Baking with kids is so much more than just finding something to do on a wet afternoon. It’s much more than a simple something to keep them out of mischief. It’s one skill that can teach them so many more skills. It’s more than just making a cake, its maths, it’s vocabulary, it’s science, its character building. It’s teaching them skills that they will use throughout their whole life. Teaching kids how to bake is way more important than anyone gives it credit for.
You might not think its fundamental that your child can bake a cake but you would be wrong. Sorry, I didn’t mean to be so blunt but you are. Teaching kids how to make cakes is more fun, for them, than learning how to make breakfast or lunch. But, the skills they learn whilst baking cakes can easily be adapted to cooking other dishes as they get older. Learning knife skills by cutting the cucmber for lunch is one way but learning knife skills by cutting and pealing an apple for crumble is much more fun. Understanding how to follow a recipe, how to weigh out ingredients, how good it feels when someone enjoys something you have made. All these skills can be applied to cooking as well as baking.
But, baking on it’s own is, or should be considered a life skill. Everyone should be able to make, at the very least, a Victoria Sponge. Teach your kids how to bake this one cake, as best as they possibly can and with a little imagination they can keep playing with flavours. This creates different cakes whilst still baking the same one cake. I get asked so often about how I bake my cakes, there are so many people out there who have never been taught. Because they have never been taught, their kids will never be taught. This will eventually lead to a whole generation, apart from a select few, being unable to bake and that is such a shame. In generations gone by every woman was taught these skills by Mum, by Nan and by their Home Economic teachers. Cooking and baking are fast becoming forgotten skills, like sewing, knitting and embroidery.
Baking will not only bolster their self esteem and confidence but it will give them something to take pride in. Nothing feels as good as making something from scratch that someone else enjoys eating. It makes you feel good that you made them feel good. The pride your child will take in seeing you eating and enjoying his/her creation is something money can’t buy. You may need to master how to control your facial expressions for this one, at least fore the early attempts. For children that are not overly academic, it can give them something to feel good about, something they can do. Start them on simple recipes, let them master those skills before moving on to harder recipes. Watch their confidence soar as there skill level grows. Just be careful they don’t push themselves too far and attept something that is way beyond their skills level.
The techniques like kneeding, rubbing in, peeling and coring fruit and measuring ingredients will all help develop their motor skills. This may seem more important in younger children, but if you have tweens or teens that have not been in the kitchen as lot, some of these skills still need to be learnt. As simple as it sounds, mixing cake batter in a bowl can aid motor skills. Have you ever watched a child handle a wooden spoon? It looks un-natural and awkward, the fine motor skill it takes to control the spoon needs to be developed as much as the skill in using a knife and fork. Baking teaches them this without them even knowing they are being taught. Cause and effect will also be understood. If I tip this bottle of vanilla up too fast it will all pour out over my spoon. If I squeeze my icing bag too hard the frosting comes out in a big blob. They will not only understand what they need to do but to also control the speed and strength they use to do it.
Recipes are written in measurements, measurements are part of the math curriculum. Knowing something on paper is different to doing it in practice. My teenage son is amazing at maths, and understands measurments but when I had him bake a cake on his own last week, he asked me how many grams was 150 mililitres of milk. It’s didn’t occur to him that mililitres was volume and the other was weight. Seeing it for real, helped put it into context.
Baking at it’s base level is science. We beat some ingredients to add air, then stabilise it with flour before putting it in the oven and allowing all the little air pockets we have created expand, making the cake rise. We add an acid, such as lemon juice to milk to create buttermilk, as the acid causes the milk to curdle. We add bicarbonate of soda to our flour blend, an alkaline, so it reacts with the acid, our buttermilk, causing our cakes to rise. Explaining why we do things and why we use certain ingredients and what is happening in the oven is a science lesson all of it’s own.
Taking the time to make cake from start to finish can take some time but it’s interesting and it’s different, and will keep the attention of even the most lively of children. The more they do it, the longer they will be able to concentrate for. If this is a particular issue for you child, start with really simple recipes that don’t take too long and build up slowly.
Baking is a whole other language. Things that mean one thing in daily life mean something else in baking. It will open them up to these words and their alternative meaning as well as new words. A crumb can be something that falls off your bread or it can be used to descibe the texture of a cake. Beating can involve lots of bashing or it can be as simple as using an electric mixer to force air into your butter/margarine and sugar mixture.
Baking with kids not only shows them how to bake a cake but how to behave and handle themselves in a kitchen environment. It teaches hand washing, clean as you go principles, knife usage and lots more. Things we, as adults to automatically in the kitchen, behaviours we need to become aware of so we can pass them on.
If you are teaching your child to bake gluten free or dairy free or vegan, then this is a huge word and concept that they need to understand as soon as possible. They need to understand how easy it can happen in your own kitchen, as simple as putting the flour spoon into the sugar as well as being vigilant about it when eating out. For anyone eating an alternate diet this is part of life. The earlier they are introduced to the principles the sooner they will become second nature to them.
Teaching your child to bake is a great way to spend some time together, just you and them. This is great if you have more than one child. If you teach them separately, they both will get some one on one time, and it won’t cause any arguments over who does what bit or if one can do more than the other. As fas as teaching older kids go it’s a great way to get them off their screens. It’s gives you a chance to chat naturally, without it seeming like you are interogating them.
Have I convinced you yet why it’s so important to teach your child how to bake?
I really hope so.
Are you unsure of where you go next? Unsure of what your next step should be?
Check out our other 10 Baking Basics That People Dismiss article. There is a Gluten Free or Vegan option.
Our Baking with Kids class is make up of 10 recipes. They build up from nice and simple to those that will be a bit more challenging. You could start with Flapjacks or Butterfly Cupcakes before moving onto Marble Cake and Glazed Baked Donuts. Each recipe also comes with alternative flavour suggestions, so the recipe can be made more than once without getting boring.
The class also comes with a range of Better Baking Guides. These guides cover baking skills, top tips, troubleshooting and ingredient recommendations.