The benefits of baking and cooking for children
Most children love to spend time in the kitchen either cooking or baking. It is a fabulous bonding experience with Mom or another caregiver and they always enjoying eating the results of their hard work afterwards.
I love to bake and both my sons have travelled the cooking, baking and eating road with me. Michael, particularly, loves to cook. He prefers to make more practical things than I do such as savoury and/or sweet pancakes, French toast and even stews and curries which he makes with his Dad. I like to make all sorts of fancy sweet treats and cakes.
I remember baking with my small boys. Gregory used to love to measure and pour the ingredients into the bowl. Funnily enough, Greg also loved to wash up. Sadly, this has not continued into his teenage years. I used to strip him down to his nappy and stand him on a few chairs lined up in front of the sink [so that he could not fall off] and set him free in front of a sink of soapy water. He used to splash around happy with a cloth washing up the bowl and wooden spoon. I kept the washing of any sharp implements and breakables for myself.
Michael, on the other hand, has never been a fan of any kind of cleaning up. He likes to measure, pour and, especially, to mix. He also likes to “lick” out the bowl. I have photographs of Michael covered from head to toe in chocolate cake mix with the bowl upside down on his head. What fabulous fun.
Other than the obvious fun and bonding factors, there are a list of other great benefits to baking with your children. I did some research on this and this is what I found:
- Maths skills: Baking helps children to learn maths concepts, in particular, measurement and simple fractions (half a cup, a quarter of a lemon). In addition, multiplication and division are involved if you half or double a recipe. Other kinds of cooking may also involve patterning (for example with salads and kebabs) and simple addition (how many people are you feeding? how many cupcakes do you need for the class?);
- Art skills: Decorating cupcakes, cutting out biscuits and making animals and people out of fondant (sugar dough). All of these activities encourage creativity and develop design abilities. An element of construction can also be involved if you are making a gingerbread house or a marshmallow tower and children learn how to fit pieces together and get a tower to stand up;
Cupcakes decorated for charity by the children of St Columba’s Presbyterian Church Sunday School – Parkview, South Africa
- Comprehension skills: Baking and cooking teaches children how to read and interpret a recipe. They learn to follow a sequence of steps and how to organise the required ingredients. Baking also teaches children techniques and vocabulary such as folding, beating, kneading and blending;
- Science skills: Contrary to popular belief, baking is a science. Children learn the scientific effects of raising agents such as yeast and baking powder. They learn about the interaction between certain substances such as salt and bicarbonate of soda, cream of tartar and milk, yeast and warm water. If they make a mistake and/or leave out an ingredient, disaster often follows which helps enforce these learning points;
Giant marshmallow made by Michael – the scientific effects of gelatine
- Life skills: Baking and cooking with your children teaches them lifelong skills. In the future, the job of feeding themselves and their future families will become theirs. Baking and cooking skills will stand them in good stead when they leave home; and
- Self-esteem: Baking and cooking helps increase children’s self-esteem as they see and taste the results of their efforts. It also teaches children to work together with someone else in a team and that hard work pays dividends in the end.
I am not an occupational therapist but I found the following additional benefits listed on an OT website for children:
- Bilateral coordination;
- Eye-hand coordination;
- Hand strengthening; and
- Spatial perception and planning skills.
These four benefits make perfect sense to me in the context of baking and cooking with children.
So, what are you waiting for, get cooking. An easy way to start is with mini pizzas. You can buy the bases ready made from most grocery stores and you can also buy the tomato paste source to spread on the bases. Grate some cheese, cut up some mushrooms, pineapple, ham and anything else that you fancy and let the kids have fun assembling their own pizzas.
Thanks to Robbie Cheadle for this delicious and delightful post. Robbie, you are welcome to share a post any Friday. You can follow Robbie at: