Growing Bookworms – The benefits of cooking and baking with children

A fondant figure of a girl covering her eyes Text: Open your eyes to the joy of reading with Growing Bookworms Presented by Writing to be Read and Robbie Cheadle

I wrote this post six years ago when I hadn’t been blogging for very long and didn’t have many followers. During my recent attendance at the South African Festival of Children’s Literature where I was asked to speak about cake and fondant art and its benefits to children, I thought again about all these benefits and decided to share it again for Growing Bookworms.

Most children love to spend time in the kitchen either cooking or baking. It is a fabulous bonding experience with Mom or another caregiver and they always enjoying eating the results of their hard work afterwards.

I love to bake and both my sons have travelled the cooking, baking and eating road with me. Michael, particularly, loves to cook. He prefers to make more practical things than I do such as savoury and/or sweet pancakes, French toast and even stews and curries which he sometimes makes with his Dad. I like to cook but I also enjoy making all sorts of fancy sweet treats and cakes.

I remember baking with my small boys. Gregory used to love to measure and pour the ingredients into the bowl. Funnily enough, Greg also loved to wash up. Sadly, this did not continued into his teenage years. I used to strip him down to his nappy and stand him on a few chairs lined up in front of the sink [so that he could not fall off] and set him free in front of a sink of soapy water. He used to splash around happy with a cloth washing up the bowl and wooden spoon. I kept the washing of any sharp implements and breakables for myself.

Michael, on the other hand, has never been a fan of any kind of cleaning up. He likes to measure, pour and, especially, to mix. He also likes to “lick” out the bowl. I have photographs of Michael covered from head to toe in chocolate cake mix with the bowl upside down on his head. What fabulous fun.

Other than the obvious fun and bonding factors, there are a list of other great benefits to baking with your children. I did some research on this and this is what I found:

  1. Maths skills: Baking helps children to learn maths concepts, in particular, measurement and simple fractions (half a cup, a quarter of a lemon). In addition, multiplication and division are involved if you half or double a recipe. Other kinds of cooking may also involve patterning (for example with salads and kebabs) and simple addition (how many people are you feeding? how many cupcakes do you need for the class?);
  2. Art skills: Decorating cupcakes, cutting out biscuits and making animals and people out of fondant (sugar dough). All of these activities encourage creativity and develop design abilities. An element of construction can also be involved if you are making a gingerbread house or a marshmallow tower and children learn how to fit pieces together and get a tower to stand up;

Cupcakes decorated for charity by the children of St Columba’s Presbyterian Church Sunday School – Parkview, South Africa

  • Comprehension skills: Baking and cooking teaches children how to read and interpret a recipe. They learn to follow a sequence of steps and how to organise the required ingredients. Baking also teaches children techniques and vocabulary such as folding, beating, kneading and blending;
  • Science skills: Contrary to popular belief, baking is a science. Children learn the scientific effects of raising agents such as yeast and baking powder. They learn about the interaction between certain substances such as salt and bicarbonate of soda, cream of tartar and milk, yeast and warm water. If they make a mistake and/or leave out an ingredient, disaster often follows which helps enforce these learning points;

Picture credit: Photographs by Robbie Cheadle. Cream of tartar, Bicarb and milk mixed together create a good raising agent for biscuits. It also froths and bubbles and makes a perfect fuel for a biscuit rocket ship to the moon.

  • Life skills: Baking and cooking with your children teaches them lifelong skills. In the future, the job of feeding themselves and their future families will become theirs. Baking and cooking skills will stand them in good stead when they leave home; and
  • Self-esteem: Baking and cooking helps increase children’s self-esteem as they see and taste the results of their efforts. It also teaches children to work together with someone else in a team and that hard work pays dividends in the end.

I am not an occupational therapist but I found the following additional benefits listed on an OT website for children:

  1. Bilateral coordination;
  2. Eye-hand coordination;
  3. Hand strengthening; and
  4. Spatial perception and planning skills.

These four benefits make perfect sense to me in the context of baking and cooking with children.

So, what are you waiting for, get cooking. An easy way to start is with mini pizzas. You can buy the bases ready made from most grocery stores and you can also buy the tomato paste source to spread on the bases. Grate some cheese, cut up some mushrooms, pineapple, ham and anything else that you fancy and let the kids have fun assembling their own pizzas.

About Robbie Cheadle

Award-winning, bestselling author, Robbie Cheadle, has published thirteen children’s book and three poetry books. Her work has also appeared in poetry and short story anthologies.

Robbie also has two novels published under the name of Roberta Eaton Cheadle and has horror, paranormal, and fantasy short stories featured in several anthologies under this name.

The ten Sir Chocolate children’s picture books, co-authored by Robbie and Michael Cheadle, are written in sweet, short rhymes which are easy for young children to follow and are illustrated with pictures of delicious cakes and cake decorations. Each book also includes simple recipes or biscuit art directions which children can make under adult supervision.

Robbie’s blog includes recipes, fondant and cake artwork, poetry, and book reviews.

