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.

Growing bookworms – The importance of day dreaming

When I was a little girl, I loved to day dream. I was one of those kids the teacher is always calling back from dream world. The recall to reality was always a little negative in my recollection. “Stop daydreaming, and concentrate on your maths/history/geography – fill in the blank.”

As I’ve grown older, I’ve realised the benefits of day dreaming and mental downtime. When my children were younger, I used to use the driving time into the office every day to day dream. It was a time for me to let my mind wander and relax. I discovered that poems would often pop into my head, more or less fully formed during this time. The inspiration would be something I saw on the way to work. For example, my poem “The Beggar’s Child” was inspired by a mother and baby I used to see standing on the curb everyday. I looked at that little boy, strapped to his mother’s back in the traditional African way, and wondered what he thought of the cars driving past and the indifference of the drivers to his plight.

About a year before the first lockdown, I started listening to audiobooks in the car, instead of day dreaming. I quickly discovered that my poetic output dropped dramatically with my new routine. That led to my having to make a choice between using my time in the car to listen to classic books or to day dream and produce poetry. I chose audio books.

The idea that the lack of day dreaming time was limiting my creativity stayed with me and I was most interested to learn that that day dreaming is considered to be good for children. Yes, you read correctly, day dreaming is beneficial for children and for adults.

Day dreams teach children to be calm and peaceful and to develop empathy and better emotional learning for consolidation of their learning experiences.

248,584 Day Dreaming Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free Images - iStock

According to many psychologists, zoning out in your own internal world is good and helps you to plan for the future, generate ideas, regulate emotion, and spur creativity.

I have always felt that day dreaming, which I’ve always termed watching the clouds, is an essential part of the inventive process. The mind must wander and explore in order to be able to make the great leaps of logic and imagination required to invent something completely new. It pleases me greatly that recent research supports my view that day dreaming is an essential part of mental processing, reasoning, and learning.

These are some of the identified benefits of day dreaming:

  • Enhanced critical thinking and intelligence – One of the main regions of the brain utilised when we day dream is the region associated with complex problem solving. Critical thinking capabilities are essential for successful learning;
  • Motivation or achievement of ‘dreams’ – Living our dreams through day dreaming is an enabler of achieving our personal goals and objectives.
  • Increased confidence – Imagining ourselves playing different roles in life and achieving certain objectives, like passing examinations, gives us more confidence when the real situation presents itself.
  • Increased insight – The light bulb moments we have are often a result of our processing and organising information differently during day dreaming sessions.
  • Increased ability to cope – Imagining ourselves in a different situation when our real one is emotionally draining or difficult, gives us an increased mental ability to cope with our reality.
  • Better mental agility – Day dreaming enables us to smoothly shift mental gears in the face of unexpected situations or unanticipated events.
  • Increased creativity – Day dreaming provides for increased creativity as our mind finds ways of entertaining us free from outside stimulation.
  • Increased concentration – Mental downtime gives our brains time to process information and enables it to develop and concentrate better during periods of focus.

I must admit, that I have always innately know the above and I encouraged my children to day dream. Sadly, most kids fill all their free time with visual media like television and computers and I wonder what that will mean for innovation and progression in the future.

The defining skill of 2021: Mental agility | Training Journal
Picture credit:

About Robbie Cheadle


Robbie Cheadle is a South African children’s author and poet with 9 children’s books and 2 poetry books.

The 7 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 has also published 2 books for older children which incorporate recipes that are relevant to the storylines.

Robbie has 2 adult novels in the paranormal historical and supernatural fantasy genres published under the name Roberta Eaton Cheadle. She also has short stories in the horror and paranormal genre and poems included in several anthologies.

Robbie writes a monthly series for called Growing Bookworms. This series discusses different topics relating to the benefits of reading to children.

Robbie has a blog, where she shares book reviews, recipes, author interviews, and poetry.

Find Robbie Cheadle



Twitter: BakeandWrite

Instagram: Robbie Cheadle – Instagram

Facebook: Sir Chocolate Books


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