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Baking with your preschooler!

Sweet, salty and everything nice, this is how it feels to bite into a baked treat. All the different types of baked goods (from cookies to cakes) bring much delight to adults and our preschoolers definitely share the same joy. As we get more access to recipes online and video instructions on how to make these goodies, and as more of these ingredients and tools become easily available, more and more Singaporeans have a go at becoming their own home baker. On top of that, baking is a science experiment and a numeracy lesson. Even if you do not like to cook, or you may not have stepped into the kitchen, these are all the many reasons to have a go at baking something with your preschooler! In this article, we will share how your preschooler can be your great assistant!

  1. Pouring and measuring volume

Measuring volume or mass of the ingredients is the first step in all baking processes. As mentioned above, this process is in itself a numeracy lesson as they learn about numbers and about volume and capacity! It is also something that even toddlers can help, though some practice may be required before they can complete it nicely.

There are many different forms of measuring, so for toddlers, we can start with an easier version. They could do some form of pouring but may not be able to handle the control required to pour out the exact volume required. In certain cases, they may also pour out of the measuring tool and may get a little messy. Instead, the ingredients could be first poured out into a bowl and they could then use a measuring spoon to scoop out the exact volume required from the bowl. The same could be done for dry ingredients too. For preschoolers, as they are older and have better fine motor control, they could then skip the step and pour the ingredients directly from its original packaging into the measuring cups. Apart from measuring cups and spoons, kitchen scales could also be used.

Apart from the initial phase of measuring the ingredients, the last step of the recipe may also require another pouring exercise. After mixing all the ingredients together, it could still be a liquid mixture (usually for cakes). At this point, preschoolers can help to pour the mixture into the cake holder. Toddlers can also try to do that but may require an extra step for the final mixture to be transferred to a smaller container first.

  1. Using a cookie cutter

As the name of the tool suggests, this tool is usually used when making specific shapes for cookies. While you need to be careful when using this tool as they are sharp and can cut, this is a tool that toddlers can use as they just need to press hard onto the cutter. For pastries where the dough needs to be placed in a pan or holder, the excess dough will also need to be removed and this is where you could enlist their help to cut or pinch away these excess dough.

  1. Cracking an egg

Egg is a very common ingredient when it comes to baking. Handling an egg would probably be for older preschoolers. You can definitely start by letting older preschoolers try cracking an egg if the recipe does not require for the egg yolk and egg white to be separated. Provide a big separate bowl for them to crack the egg into so that if there are egg shells, it will still be possible to remove them. For those who are able to master cracking the egg well, you can then move on to try to ask them to separate the egg yolk from the egg white. Use separate bowls for each egg so that their previous efforts do not go to waste if the egg yolk ends up with the egg white.

  1. Whisking / Mixing the ingredients

If you have a standing mixer, you probably will not need to involve your preschooler much. They could simply start the appliance and watch it go. However, if you have a hand-held mixer or a whisk, you can request for some help, especially so for the whisk. As these two tools require a certain amount of control and strength to hold onto, it is more suitable for older preschoolers who will be better able to handle the tools. Using a whisk to mix may also require quite a bit of perseverance training too as it tends to take a relatively longer time compared to a hand-held mixer or a standing mixer. The speed of the mixing is also important, therefore knowing their level of strength will determine if they should be involved in this step.

  1. Kneading a dough

Kneading a dough is not a step that appears in every recipe as not all baking leads to a dough. Doughs are generally made in bread or pastry recipes. The kneading process can be a very healing one as it is a multi-sensory experience. However, it can also be a very tiring one (it usually takes around ten minutes). Perhaps a bread machine can be found in families who like to make their own bread. In that case, the kneading process will be done by the appliance. However, if you do not have a bread machine, you can pass the kneading step to your preschooler. As they will directly handle the dough with their hands, passing them a portion of the dough that is appropriate for the size of their palms would be easier for them to perform the kneading process. As ten minutes spent solely on kneading the dough can be quite a stretch for young preschoolers, helping them to pace themselves or having a break in between will help them to see through and complete the task.

Unlike cooking, baking does not feel so much like a household chore but rather a fun activity. Perhaps it is because something sweet is waiting for everyone at the end of it.

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