Moms love making holiday memories and there's no
better activity for this than baking with your kids. Reason enough
to risk getting flour onto your kitchen floor.
Yet baking also can be about literacy and life skills. And
nothing beats the smell of freshly baked goods emanating from your
kitchen, especially during this magical time of year. Revel in this
sweet-smelling activity and invite the aunties and cousins over for
even more fun.
Benefits for kids
If you're worried about your children's literacy and math
skills, break out the mixing bowls. Baking helps reinforce what
they're learning every day. It also covers a wide array of life
skills, including shopping for ingredients, sequence of steps,
measuring and even cleaning up.
Here are a few ways baking together can help:
- Reading. "Your kids will actually become more literate just by
reading and going through the recipe," explains Sharon Davis,
a family and consumer sciences educator who teaches for HomeBaking.org and WheatFoods.org.
- Science and math skills. Explain the role of baking soda and
powder in baked goods and how they differ from yeast. Recipes may
involve multiplication or fractions.
- Problem solving. What happens when you run out of an
ingredient? Or you lack the exact size pan the recipe recommends?
Your child will learn how to solve these little problems, which is
practice for tackling bigger ones later in life.
Healthful ingredients included
Davis says making food healthier is one of the principal
reasons people bake at home. Take sodium, for example. She suggests
using unsalted butter and halving the salt in most recipes with the
exception of yeast breads.
Other easy swaps:
- Any recipe you make yourself can be made with whole grains. In
addition to wheat, whole grains include oatmeal and whole grain
cornmeal. It's easy to substitute whole grain for half the flour.
Consider white whole wheat flour or the new ultra-grain whole wheat
flour if taste and texture flags go up.
- For liquids, consider substituting 1/4 to 1/3 cup pumpkin,
cooked sweet potato or squash, grated carrot, apple or zucchini or
- Add dried fruits to almost anything, including yeast or quick
breads and cookies. Or sprinkle toasted nuts on top of pancakes or
muffins or knead into yeast breads.
Tips for getting started
- Pick out a recipe together.
- Get tools that are easy to use with young children. Look for
large numbers, visible lines and sturdy spoon handles. A whisk, two
baking sheet pans, three nested mixing bowls, 9- by 13-inch cake
pan, 9-inch square cake pan, 12-cup muffin tin and two bread loaf
pans can get you started. A rolling pin is helpful, but a 1-inch by
1-foot dowel rod works just as well for kids.
- Store the tools in a low cupboard or drawer and let the kids
help you get them out. Allow time to read the recipe together and
assemble the ingredients and pans before you start.
- Teach your children the difference between dry and liquid
measuring cups. Measure liquids flat on the counter with a liquid
measuring cup. To measure dry ingredients, fluff into dry measure
cups, then level off.
more than 130 how-to's for getting started baking, ingredients,
methods and pans.
Christine M. Palumbo, RD, is a nutritionist living in Naperville.
See more of Christine's stories here.