Teaching kids to bake–the whys and hows

Teaching kids to bake, the hows & whys
Written by Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool and writer at Steady Mom

About a month ago, I started teaching my children to bake. For years they have watched and “helped” me in the kitchen, standing around the center island with their own mixing bowls. But recently I felt my kids were ready to bake on their own.

I expected this would be fun–but I had no idea how much of a positive impact it would have on our homeschool.

Baking is now a core component of our school day on Tuesdays. (Doesn’t this bring to mind Little House?!)

“Ma used to say: Wash on Monday, Iron on Tuesday, Mend on Wednesday, Churn on Thursday, Clean on Friday, Bake on Saturday, Rest on Sunday. Laura liked the churning and the baking days best of all the week.”
Little House in the Big Woods

Want to know how and why we’ve added baking to our curriculum?

The Whys

Independence

Haven’t you noticed that kids around age 8 desperately want to act “grown up?” Many aspects of adult life still lie outside their reach, and that frustrates them.

The idea of baking and cooking without assistance connects with the deep yearning they have for more freedom and responsibility. In a homeschool setting, we can easily give them this chance to spread their wings!

Excitement

Much of our family’s homeschooling philosophy comes from the principles of Thomas Jefferson Education.

Two out of three of my kids are currently starting to move from the first phase of learning, called Core Phase, into the second, called Love of Learning.

As its name suggests, love of learning phase is all about falling deeply in love with learning–learning that which excites them as students. And what kid doesn’t find chocolate chip cookies exciting? I rest my case.

The start of adult skills

After we finish this class, I plan to introduce a cooking class, then a household cleaning class, and so on.

Our baking course is therefore the start of learning adult skills. (My children already help with meals and cleaning, but these will be more formal, structured lessons.)

Venturing into formal learning

As you’ll see below, our baking class is fairly structured. As an interest-led homeschooler, most of our learning is informal. With these adult skills classes, I’m paving the way toward more formal learning in the future–but in a way that still inspires and connects with my children.

As I watch Trishna and Jonathan read recipes aloud, concentrate and focus on their task, and measure ingredients, I am deeply convinced that this activity “counts as homeschooling.

The initial idea for adult skills classes came from the book A Thomas Jefferson Home Companion–I then adapted the concept to what works best for our family. For those just beginning to learn about Thomas Jefferson Education, I recommend reading Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning first.

The Hows

1. Each child over the age of eight is “invited” to enroll in the class.

I invited each child separately to have a tea time in front of the fire with Mommy. I did my best to make it an inspirational moment, explained the baking classes to them, presented them with their binder (see below), and asked if they’d like to participate.

Trishna (age 9) and Jonathan (age 8) are currently taking baking lessons with me (individually, not at the same time). Elijah (age 7) knows his turn will come soon, and I made him a binder too–though it’s empty at the moment–so he wouldn’t feel left out.

2. Present the child with a binder.

This binder holds the syllabus for the class, recipes as the child progresses, and information for any adult skills classes they take in the future.

3. Get baking!

I made a list of ten items that we’ll learn to bake. The children make each recipe three times: once with me teaching, once with me there to help as needed, and once all on their own!

This means that it will take us about 30 weeks to finish this class. I sign off in their binder when we complete each week’s lesson.

Note from Jamie: Check out my follow up post, Recipes to bake with your kids, for links to the specific recipes we use and love.

4. Graduation

We agreed that when they can make all ten items without help, they graduate!

To celebrate, we will host a party for them where they can invite friends and bake all the treats themselves to show off their new skills. Steve and I will also buy them their own apron as a graduation gift–fun, right?!

Free Printable

It’s simple to create your own, but you’re welcome to download and print out the baking “syllabus” we’re using. Enjoy!

I’m stunned to see that my eight-year-old son can make three loaves of bread from scratch, and I watched in awe as my daughter whipped up her first batch of chocolate chip cookies. Now this is my idea of a living education!

How have you integrated learning adult skills into your homeschool?

This post originally published on November 12, 2012.

About Jamie Martin

Jamie is a mama to three cute kids born on three different continents. She serves as editor of Simple Homeschool, and blogs about mindful parenting at Steady Mom. Jamie is also the author of two books: Steady Days and Mindset for Moms.

Comments

  1. Jeni says:

    YES! This looks like the most fun part of homeschooling – and I can’t wait until we get there!!

