One of the cookies my mom always made at Christmas time were peanut blossoms: peanut butter cookies with a chocolate kiss on top.
I cooked often with my mom, and kept that tradition going with my kids, especially during the holidays. Cooking with kids offers so many benefits for everyone involved. In addition to teaching your kids to cook, you’re also making memories and spending quality time with them. And there are tons of opportunities to let them practice reading, following directions, counting and fractions, measuring, and science. Read more below about how to teach while cooking.
I translated my mom’s Peanut Blossoms recipe into a picture checklist to make it easier for younger kids to follow along. You can print this for free. Happy baking!
How To Learn Through Cooking
The most important thing for you to do is to slow down. To learn while cooking, your kids will need time. Making the cookies might take twice as long, but that’s ok!
If you have a beginning reader, put them in charge of reading the ingredients list and each direction out loud. They can be “in charge”, telling you what to do for each step. They may need help with some words, just plan to leave plenty of time so they can take their time with this.
If your child isn’t reading yet, they can still practice their pre-reading skills:
- Have them tell you what the picture is (e.g., butter)
- Show them the word next to the picture and spell out the letters for them
- Show them that the first letter is B. Tell them what sound a B makes, and how it is the first sound in the word butter.
- See if they can tell you all the quantities by identifying the numbers.
Simply have your kids step through the instructions is great learning about sequencing and learning by following directions.
For little kids, have them count out the Hershey’s kisses. Show them how to group the kisses in batches of 5 or 10 and then count by 5’s or 10’s. Have them count the groups as a pre-intro to multiplying. Have them count the Tbsp’s of milk. Show them a half cup measure and whole cup measure and explain how 2 half cups will make a whole cup. Introduce them to a tsp and a Tbsp.
For older kids show them the fractions on the recipe, talk about what the fractions are and how you can add them up. They might only be ready for the 1/2 C measurements. Maybe you can extend that to the 1/4 C measurement, or the 1 3/4 C measurement. If they’re ready for more, explain how 1 3/4 C is the same as 1.75 Cups. Tell your kids about how many teaspoons make a tablespoon (answer: 3!).
Baking is FULL of science. Here are just a few of the things you can talk about with your kids as you bake:
Let them taste any ingredient they want to taste as you go, and have them describe what they taste. Exploring flavors and textures is a huge part of experimentation!
When you preheat the oven, talk about Temperatures: Fahrenheit vs Celsius, how to convert them, the freezing point on both scales, and the boiling point on both scales. Also talk about how heat changes the cookies when you bake them. And about how it will change the chocolate from a solid to a liquid (and cold air will harden the chocolate again).
Why you cream the butter and sugar
Explain what baking soda is and how it works
Teach them the difference between white and brown sugar.
Talk about the difference between white flour and whole wheat flour and their nutritional value.
Explain how vanilla extract is made (in case you don’t know – I didn’t! – vanilla essence is a more processed product that’s made using artificial flavors and colors. Vanilla extract, on the other hand, is made primarily from vanilla beans soaked in ethyl alcohol and water, so it tends to have a stronger vanilla flavor).
Tell them about what salt is and where it comes from.
If you don’t remember all of these things while cooking with your kids, look it up as you go! Asking questions and searching out answers is the best lesson you can teach your kids.
And don’t worry if they don’t want to cover all of this in one sitting. If you bake with your kids often, you can spread all of this information across many baking sessions – sprinkle a few things in each time and gauge the breadth and depth of what you tell them based on their interest level.