children develop their emotional and social skills.   They learn to be careful when doing the measurement, learn patience in waiting for the final results and learn about sharing when enjoying the cake together. 

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