Baking with Small Humans

It was always going to happen that any child of mine would inevitably end up in the kitchen a large percentage of the time. Three years down the line this is absolutely true. My daughter, thoroughly enjoys spending any time in the bakery studio as much as I do and having her by my side sharing my love for baking.

Baking and cooking provide several opportunities to develop a child’s skills in a fun and messy way. With the summer holidays fast approaching, this is a perfect opportunity to get in the kitchen!

I’ve often been asked when did I start cooking with her, well-looking back at photos -basically from the point she could stand. It all started with just being able to mix some flour and water and playing with the utensils, to making yummy pretend food with playdoh. There was really no structure or rules just an extended form of imaginative messy play most of the time, as often she’d want to follow me when I disappeared to the bakery studio and it was a good way to keep her little hands occupied.

2015play cooking* Make sure your child is supervised in the kitchen at all times *

At the age of 1 when I returned to work, baking together became and even more important bond making exercise between us, as my free time was now so precious. Whether we made cupcakes for her to take to nursery or just because we fancied cake, as she grew, so did the skills she gained, without me really giving much thought to what she had picked up along the way.

biscuits 2016.jpg

My mother is a health visitor so is always a great support in any questions I have and after both friends, family and nursery commented on how nicely my daughter held a pencil I questioned how she might have gained this skill and the phrase “fine motor skills” were mentioned, so I set about some research on the topic.

And who knew? I had been encouraging baking with my daughter, as it was what I knew best and loved to share with her, but as well as baking with children being lots of fun if rather messy, also had many other benefits. In fact there were many studies done on how some of the skills from baking can help support the development of other skills utilising these fine motor skills.

Fine motor skills are those skills which require a child to manipulate and gain control over a range of materials and tools. Fine motor control is the coordination of muscular, skeletal, and neurological functions used to produce precise movements (such as pointing to a small item with one finger instead of waving an arm toward the general area). These skills are often for communication purposes, both functional and expressive. For example, writing a name or message, manipulating a computer mouse, creating a sculpture, and so on.

Source: http://www.childfun.com/articles/providers/fine-motor-skills/

The development of fine motor control in children is used to determine the developmental age of a child. Below are some basic areas and ideas of how easy it is to encourage some of these valuable skills through baking specifically:

 


Bilateral Coordination

Baking can give your child lots of opportunity to develop and use the hands in a coordinated way and although they may start with more ‘ flat pancake’ creations once they master this skill you’ll have worms and snakes rolled out very frequently, well I do anyway!

2017daddys cake* Make sure your child is supervised in the kitchen at all times *

Rolling balls of fondant, rolling out dough with a rolling-pin, and flattening dough with the hands are all great ways of letting children practice their bilateral coordination skills.

Sifting flour into a large bowl is also a good bilateral activity: it helps trains a child to use one hand to “support” while the other does the heavy work of patting the sieve, a bit like patting your head and rubbing your tummy.

 

Developing good bilateral coordination skills can help children to:

  • tie shoelaces
  • cut with scissors
  • draw a line with a ruler

 


Eye – Hand Coordination

This is one area which even very young children can do with only a small amount of help initially, pouring ingredients into bowls and jugs, and pouring cake batter into tins are all good ways for children to practice their eye-hand coordination.

Decorating cupcakes with icing or putting frosting on biscuits are also good ways to practise their eye-hand coordination. Practice makes perfect and before you know it you’ll be told the same as me “I don’t need help, i can do it on my own!”

2016play cooking2* Make sure your child is supervised in the kitchen at all times *

Hand Strengthening in Cooking

I don’t only bake with my daughter I also encourage her help at dinner times to partake in helping with simple cooking tasks, these can all help give them lots of opportunities to strengthen their hand and finger muscles. Obviously with age comes the harder tasks but often the things she’ll do in play, like chopping playdoh are the exact same set of skills as cutting butter, so these strengthening skills are so transferable.

2018play cooking3* Make sure your child is supervised in the kitchen at all times *

Squeezing dough into balls, stirring ingredients, hand whisking eggs or sprinkling cheese on pizza can give the fingers a good workout,  the task does not need to be hard or structured and there are really no rules, just expect a bit of mess!

Even in the bakery decorating cupcakes can have several levels of practice for hand strengthening from adding the butter icing to their own creations using a piping bag or adding the finishing touches, sprinkling a lot of sprinkles on the top. You don’t need fancy tools to get started.