    I have a 5yo who’s not quite reading yet; he and I bake together with simplified (i.e., pictorial) instructions…but I just realized as I read your post that it’s mostly parent led. I love the scaffolding you provide with the “Mommy Taught Me” / “I made it myself with mommy watching” / “I made it all by myself” stages.

    A question for you: how is it possible to focus on baking with the one child at a time, when the other kids know it’s going on? My 3yo has the irresistible urge to participate in everything, which means not a lot of one-on-one time with Sam. Is this something that gets better with time?
    Jeni’s latest post: Photoshop Elements for Bloggers: a Video Workshop

    • Yes, that will certainly get better with time, Jeni! And it makes sense that a 3-year-old would be interested (in everything, right?!)

      My other kids are interested and will come check out how baking is going with a brother or sister as well. Of course that’s fine, and then a gentle reminder that their turn is coming (& that they’ll get to sample all the goodies!) usually helps.
      Jamie ~ Simple Homeschool’s latest post: Teaching kids to bake–the whys and hows

    • Jenni, I let my 3 year old have his own time with helping, since I need to watch him more closely. One trick I have is to have them learn to crack eggs IN A SEPARATE BOWL, then we fish out the shells and they get to pour it into the batter. My 3 year old is pretty happy with cracking eggs, pouring and stirring, and gets his turn in, so then I let the other kids help w/ more complicated recipes or chopping. Or if he insists on being in there w/ your 5yo, you could tell them they have to NOT TOUCH until you give them an instruction or out of the kitchen they go. That usually helps my kids stand nicely and wait their turn w/ out dumping the flour on the floor accidentally. Usually.
      CharityHawkins@TheHomeschoolExperiment.com‘s latest post: Peaceful Christmas Gift Pack

    • Anne says:

      I started teaching my older kids to cook when I was expecting my 5th. It was amazing. I needed to be able to work with one child at a time, so I arranged the other kids at the dining table with the oldest reading books to the younger ones. Where your oldest isn’t reading yet, you could get the picture books with the accompanying CDs for the 3yo to ‘read’ while you cook with the 5yo. If you are okay with using the internet many of the libraries have access to TumbleBooks talking books that read to your child and show the story just as it comes out of the books. You could have the 3yo sort things into a muffin tin. Or put stickers on a page or anything that interests that child that he can do by himself, in your view while you work with the 5yo. And like was mentioned before, make sure you give the 3yo time to cook with you alone as well. Think about how the cooking is done and see if there are ways to shift the instructions to make it safer for a young child. For example, my 3yo loves to make baked potatoes. She can wash them (I have to help poke them) and she puts them into a COLD oven. Then I tell her which buttons to push to turn the oven on and set the timer and she comes running to get me when the timer goes off. She ‘cooked’ the baked potatoes ‘all by herself’ because she put them in the oven! She is careful enough to put raw eggs into a pan to hard-boil them. I put the pan on the stove and she uses a chair and a cup to fill the pan with water. Then I turn it on and she tells me when the timer goes off. If you look carefully at your favorite recipes, you will see lots of ways to change them in little ways so that even the youngest can cook.

  2. Rachel says:

    This sounds great!

  3. Heather says:

    What a fun class to have for your kids. Mine help me in the kitchen with most of my cooking. They love to add spices and stir and knead dough. Of course they are only 2 and 4, so they aren’t making things on their own yet, but I’m sure when they are old enough we will do something similar. What types of recipes are you making with them?
    Heather’s latest post: first winter CSA share!

    • I took the specific items out of the spreadsheet so that you guys could fill them in yourselves, but the items I chose were: granola, homemade bread, brownies, scones/biscuits, chocolate cake, chocolate chip cookies, muffins, and a pie.

