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Baking Up Early Math Skills

by Diann Gano

Cooking gives preschoolers a strong foundation in science, math, language, art and even reading. When we invite our children to create in the kitchen, we provide learning opportunities in many academic subjects.  

Recipe ingredients introduce opportunities for counting, adding, measuring, dividing and estimating.

As children see how certain ingredients combine, react and change as they cook, they are learning basic chemistry. Baking also brings your family or students together at the table to share food, conversation, observations, ideas and camaraderie.

Before calling your preschoolers into the workspace, prep the area!

Gather all of your ingredients and take care of the prep work that may be too difficult for your young chef or chefs.

For instance, you may need to chop or measure beforehand and then set those items out in the order that you will need them for the recipe. When you put these ingredients in order, you will be laying the foundation for sequencing.

When I'm working with a younger child or children, I may crack the eggs and put them in a measuring cup. You may need to let each child add one egg or one child add three eggs, depending on how many cooks you have in the kitchen. 

Count the ingredients. Count the eggs. Count how many times each child gets to stir the batter. 

Meanwhile, expand the vocabulary of your young chefs! Ask them to describe what they see, taste and feel.

Talk about the colors and textures. Years ago, we had a visual learner who described pouring the dirt (brown sugar) on top of the snow (flour) and then stirring in the sunshine (eggs). For years, the children repeated that same story over and over again as we baked cookies and muffins.

Waiting for muffins to bake can seem like an eternity when you are three. Don’t torture yourself or your chefs! Pick a recipe with just a few ingredients and shorter baking times.

Instead of a 30-minute banana-bread recipe, make a smoothie, muffins or cookies. Use the baking time to take care of other chores or needs, such as sweeping the floor, washing the dishes, setting the table or taking bathroom breaks.

Remember to keep it light and keep it fun. Sit down and enjoy the conversations and the joy of being with your children or early learners.

As we wait for spring to arrive, bake some goodies in the cozy warmth of the kitchen and engage in some delicious early math learning!

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