Baking with Our Littlest Learners

If you need a diversion to help alleviate some of the stress in these final days leading up to the election, we may just have a tasty solution for you…

When the orders to stay at home came in the spring of 2020, certain items flew off the shelves of grocery stores.  Some were predictable, like hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes, others were inexplicable (ahem, toilet paper hoarders, I’m looking at you right now).  One thing that I found really hard to get ahold of was flour, because perfecting one’s homemade bread game was suddenly very in.  If you became one of 2020’s newest wave of bread makers, my advice to you is this: it’s time to involve your kids.  My own breadmaking, which antedates the pandemic, is something that my children are quite curious about and they love when they’re called upon to help.  Lest you think that I have magical unicorn children who don’t make a mess when we work in the kitchen together and that’s why I don’t mind baking with them, let me assure that my children make just as much of a mess in the kitchen as everyone else’s and, since my two year old daughter’s favorite hobby is systematically emptying kitchen drawers, perhaps even more than some people’s.  Let’s talk about why I don’t mind the mess…

Once during a late-night scroll through social media, I read an article about how many skills children acquire in early education settings that they then forget or lose mastery over because they aren’t given the opportunity to practice them outside of a school setting.  Take pouring—your child is not going to get out of preschool without some top-notch pouring experience and then they unlearn or become insecure in their ability to pour because many parents take over the task at home.  Breadmaking with your children is an excellent opportunity to practice skills like scooping, pouring, and, yes, pitching in to clean up the occasional mess.  Not only are these important life skills, they’re also great fine motor practice.  If you and your child knead and shape your loaves by hand, that’s even more fine motor practice and sensory stimulation. 

Baking bread, following any recipe really, also involves practice with math and measurement.  We may halve or double a recipe.  We get practice with reading values off of our kitchen scale and with recognizing the numeric labels on our cup measures. In addition to the numbers practice, working within the parameters of the recipe is an opportunity flex our direction-following muscles—you cannot add extra scoops or pours simply because it’s fun. Depending on the age and interest level of your baking companion, you can expand the science and math talk to discuss the role of yeast as a living organism in the baking process and how temperature and weather informs the function of the yeast.

If you have the time, and of course not everyone does, baking bread with your child is an excellent diversion and a dynamic sensory experience.  You can engage your child’s sense of sight, touch, smell, taste, and—if you count the number of times that you’ll say “Hey! Watch where you’re pouring that!”—hearing.  And, if your kids are anything like mine, their sense of pride and accomplishment over having created something that the whole family can enjoy will be immeasurable.  If bread isn’t up your alley, a lot of these same benefits can be derived from working with kids in the kitchen on other projects.

If you’ve been baking with your kids recently, we’d love to hear about it.  If this post inspires you to get into the kitchen with your family, feel free to let us know or to tag us in your posts. Not sure where to start? There’s no need to purchase a ton of cookbooks. A search of Waldorf+bread will pull up a seemingly infinite number of recipes well-suited to your littlest bakers.

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