      The last two items they get to choose themselves. Also we decided that these first eight will be made with only natural sweeteners–then they can use white/brown sugar with items 9 & 10 if they’d like to. Hope that helps!
      Jamie ~ Simple Homeschool’s latest post: Teaching kids to bake–the whys and hows

  4. Ashley says:

    Great idea to have “Adult Skills Classes!” My kiddos are younger, but so far we seem to be fairly interest led with me trying to add basic stuff to what they are interested in. We’ll see ho wit goes once we are out of kindergarten! lol
    Ashley’s latest post: Frosted Gourds

  5. Beth says:

    I’d love to see chocolate chip cookie and brownie recipes that only use natural sweeteners! I get making pies, breads and even cakes with only natural sweeteners, but I my imagination doesn’t stretch as far as a chocolate chip cookie!:)

  6. Jessie says:

    I love this! As an avid baker myself, I cannot wait until my kids are old enough for this. Back in my babysitting years, I baked with kids all the time and it really is amazing how much they are learning. Not to mention how deeply satisfying it is to create delicious food from scratch. :-)

  7. I LOVE the idea of the skills binder. I’ve thought of doing something similar but haven’t gotten around to it yet. My kids (8,6,3) do help me a lot at Thanksgiving with shopping, cooking, preparing. But that picture is simply not fair! Now I’m all hungry for fresh (gluten free) homemade bread, and I can’t do it today. Sigh. If only we could order a fresh hot yummy piece of bread to be delivered with this post…
    CharityHawkins@TheHomeschoolExperiment.com‘s latest post: Peaceful Christmas Gift Pack

  8. Rosemarie says:

    Baking and cooking are wonderful skills for children to learn. William age 9, has been baking on his own for about a month now. He picks the recipe, finds all the ingredients and go about it. I am always close by to answer questions but he really does it all himself and feels so proud of himself.
    Both my boys have always helped in the kitchen and know their way around pretty easily. It’s great when we are all together cooking a meal.
    Rosemarie’s latest post: Sunday Smiles

  9. Myah says:

    I’d love to see your 8 recipes! :)

  10. Lila says:

    What a great post ! We too started cooking classes. My 9 years old is allowed to do it by herself as long as she feels confident enough and that I am nearby. Her little sister now 6.5 can help sometimes too but knows she will have to be older to have the same privileges.
    Will look at your curriculum tonight on a big bigger screen than my cell phone ;)
    Thank you
    Lila
    Lila’s latest post: Pink suspended

  11. Jenn R. says:

    I really, really like this idea. The binder is brilliant. What a neat way for kids to see and be reminded of what they can do, instead of what they can’t. I look forward to doing this with my kids. Thanks!

  12. Marla says:

    What a great idea! I have an 8 year old son who went to 2 cooking classes last summer and would love to learn more. I’m going to share this with him and see what he thinks. Thank you so much for sharing. Love it!

  13. Nola says:

    This is a great idea! I think though that it depends on the child (and I think you would agree) as at my house my almost 7 year old is already doing some things like this, although much more informally. I love this idea and want to do this now your way (but with my child a bit younger).

    • Jamie says:

      Yes of course, Nola! As in everything, kids are ready for things at different times. One of mine would also have been ready at seven, but we just chose to wait a little longer for a few different reasons.

  14. sarah says:

    I love this idea, though we are in such a tricky spot right now. We have a 8.5 year old (whose interested and ready to learn to bake and cook), a 6 year old whose just about there, but then we also have a 2.5 year old super active little boy who wants to get into the middle of everything and “help” (ie. make a big mess!) I only can see this working during his nap time, but that’s also mommy’s time off and everyone else’s rest time. Any ideas on when to try to fit this in? :)
    sarah

    • Jamie says:

      I suggest making sure everyone has a turn–meaning that you would do baking with your youngest (in some capacity) that same day as well. Maybe if you do it first with him, it will make it a little easier when it is another sibling’s turn.

      Experiment and you’ll come up with an idea–and this is real life, so not every baking lesson is an incredible experience, if you know what I mean. It’s more about the principle behind it!

  15. Sammy says:

    What a great idea! My oldest two are 8 and 7 and are very ready for this. We’ve already started learning how to make “meal foods”–oatmeal, scrambled eggs, etc.

    Jamie, would you (or anyone else) be willing to share what recipes/ideas you have your kids do–are we talking cookies and breads or desserts or what? I’m eager to hear what other kids do!

    Thanks!
    Sammy’s latest post: Detour or Roadblock?

  16. Holli says:

    If you dont mind, would you share the other sections of your “Growing up” folder? I love this cooking idea and although mine help me in the kitchen, I do have to admit that it is time for them try a few on their own…

  17. Thank you Jamie for sharing this wonderful plan to make baking part of your school week. I love the structure you set up and choosing a day for baking as part of the school schedule. My almost 12-year-old daughter learned to bake from her Grandpa (yes, Grandpa & Grandma both bake, but Grandpa is the expert in our family!) and she loves baking for parties & occasions. However I could see something structured like this really exciting her to build on her skills.

