There are so many lessons that can be learnt and taught while baking

Spending time in the kitchen and baking using new recipes helps children to develop a positive connection to different types of foods. Children will also learn basic cooking and kitchen skills that they can use for the rest of their lives.

For a hesitant eater, tasting an unfamiliar food can be intimidating. You can help your child explore foods when cooking, using other senses besides taste. This helps to build positive associations with food. Kneading dough, rinsing vegetables, and tearing lettuce all involve touching food and being comfortable with texture.

The complex flavours we experience when eating food come from sensations of taste on the tongue, texture in the mouth and smell via the nose. While cooking with new ingredients, some children may feel too overwhelmed to taste them. If this happens, you can suggest smelling a food first; this may provide a bridge to tasting in the future.

Baking with kids provides practical experience with many essential skills such as reading, following written directions, and measuring. Getting involved helps your child develop fine motor skills, eye-hand coordination, and even early concepts of math and science.

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1. Maths and science

There are so many lessons that can be taught while baking. Math concepts like counting, measurement, division and fractions naturally unfold when navigating a recipe with kids.

Explaining how food changes with temperature or how certain foods help our body be healthy provide great lessons in science.

While baking with your child, practice new vocabulary as you describe how ingredients look, feel and taste. Following a recipe from start to finish and cleaning up afterwards helps build the skills for planning and completing projects.

2. Bilateral co-ordination

Developing good bilateral coordination skills can help children to tie shoelaces, cut with scissors and draw a line with a ruler. Baking can give your child many opportunities to develop and use their hands in a co-ordinated way.

Rolling balls of dough, rolling out dough with a rolling pin, and flattening dough with their hands are all great ways to practice these skills. Sifting flour into a large bowl is also a good bilateral activity: it trains a child to use one hand to ‘support’ while the other does the hard work.

3. Eye-hand co-ordination

Pouring ingredients into bowls and jugs, and pouring batter into tins are good ways for children to practice their eye-hand coordination. Decorating cookies with icing or putting icing on cupcakes also uses eye-hand coordination.

4. Hand-strengthening in baking

Baking with kids can give children lots of opportunities to strengthen their hand and finger muscles. Squeezing dough into balls gets the hands working. Even sprinkling cheese on pizza bases can give their fingers a good workout!

5. Spatial perception and planning skills

There should always be a recipe involved when baking with kids! Whether they read the recipe themselves (in words or in pictures) or follow your verbal instructions, following a recipe can boost your child’s listening and sequencing skills. Following instructions is an important school readiness skill, and baking can give your child lots of practice in this.

Helping your child to organise him/herself in the kitchen and clearing up afterwards is also a helpful life skill. Work with your child to take dirty dishes to the sink, ‘clean up as you go’, and pack all the ingredients away afterwards.

Spatial perception and planning skills are also boosted when your child must cut out cookies. Encourage your child to get as many cookies as possible from a single roll-out of the dough – this will challenge your child to place the cookie cutters in a way that minimises waste.

In addition, don’t forget how special it can be for a child to spend time creating memories with a caring adult. So, enjoy these special moments together!

Article by Jacqui Smallbone, Head of Academics at Crawford Pre-Primary Lonehill