Updated: Apr 8, 2020
One of the most important pieces of following the Montessori philosophy in your home is incorporating your child into daily household routines and activities. We do this because children desire to be with us and participate in what we are doing. We also do this because the child is a valued member of the family, is capable, and deserves the opportunity to contribute to their family community. There is no material you can buy that will replace living your life with your child. It can be hard to know where to begin, especially if your childhood experience was different from what I described.
When parents ask, “how can I promote my child’s development at home?”, I try to consider activities that can be incorporated into daily life and involve different domains of development simultaneously. One that I love to recommend is baking! Baking is great because it is truly an activity that promotes cognitive development by incorporating language, math, culture, social-emotional skills, and science! Baking offers parents the opportunity to share their culture, history, and most importantly build connections with their child.
There are so many things you can bake: treasured family recipes, pre-packaged boxed mixes, cookies, bread, muffins (especially the sweet potato muffin recipe from First Foods to Family Meals), seasonal pastries, the list goes on! We loved baking every day in my Toddler classroom and one of my favorite recipes to bake is a simple white loaf bread. I have added the recipe to the bottom of this post.
To successfully bake with young children, we have to take into account the child’s development, what we can manage as the adult, and how we will prepare their environment for success.
Here are some ideas I have for different ages and stages of development (Note: everything from the previous stage can be used for later stages as well)
Bring the infant into the kitchen while you are baking. You could either wear the infant in a carrier or allow them to spend some time on a blanket on the floor.
Talk about and explain what you are doing. At first, it can feel silly to talk out loud to someone who cannot respond, but your tiny infant is absorbing all the language you are using and might even coo in response!
Offer a small wooden spoon for the infant to grasp and explore.
Treasure baskets are great for this age! Fill a basket with various safe kitchen tools for the infant to explore. You can name the objects while they explore and show them when you use it. Also allow them to explore pots, pans, colanders, metal loaf pans.
Spice Exploration. This is a great sensorial exploration for the infant. You can put ground spices in a cloth sachet and find some whole version of spices as well. In the winter I chose cloves, a cinnamon stick, and ginger, as those were the spices we were baking with. You can put them in a basket or open/close drawers if you have one.
Spice Exploration- Ginger, Cinnamon, Sachet of Cloves
Taking a trip to the grocery store or farmers market to get the ingredients needed for a recipe. I know in our busy lives it can be so easy and convenient to do curbside pick-up and there are so many great language experiences an infant can have in a grocery store. Narrate and describe what you are picking out.
Prepare pre-measured ingredients, baking dishes, etc. beforehand
If your infant has begun to bring the spoon to their mouth and self-feed, you could show them how to add ingredients to the mixing bowl. Do this by guiding them hand over hand and helping them to dump the ingredient. You could also do hand over hand stirring to mix the batter!
Children who can walk:
Prepare pre-measured ingredients, baking dishes, etc. beforehand
Now your child can help more as their desire to contribute increases! Your child might take more interest in dumping in ingredients and mixing the batter. You will notice their ability to delay gratification and complete a task improves, which lends to them dumping ingredients by themselves and not trying to stick their hands in afterward!
Your child might also be interested in scooping batter into pans with a measuring cup.
Blueberry Muffin Prep with a Mix
Naming the ingredients and utensils you are using. You can play language games with your child while baking by naming the ingredients and utensils, then asking them to hand you a certain one. If they hand you the wrong one- it's okay! Just name the ingredient or utensil they handed you and go back to playing the game.
Depending on your time and resources, your child could help prepare mini ingredients for the recipe. If you are baking a cake that calls for lemon juice, you can juice the lemon together! Also, consider how to include your child in preparation of ingredients like smashing bananas or sweet potatoes for bread.
Start a small herb garden with your child and allow them to help in caring for it. Herbs can be used in all kinds of different recipes!
