Baking with children is fun for both child and supervising adult. Apart from being fun, baking provides many hidden lessons for children. Children think that they are making something nice to eat, a cake, muffins, buns, or bread, and they are, but they are also learning both school subjects and life skills without realizing it. The best teachers know that teaching through experience helps children learn much faster and more easily than a boring textbook. It also fixes the lesson more firmly in children’s minds. Baking at home can also be a tactful way to, surreptitiously, coach a child or show them how school lessons are useful in life.
Baking has something to teach children of all ages. Even very little children can stir and pour. The educational value of baking is immense and very varied.
Successful baking requires reading, understanding and following instructions, thinking about a task and preparing properly for that task, preparing equipment, thinking logically and ahead of time. These are all necessary educational and life skills. Comprehension and time management are necessary skills. Baking requires forward thinking and preparation. Whether it is seeing which ingredients are in the cupboard and deciding which recipe you can make using those ingredients, or shopping for ingredients for that special cake there is a learning opportunity.
If you are going shopping for ingredients, let the child make the shopping list. Little children could draw the items. The child learns what different ingredients look like in the supermarket or shop, for example, whilst one buys flour in 2lb bags, one generally buys butter in half pound or pound blocks, but one generally needs more flour for a cake, pastry, or bread than fat.
The organized baker gathers and prepares ingredients and equipment before beginning. This teaches organization and forward thinking skills. For example, the oven must be hot if baking is to rise and cook properly, so one must turn it on well before putting your baking into the oven. Children learn safety in using sharp knives and kitchen equipment properly. Baking is the most scientific branch of cookery and requires accuracy, if the proper chemical reaction is to occur. Baking is an opportunity to teach children the importance of food hygiene, hand washing etc.
Weighing and measuring ingredients teaches children elementary maths skills. If you are halving or doubling a recipe you need elementary fractions, division and multiplication skills.
Baking shows chemical reactions better than other branches of cookery. Bread baking for example is quite magical but teaches sound scientific principles and shows the reaction of yeast with sugar and warmth. Other baking ingredients such as sodium bicarbonate react with other ingredients changing them completely.
Baking can also provide an opportunity for discussing healthy eating, diet, and nutrition. All cookery is both a science and an art, baking is perhaps the most artistic form of cookery. Whether you are decorating a cup cake, icing the Christmas cake, or preparing a special themed birthday cake, you need creative and artistic skills to do so.
Educationalists once downgraded cookery as a school subject, replacing it with something called food technology that covers only commercially manufactured food. However, they are now realizing that cooking and especially baking has huge educational value and that it not only teaches children how to cook and feed themselves, but that it also teaches them skills and lessons that they can apply both to their school work and to their lives.