    My 10-year-0ld isn’t as self motivated but she does like to help, so I like your idea of “inviting” them to take the class as well. I will see what she says… :)

    I definitely plan to share it on our NextGen Homeschool Facebook page!
    Renee Gotcher’s latest post: NGHS Journal: Elections night party and the morning after

  18. Julia says:

    I learned to bake during breaks from school, since my mom was a college instructor. After high school, I went on to major in biology and always did well in science labs.

    Though I love baking for its own sake, I believe baking skills tend to transfer well into working in the sciences. When I worked in a laboratory after graduating from college, many of my coworkers, male and female, were excellent bakers. Coincidence? I think not.
    Julia’s latest post: Great Read-Aloud Books to Fire the Imagination

  19. se7en says:

    Oh this is just brilliant!!! My kids love cooking and joining in… One year we took a a great family cookbook and just worked our way through it together… we did outings to the flour mill and went in search of a dairy and obviously cooked our way through lots of recipes… the kids loved it and so did I… Yup, we definitely called it school!!! You can read about our project here: http://www.se7en.org.za/the-river-cottage-family-cook-book-fun
    se7en’s latest post: Se7en + 1 Visit The Yuppie Chef HeadQuarters…

  20. Two Cowgirls says:

    This is such an amazing idea! I’m going to make my worksheets tomorrow! Do you have other tasks besides baking? I imagine I could do cooking, cleaning, and sewing sheets as well. Anything else?

    Thanks for sharing :) My 8 year old is going to LOVE this!!
    Two Cowgirls’s latest post: Two Cowgirls Preschool – Letter Z

  21. Elizabeth Kane says:

    This is such a great idea. These are such great life skills to have – they’ll all have a leg up on other kids their age. Honestly, other adults three or four times their age!

  22. Nicole says:

    I love this idea, Jamie! So exciting to think of doing this with my kids in a few years. I think Gigi would LOVE the learning aspect and the feeling grown-up aspect of it.
    Nicole’s latest post: It’s Happy Holiday Mail Time! {Shutterfly giveaway}

  23. Shannon says:

    to those asking for a list of other ideas to include in an adult skills learning plan~

    There are lists floating around in the TJEd circles and I’m pretty sure in one of the two books Jamie listed, but really you just need to think of any skills you want your children to have when they leave your home. Find a quiet moment to ponder what you knew how to do and what you had to learn how to do when you left home and those first years away – and imagine life for your child when they are at the same phase – and jot down any ‘adult skill’ that comes to mind. Here are some more examples: financial (writing a check, balancing a check book, budgeting, Quicken), car repair (change the oil, change a tire, how to drive a stick shift – I think everyone should know how to as a safety issue – think being at a party with a friend who has had too much to drink and the friend’s car is a manual), meal planning and preparation (more than spaghetti and jarred sauce!), laundry, gardening, how to paint a room…anything really that you remember needing to know or will feel like your child will need to know once they are living on their own. Once you start thinking in these terms many ideas will come to you.

    • Holli says:

      Brilliant I guess I didnt take long enough to break it down into those terms. (I was at work while reading the blog lol) Thank you for my ‘light bulb” moment.

  24. stacey says:

    I love the ADULT SKILLS binder! I’ve always had life skills as part of our learning, but putting it into a binder with clear sequencing is brilliant! My oldest (who is doing Oak Meadow) would love this added to her curriculum. Thanks Jamie!

  25. MomStarr says:

    I noticed that you mentioned posting links to recipes later. Will you please include the bread recipe that the 8 year old is able to make!! Thanks for the inspiring post!

  26. karen says:

    I love this idea. What 10 items did you decide on? I see choc chip cookies and bread which are two awesome items!!! I can’t wait to start this with my kids. I was trying to figure out how to teach them how to cook more formally and this is great! Thanks again for the great idea!
    karen’s latest post: Time 4 Learning Review

  27. Love the binder idea and “enrolling in a course.” My girls would want to do it just because it sounds so grown up! Thanks for the idea!
    Andrea
    Andrea @ No Doubt Learning’s latest post: The Wise Owl Factory– Don’t Worry Worms!