54 Comments on “Growing Bookworms – The benefits of cooking and baking with children”

  1. willowdot21 says:

    Your so right Robbie we can prepare your children well for life by cookery and reading. I am pleased to say all three of my boys are good cooks and readers and our grandchildren are always cooking with Dad or Mum which is great to see and happily too they are book worms too. 💜💜

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Ain’t life grand? When you can do something as fun as cooking/baking with a child and improve the quality of their life in so many subtle ways? Awesome.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Carla says:

    I loved baking and cooking with my own children, but you’re right, the grands are not as interested because of TV and Video Games, but we keep trying. I love that image of Gregory at the sink, I have one of those of my oldest grandson. I don’t think he did much washing up though, more playing with the soap bubbles. I don’t think everyone realizes how something fun like baking helps develop so many skills. Great post.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hi Carla, from what you’ve said here, your experience are similar to mine. I limited TV and computer science for my children. They had to earn that time by reading or doing art or construction first. The benefits of baking and the link to reading and maths are why I added the recipes to the Sir Choc books.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Staci Troilo says:

    I brought my kids into the kitchen with me from the very beginning. Even when they were in infant seats (so they wouldn’t be alone in a different room). As soon as they were able to, I let them start “helping” in little ways. We cooked and baked, making many memories in the process. One such undertaking has stood the test of time and has become a favorite story we revisit often. (It’s much too long to share here, but we retell it or parts of it frequently.) Both of my kids are now excellent cooks, and they did reap the rewards from many of the benefits you listed. I’m grateful for that, but I’m probably most appreciative of the time we got to spend together. My daughter now has a child (her daughter is 15 months old), and she takes my granddaughter into the kitchen when she cooks. It warms my heart to see her continuing that tradition.

    Excellent post, Robbie.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. You are so right about these benefits. That’s what has always drawn me to your books.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Reblogged this on Robbie's inspiration and commented:

    My May Growing Bookworms post discusses the benefits of cooking and baking with children. Thank you for hosting Kaye Lynne Booth.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. petespringerauthor says:

    Excellent post, Robbie. Not only does it just feel good to bake/cook with your child, but you also highlighted many of the practical benefits.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. beetleypete says:

    Great stuff, Robbie. Shared both posts on Twitter.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. BERNADETTE says:

    There are so many different lessons to be learned in the kitchen that children should be encouraged and taught as soon as it is possible.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Michael sound like a buddy Chef.. Loves to cook but not worry about the clean up afterwards Lol… Baking with children, grandchildren is so much fun… And I even have strong memories of my own grandmother baking bread, the smell of the yeast and being given a small piece of dough to play and shape…. And my granddaughter and I spent many happy hours baking together.. We have even done it even via face time… As she made scones by herself aged 10 with the oven time being supervised by her Mum…

    Loved this post Robbie.. teaching our children different skills always rewarding..
    And wonderful too Robbie of your resent attendance to the South African Festival of Children’s Literature… What an honour.. ❤ ❤ ❤

    Liked by 3 people

  11. I loved to bake when I was a kid. I had my very own children’s cookbook. (I’m still a bowl-licker to this day.)

    Liked by 3 people

  12. memadtwo says:

    Those cupcakes are a feast for the eyes!
    Everyone should know how to cook. My mother never let us do a thing in the kitchen, but not only did my children help out from a young age, they had cooking projects in elementary school. I’m not sure that happens any more, so I’m glad my children got to experience it. My younger daughter’s favorite thing has always been to see what ingredients are available and find something to make with them. It made for some interesting meals! (K)

    Liked by 3 people

  13. D.L. Finn, Author says:

    Great post, Robbie 🙂 I like you point out besides the bonding and great memories part of cooking, how much can be learned too!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hi Denise, baking and cooking provide a lot of teaching opportunities. I even got to teach my boys and their male cousins that putting a battery operated scale in the microwave with the butter in the bowl could blow the microwave up. That was one scary lesson.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Jennie says:

    The most popular area in the preschool classroom is the dramatic play kitchen. Children love to cook, bake, measure, and feel. There is so much learning taking place.

    Liked by 3 people

  15. Darlene says:

    This is all so true. My son was a single dad for a few years. I was so glad I taught him to bake and cook as he had to feed himself and two little girls. He still does a lot of the cooking, even though he works long hours. And it is a fun thing to do together with your children.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. Wonderful post, Robbie! I spent a lot of time in the kitchen with my daughter and son, cooking and baking. It was fun but also educational. I think my son, Michael (smile), loves to cook more than his sister though, but that’s okay. When they moved out of the house, I put together a recipe book for them. But it wasn’t only favorite recipes, it included family photos that represented events with a certain meal. It turned into a scrapbook with recipes. 🙂 They loved the keepsake and have often used it. Special memories that turned into life skills once they ventured out on their own. ❤️

    Liked by 3 people

  17. Dawn says:

    So many hidden benefits for a essential life skill! My mom always taught, anyone who wants to eat, needs to know how to cook. Finding new favorite dishes was always a fun adventure for my boys. (washing up, not so much, LOL)

    Liked by 3 people

  18. da-AL says:

    I’ve made the mistake of looking at this right before dinner – all I can concentrate on is the pictures that look so delicious that I want to bite my computer screen! what lucky sons you have, dear Robbie!

    Liked by 2 people

  19. love this.. I can just see the kids eyes big as saucers with the yummy frosting and decorations Robbie!! 🥰

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Teri Polen says:

    I always had fun cooking with both sons, Robbie. And you know what it led to with my younger son career-wise. This post brought back some memories – thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

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