Make you own icing bag:
Its simple to make a homemade icing bag for use with butter icing, royal icing glaze or even melted chocolate (make sure chocolate is cooled before use though). Use a small plastic sandwich or freezer bag and fill it with your chosen icing topping (make sure it’s not too runny in consistency to provide some resistance when squeezed out.), tie a knot in the bag (or use an elastic band) to keep the icing in the bag and then snip off one corner, the hole doesn’t need to be big, now your ready to go!

basic glaze
All you need is a small amount of icing sugar and a tiny bit of water – just enough to make a smooth paste without being too runny.

Your child can then squeeze the bag to get the icing out onto the cookies or cupcakes. Depending on their hand strength, you can let your child use one hand, both hands or even the tripod fingers (this is that key pencil grip position).

happy decorating!!

2017daddys cake2* Make sure your child is supervised in the kitchen at all times *

Spatial Perception and Planning Skills

Of course as we all know baking is a more precise form of cooking, where correct amounts of ingredients need to be used to create that perfect fluffy light cake. A recipe is always involved and whether your child reads the recipe themselves (in words or in picture form) or they follow your verbal instructions, following a recipe can boost your child’s listening and sequencing skills.

I often draw out a pictorial version of the recipe (or shopping list), let my daughter colour it in and then use it as the recipe card where she can tell me what the ingredients are, how many we need and then point out the ingredients which match the pictures.

2018play cooking4play cooking5* Make sure your child is supervised in the kitchen at all times *

Following instructions are an important school skill, and baking can give your child lots of practice in this. Even basic things like clearing up messes, putting all the ingredients away once used or washing up bowls and tools can help your child to organise themselves in the kitchen and also give them life skills like “clean up as you go”, although even us adults can work in organised chaos, adding a child to the kitchen can disrupt the order massively, trust me, wear an apron!!

i often see these exact same skills transferred over to free play where she’ll repeat and remember the things taught in her own play, especially in her wooden kitchen, counting eggs, stirring, mixing, all these exercise continue to strengthen the fine motor skills and her imagination to what she can create! cake picnics are a frequent event in out house hold and her culernary creations are often very creative!

You can boost your child’s spatial perception and planning skills when they are tasked to cut out shapes. By challenge your child to get as many shapes as possible from a single roll-out of dough or fondant encourages your child to place the cookie cutters in different ways that minimises waste, this can even be done with play dough as a fun alternative.


Doing Math Whilst Baking

With the realisation that im often out smarted by my three year old and that they are like big sponges at this age, ill take any opportunity to help her learn and practice all types of skills. Unlike my father who is a maths whizz i favour the simpler sums but your child is never too young to use numbers in a fun way such as baking.

Letting your child bake with you will help them learn about measuring and about number concepts in real life. We started with counting out eggs and cups of flour and now do basic sums which involve using some ingredients and working out ‘how many are left?’ or ‘how many more do we need?’.

Make it fun!

Baking enriches oral vocabulary too, I’m always surprised by how much my daughter has picked up through repetitive use of words such as beat, whisk, spatular, and sift, these are all fundamental words within baking or cooking, but may need some explanation (and demonstration!) use these fun activities to use them in conjunction with the ingredient names and all the tools used and before you know it you’ll be being told what to do and how to do it correctly, Great British Bake Off here we come!

Children learn through experience so even the basic things like the difference between a teaspoon and a table spoon can be fun!

Three years down the line, i’m more often than not told “i can do it myself” and its a joy watching her love to create something, seeing how all those little lessons of fun have come together and how she has grown with so many of the fine motor skills i was so unaware of in the beginning.

2018rhubard cake1ruhbard baking2* Make sure your child is supervised in the kitchen at all times *

 

In summery just enjoy baking with your small humans, its fun, educational and reasonable cheap to get involved in, plus theres yummy treats to be shared at the end (even if there are far too many sprinkles).

Here is a basic cookie recipe to get you started, which isn’t too messy!!