  28. Tehila says:

    In every day life, I am constantly pointing out what I am doing to my children. Even the mundane activities will be explained. For example, if I am writing a to-do list, I stop and tell my children that in order to help uncrowd mommy’s mind and make sure mommy doesn’t forget to do anything today, I have just grabbed a piece of paper and a pen, and am writing things down that are in my head that need to be done. I explain that I will cross off each item as it gets done and it makes me feel better.

    That is just one example. The truth is that I am already in the habit of pointing out what seems obvious to me, to my children. For the most part, habits and activities that are mundane or come naturally to me, are new to them, and they are often quite fascinated with learning the ways of the “adults.”

    Thank you for this post!

  29. You are so organized. My poor kids, learning to cook and clean with no binder to show for their efforts. Just supper on the table (smile).
    renee @ FIMBY’s latest post: Am I Living it Right? (is the wrong question)

  30. Joyce says:

    This is great! Thanks! I see adults struggle with some things like simple baking and other home tasks because they weren’t taught, and it’s not something I want my kids to be frustrated by. My girls have always helped me in the kitchen since they could help whisk ingredients, but I love the idea of making it a little more intentional from time to time. :)
    Joyce’s latest post: Review: Elliott’s Oyster House (Seattle)

  31. Jenn says:

    I gave my daughter a “Life Skills” Binder around age 6. So far it has how to clean her room and bathroom and how to set a table. She goes to public school but these are skills that are not taught there. Now that she is 8 she has regular cooking sessions with Dad. You are right it’s something with this age that makes her want to be “grown up”.

  32. Jessica says:

    This is what I love about homeschooling, they can learn important life skills that are often missed out in many public schools. I really love the idea of baking classes, but I love the fact that my kids will eventually be able to do the baking all the more!
    Jessica’s latest post: My Family Treasure Hunt

  33. Erin says:

    I love the idea of an adult skills binder! Awesome!

  34. Lisa says:

    What a wonderful idea. Both of my girls (2 & 4) love cooking with me and I can’t wait until they are old enough to do this. I did have one question, did you stagger what they baked so you didn’t have tons of cookies one week and too much bread the next? Or have them make the same thing for ease of set up?

  35. Karrie says:

    So happy to see this to provide some structure for what I’m wanting to do! I have two boys, who between them, have allergies to wheat, dairy, eggs, soy, corn, peanuts and tree nuts. Needless to say, learning to cook for themselves is VERY much a necessary life skill! Thank you!

  36. Michele says:

    Loved reading this. My son 8yo has been asking to cook and knit for about 3 years. Our local co-op would only take girls for these classes. Local kid cooking classes are all sugar and food coloring (cooking with mom is not fun). I just showed him this and the binder too keep his special recipes and he said cool I’ll let you show me a few things.

  37. Joy Cherrick says:

    Thanks for this!
    The best part is understanding the age-appropriate time to expect to incorporate this! I’m itching to plan and teach my oldest, but she’s only 4!
    *sigh*
    It’s great to see that the formal stuff will come and to hold tight and enjoy this Phase of learning!
    xo

  38. Ashley w says:

    My daughter will be 8 in January. I would love to integrate this into our homeschool days. Thanks for sharing! Is Thomas Jefferson education anything like Raymond Moore education?

  39. Joyce says:

    My girls have been loving baking class. The 4yo gets a simple class with simpler recipes, and the 6yo gets to do a little more, but they love it! I can’t wait to do cooking class with them. :)
    Joyce’s latest post: For the Holidays: Truth in the Tinsel

  40. This is wonderful! Sanz from The Mrs sent me over here and I\’m so glad I checked this out. I\’m a former early childhood educator with over 20 years of experience and I find one of the best learning tools is cooking! So much is covered; language, math, science, even social studies! You can weave a whole curriculum from a recipe (which I\’ve done a number of times with my own daughter). Thanks again!
    Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom’s latest post: Creative Fruit Basket Recipes

  41. I recently started actively baking with my soon to be 4 yr old. She enjoyed it so much and it’s amazing how much she can get involved with. I like your idea of the binder tho. When she’s old enough to bake independently, I will try out your idea.
    Melanie Thomas’s latest post: Learning to Bake Bread & A Craftsy Class Giveaway

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