Children who have begun to complete cycles of activity (around 18 months):
Now that your child is completing multi-step processes by themselves (dressing, toileting, and cleaning-up) or cycles of activity (beginning, middle, end of activities), they can take a larger role on in the preparation of the recipe and eventually can make the batter while you prepare a different portion of the meal or recipe.
Prepare pre-measured ingredients, baking dishes, etc. beforehand. When the child has lots of practice with pre-measured ingredients and you feel up to it, you can also begin to measure the ingredients with the child and count servings.
Rosemary Foccacia Bread Set-Up with Rosemary from the Garden
Continue to name ingredients and discuss the steps in the recipe.
Practice sharing by taking turns with the ingredients. “I am going to add 1 scoop of flour, then it will be your turn!”
Count the ingredients needed for a recipe, the scoops of flour, number of stirs.
Children can slice fruits like strawberries, juice lemons, grate spices, or whip butter for recipes.
At the grocery store allow the child to help you find ingredients on the shelves.
Help the child to portion the final product and serve to others.
Children who have moved into consciousness (around 2.5-3 years old):
Measure the ingredients with the child and show them how to prepare a recipe.
Make recipe cards that show simple, picture-based instructions. I like to take pictures of children doing the steps then print those out.
Eventually, the child will prepare the ingredients based on the recipe card and make the recipe independently.
Have the child bake dessert or bread for a family meal or gathering.
Involve the child in planning what recipe to make and talk about what ingredients are needed.
Store the child’s utensils at their level and help them figure out what tools are needed for each recipe.
Make a grocery list for the child with specific ingredients to find at the store when going shopping.
The more you bake, the more technical recipes you can do and try.
Making Apple Tarts (the child would first slice the apple)
The child can make their own recipe cards for a recipe.
Here is my bread recipe (adapt for what you have at home and your child’s developmental stage):
Mixing bowl and spoon
large surface for kneading
bowls and pinch dishes
Pre-Measured for Children beginning to complete cycles of activity
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
2 1/4 cups warm water
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp salt
2 tbsp oil
5 1/2 - 6 1/2 cups flour
butter or spray for pans
Have the child wash their hands
Name each ingredient for the child then explain it is time to prepare the recipe
First, invite a child to dump the yeast in the bowl, then pour the warm water, and add a scoop of flour and stir
Watch and wait for the yeast to bubble, say, “The yeast is activating. The gluten in the flour is causing it to bubble”
When the yeast is bubbly and foamy, have the child dump the sugar, salt, oil, and scoop 4 cups flour
6. Add remaining flour, ½ cup at a time, to form a soft, smooth dough (The dough should stick just slightly to your finger when touched, but not be overly sticky)
7. Take the dough out of bowl and place on a large tray to knead
8. Demonstrate how to cover your hands in flour and begin to knead the dough
9. When the dough is kneaded, invite them to help you clean up by spraying pans with oil and portion out the dough
10. Place dough somewhere to rise for 1-2 hours and cover it with a towel
11. Preheat the oven to 325. Bake 25-30 minutes or until the loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped.
12. Once the bread has baked and cooled, invite the children to help you slice it
I hope you enjoy these tips and the bread recipe! Comment and share with the community your favorite recipe to bake with young children.
-This is a cookbook I love from one of my mentors, Sarah Moudry. She has outlined recipes with pictures of the way to set it up to allow young children to bake and cook. There are also great tips for picky eating, being vegetarian, and the importance of family meals.
Here is a link to get the book on Amazon (aff): https://amzn.to/2xFJbVF
- If you live in the Houston-area, Studio June offers Parent-child baking classes for children under 3 and pastry school for children 3-6 years old. A trained guide assists in making the dish, you get the recipe to take home, and there is a storefront where you can purchase child-sized tools! Teaching these classes and assisting parents in helping their child bake was how I became so comfortable baking with young children. I highly recommend it!
Here is a link to their website: http://www.thestudiojune.com/