The holidays have been a tad long, the chilly weather keeps you inside and everybody’s suffering from a bout of cabin fever. Instead of opting for more screen time, consider moving things to the kitchen and embarking on some culinary adventures with your children. Bake with your kids.

The benefits of baking (and cooking) with children range from one-on-one communication whilst spending time together in a cosy kitchen, to refining motor skills. You also teach them some basic mathematics and science concepts while having loads of fun.

During these activities all parties are kept busy and the end results will be something yummy to help with those constant ‘mom, I’m hungry’ requests.

Rolling, kneading and cutting

Tasks like mixing recipe ingredients, rolling or kneading dough and making use of cookie cutters can increase a child’s motor-skills in strength and control. Baking can give younger children the opportunity to develop and use their hands in a coordinated way.

Making Chocolate Date and Nut truffles with Montagu Dried Fruit & Nuts’ quality ingredients is a fun family activity that will give young fingers and hands good exercise moulding and rolling the yummy and wholesome balls.

Rolling balls of dough, rolling out dough and flattening dough with their hands are good ways of allowing children to practice bilateral coordination skills. Sifting flour into a large bowl is another a good bilateral activity because it teaches the child to use one hand to support the bowl, while the other hand does the sifting. Pouring ingredients into bowls and jugs will help children practice their hand-eye coordination, while helping to decorate cupcakes or cookies also enhances hand-eye coordination. Activities such as squeezing dough can help strengthen muscles in their hands.

You can help to improve their motor skills even more by allowing them to slowly pour ingredients or batter into a bowl and helping you to mix the recipe ingredients together.

Trust older children with more tricky tasks such as helping to flip the flapjacks and making scrambled and fried eggs.  Use a basic cookie recipe and allow them to decide on the shapes and decoration themselves, allowing them to give their imagination free reign.

Teach children to organise themselves in the kitchen and show them the importance of working in an organised way, cleaning up as they go along and leaving a clean kitchen.

Classroom in the kitchen

Believe it or not, you can increase your child’s enthusiasm for science and maths with baking because it involves a great deal of measurement. They will learn about measurements such as cups, teaspoons and tablespoons. They will also understand fractions as well as utilise addition and subtraction skills.

In addition the baking and cooking process will teach them about the interaction between the various ingredients; for example, what happens when you add baking powder? And how will salt change the taste of the food you’re making? They learn about what happens when various ingredients are mixed together and also see for themselves what the result is when measurements are incorrect or if the instructions are not followed correctly.

Author and education consultant Ellen Booth Church says that experimenting with recipes offers children practical, hands-on experience when it comes to making observations and predicting change.

Let’s hear it for literacy

Baking also benefits overall literacy skills. Following a recipe and learning that the numbers, letters and words mean something very specific will give children the opportunity to see the end result of the recipe they have to follow first-hand.

Make your children read the recipes when you bake or cook. Younger kids can identify numbers such as ‘2 cups of raisins’ or ‘2 tablespoons of ginger’, while the older ones will be able to read every step and follow the instructions, something that should also help them with reading  comprehension.

By following a recipe they develop their listening skills, learn to follow a logical process to its end, and learn about sharing skills and tasks and taking turns… after all, only one person can be mixing those ingredients or get the cupcakes out of the oven at a time.

They will also learn the art of patience to wait for the cake to be finished before the tasting tests can start…

Confidence, communication and time to bond

Children love being able to bake or cook something themselves or even just being involved with decorating the cupcakes you’ve baked for them. And they will learn the value of team work. Helping you bake a special treat or prepare a meal will make them feel proud and confident, boosting their self-esteem, showing them they are valuable and can master new skills.

Baking or cooking sessions will also give you time to communicate, explain the things and concepts you’re working with, discuss the tastes and flavours you experience, talk about food that’s good for you, and best of all, just have a good old chat about everything they love and like.

It’s probably going to be a messy story, but bite your tongue, try to look the other way and have some family fun!

Try Montagu’s fun biscuit recipes and share your sunshine moments with us on Facebook and Instagram tag us and use the hashtag #MontaguKitchen #ShareTheSunshine to stand a chance of winning one of two R1500 Montagu hampers.

Just for fun: DIY icing bags

Homemade icing bags are easy to make:

  1. Make a basic glaze icing from icing sugar and a small amount of water. It should be just enough to make a smooth paste, but should not be too runny.
  2. Place one or 2 tablespoons into the corner of a small plain plastic bag, tie a knot in the bag and then snip off the corner. 
  3. Allow your child to squeeze the icing out of this corner on to the cookies or cupcakes. And don’t forget about using sweet but healthy dried fruit options like juicy cranberries or raisins to decorate those cupcakes, cookies or muffins.