Ingredients:

1 egg
225g Self Raising Flour
100g Brown Sugar
125g unsalted butter
1 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 tsp salt
200g chocolate chips (dark, white or milk)

Method:

  1. heat over to 200 celius
  2. Blend butter and sugar in a large bowl
  3. add egg and vanilla essence and mix well
  4. sieve flour and salt until combine well
  5. add chocolate chips and mix together
  6. roll balls of mixture to about 2cm by 2cm and place on a baking tray with baking paper, don’t put them too close together as they do spread!
  7. place in preheated over for 7-10 minutes until lightly golden.

 

Try out some of these key baking and cooking activities to get those fine motor skills working:

  • Stir mixture with a wooden spoon ( remember the thicker the batter, the more challenging, they will need some help to fully bind dough).
  • Sprinkle the chocolate chips into the mixture using just your thumb and pointer finger together to spread.
  • Kneed dough – Make tiny cookies by rolling small balls of dough between your thumb, pointer and middle finger as well has larger ones rolled between palms of the hands.
  • Use of two hands together (bilateral integration) – Use a rolling pin to roll out dough and use a cutter to shape the cookies instead of rolling balls and squeezing them.

Follow the recipe together (verbal or read) it will help address multi-step direction, working memory, organisation skills and sequencing, try drawing out the ingredients too, you don’t have to be an artist but simple pictures, numbers or simple words for your child to follow along, will include them and provide a structure to the baking. Remember to always ask your child “what’s next”, they love learning and spending time doing baking!


My Top Baking with Small Humans Tips:

  1. Social skills – If your bake with more than one child, there’s a lot of social negotiation that has to occur. Who is going to do what? and Whose turn is it? these are critical social lessons that apply to all sorts of situations. Even if it’s just you and one child, you are still modelling turn-taking and waiting skills. You can also let the children decide what parts of the recipe they want to measure and stir, etc. Great for developing negotiation skills too!
  2. Preparation – get all the ingredients out first, with lots of space and have multiple tools, likes spoons so that you and your child can have one each. Also don’t forget to have towels or a wet cloth handy, as spills will happen and wear aprons!!
  3. Participation – there will be lots your child can get involved in but there will also be some parts, like putting things in and out of the oven which are still an adult job, but tell them about this stage and encourage watching from a safe distance.
  4. keep it simple – its the experience and learning that is important, not how complicated the final bake is, so go for fun not fancy!
  5. Enjoy it –  I have very fond memories of baking with my parents and still feel that special closeness when I’m baking on my own or with my daughter. Baking is a great fun way to connect with your child, so enjoy making memories!

 

Play Dough Activity Cards

Of the back of this learning experience i created something additional for the summer months! As my daughter is learning letters, shapes and counting i created some really basic play dough cards for her, which have be very much enjoyed and have aided her letter recognition and counting in a fun way.

I’ve since developed these fun travel size play dough cards with a “baking theme” aimed at children 2-5, but even beyond this age could still be fun and educational. The idea is use one of those many pots of playdoh you have at home already along with these set of x16 double sided laminated cards to practice some of the fine motor skills in a more controlled (slightly less mess free) way, they help encourages rolling, shaping and counting as well as letter recognition and words ‘beginning with’.

PLAYDOUGH CARDSPLAYDOUGH CARDS2

As always my daughter helped try these out and have proved a favourite to take out and about to entertain her and her friends whilst mummies do what mummies do! Im just working on some packaging to be able to have these as a sellable set very soon!


 

Counting Number Cards involve putting a set number of something on the image, encourages them to count how many they have done and how many left to do as well as using their imagination to what sweets look like or candles.

playdoh cards actionplaydoh cards action3playdoh cards action6

Letter cards with uppercase and lower case letters to trace with play dough as well as baking themed flash card like associated images and words.

playdoh cards action2playdoh cards action7

Activity cards with number counting, shape identification and moulding encouragement activities to practice shaping the play dough into different shapes.

playdoh cards action5playdoh cards action4

These cards are already packing in her activity backpack ready for the next outing, she especially liked pointing out items she recognised from having been in the kitchen and telling me how to roll or pat the dough for each activity.

I’m working on getting these branded so that your little ones can get their own set for fun filled days regardless of the location! follow me on instagram to see when they’re launched and ready for purchasing…


 

Recent Work

Check out my other blog posts to see what ive been creating or follow me on social media to keep-up-to date with new projects

facebook_icon   Vist my facebook page for more recent creations

instagram_icon   Follow me on instagram for more recent creations

 

If you have a project or idea that you think i might be able to help with please drop me a message and i can get in touch

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