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How to Teach Reading and Writing While Baking

I am a mother of 2 young girls and started to share ideas around personalized learning games and personalized reading.

Baking can be a great bonding and educational activity, but when your kids are younger there’s always the worry that they will lose interest halfway through. With this super easy recipe and a couple of integrated activities you can be sure your kids will stay engaged, and you all end up with a delicious cake at the end.

Baking can help your children foster independence skills

According to Olga Laurenty, founder of a Food Lab program at Orion Montessori School: cooking is an excellent way to develop cognitive skills that help our kids to learn to focus, plan, and reason. It also helps develop patience, concentration, and perseverance.

It may get a bit messy, depending on the age of your child, but it is totally worth it!

Before we move onto the recipe here are a couple of tips to slip in some homeschooling into an already fun activity.

Learning opportunities around baking

The Montessori Drawing Game with Flour

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Writing Amy in the flour — Source: Estelle Bardon

Like the sandpaper letters described in my first blog, this Montessori game uses both the muscular and visual memory to learn how to write and read. You can do this at any point during the baking.

  1. Lay some flour on a plate or on a board (or ask your child to do so).
  2. Suggest your children to draw letters, shapes, or words in the flour.

Depending on their age they can try simple things — like their name — or for older children they can practice what they want to write on the cake later (“Happy Birthday”, “I love you”, “Happy Father’s day” etc.). The advance planning for the cake decoration helps children to think ahead and practice, and reduces potential frustration and errors.

My daughters loved it. They were allowed, for once, to play with food 🙂

Ditch the Scales!

For this activity, I use the yogurt pot to determine the ratios. This allows kids to begin to grasp the concept of ratios, a math concept.

Do a Blind Taste Test

This idea comes from Christie Burnett, a former Education teacher: “Ask your child to cover her eyes and open her mouth. Then, offer a small taste of one of the ingredients you’re cooking with and invite your child to guess what it is. Help your child identify the categories of foods (spices, fruit, dairy product, etc.), as well as textures (smooth, lumpy, crunchy, etc.) and flavors (sweet, spicy, sour, salty, etc.).”

Cleaning up Counts as Learning Too

Perhaps every parent’s favorite Montessori principle is having children clean up after themselves as it helps them become independent.

It’s tempting to shoo the kids off as you handle a quick and painless cleanup, but most young children love cleaning and helping. Of course, we need to show them how. We need to be indulgent too — it takes time to learn a skill.

The more independent our children are, the less workload and stress we have.

So have them wipe down a unit or put away items when they are finished.

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Cleaning up the counter — Source: Estelle Bardon

Estelle’s French Yogurt Cake

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Ingredients and accessories to bake the chocolate yogurt cake — Source: Estelle Bardon

Time

  • Preparation: 30 minutes (including the cleaning)
  • Baking: 30 minutes
  • Additional: 30 minutes (cooling) and about 20 minutes (decoration)

Ingredients

Serves 6

For the cake:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 4 oz (113g) pot of plain yogurt
  • 2 yogurt pots of flour
  • 1 pot of sugar
  • ¾ pot of oil such as sunflower or safflower seed oil
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 6 oz (200g) cooking/semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1 teaspoon of butter (for greasing the dish)

For the decoration:

Sparkle gel icing pen or cookie icing (see below for alternatives)

Equipment

  • 1 large Pyrex dish
  • 1 Mixing bowl
  • 1 Whisk
  • 1 Wire cooling rack
  • 1 Small jar (or dish) for melting the chocolate in the microwave

Optional tip: Name the ingredients and the equipment to teach the vocabulary to your child.

Method

  1. Break the chocolate into small chunks.
  2. Melt the chocolate with a couple of spoons of water in the microwave (40 seconds).
  3. Put the other ingredients in the mixing bowl (in any order).
  4. Mix it into a smooth batter.
  5. Grease the dish with the butter
  6. Pour the cake batter into the dish.
  7. Place in the oven for 30 minutes at 350˚F [180˚C, Gas mark 4]
  8. Let’s clean up together.

Yes, this cake is that simple!

How To Personalize the Cake

Once the cake has cooled, the kids can add their personal touch with an icing pen. For instance, you can write “Happy Birthday!” or “I love you” on the cake with a heart.

I like to use icing pens as they are convenient and kids can DIY with them, but here are some alternatives:

Write a message with powdered sugar

  • Take a sheet of aluminum foil (or wax paper) slightly larger than the cake.
  • Cut a message/shapes in the aluminum foil.
  • Place the aluminum foil on the cake.
  • Sprinkle powdered sugar over the foil.
  • Carefully lift off the foil and discard.

Write a message with candies like skittles or M&Ms

Make your own

  • Sieve powdered sugar into a bowl, food coloring (optional), and add a few drops of water.
  • Beat into a thick smooth paste.
  • Put the mixture into a ziplock bag
  • Cut off a small corner to make a piping bag.
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I love you chocolate yogurt cake — Source: Estelle Bardon

My Personal Experience

The girls like breaking the chocolate in pieces and cracking the eggs. Their favorite part is eating the leftover raw cake mix from the bowl though!

Why I Like this Cake

  • The process and the cake itself makes everyone happy
  • No two cakes are alike thanks to the personalization
  • Kids learn a lot in a fun environment

What are your easy-to-bake with children recipes? Feel free to share them in the comment section of this post.

About the author: I am a mother of two girls. I had dyslexia and struggled to learn how to read. My older daughter was considered a “slow learner” at the age of three, so I transferred her to a Montessori school and started to gather ideas and tools to help her at home. A year later, my daughter read her first 12-page easy-to-read — or CVC (Consonant Vowel Consonant) — book before turning four and a half years old. I am using this experience to launch MyLibook, an inspiring, personalized, easy-to-read book series.

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