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 pureed banana.
- 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.
Homebaking.org provides more than 130 how-to’s for getting started baking, ingredients, methods and pans.
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