Updated: Jan 17, 2019
With three young kids in the house, it can be hard to get out. I’m always looking for fun activities to do with our girls (almost 5, 2, and 6 months). One of our favorite things to do while baby naps, or when it’s rainy out, is to make cookies, or bread, or cupcakes… basically anything requiring flour, sugar, and a little time in the oven. I admit to encouraging baking: I have a sweet tooth, and it looks like at least one of our girls is following in my footsteps! But it’s really the time spent together that makes it fun. I love mixing the ingredients with them – “where did the butter go?” – and watching them experiment with tasks like breaking eggs (our two-year-old is surprisingly adept!).
As they get older, not only can we enjoy the time spent together, but I have found baking to be a great opportunity to start talking about science and math with them. Why do we need baking powder? What does the yeast do when we add it to the bread machine? Why does vanilla extract smell so good, but taste so bad? Lately our baking has also helped reinforce our Classical Conversations math curriculum: we review memory work (“three teaspoons equals one tablespoon, and two tablespoons equals one fluid ounce”) while measuring out ingredients. We like experimenting with substitutions, as well. Applesauce, for example, has a myriad of uses. I also like to replace white flour with healthier alternatives. One of our favorite recipes, for banana bread, calls for two cups of white flour. Instead, we line up three measuring cups: two half cups and one whole cup. Then, we do one cup of white flour, half a cup of oatmeal, and half a cup of whole wheat flour. We test to make sure that these three groups still add up to two cups by combining them into one measuring cup – what a practical application for fractions! As a person more inclined – and therefore probably more enthusiastic – about history and language, I appreciate the real-life connection we can form to math through our baking.
Baking also gives us the opportunity to share what we’ve made with others. While young curiosity allows for so much learning to occur, I also appreciate that our girls experience joyful giving and sharing. The only thing better than eating the treat yourself is offering it to someone else, watching their face light up and seeing their enjoyment at what you’ve made. I love teaching my girls to treasure other people, and to think about how they can serve others and make them smile. Sometimes it can feel like we’re baking just to pass the time – moms of young kids will understand me here! – but having something to share with others is the best part. Our oldest daughter loves answering the question, “Did you make this?” with an enthusiastic, “Yes!” She is so proud of herself and so happy to share what she’s made with others. We take cookies to church and offer banana bread at our home Bible study. Birthdays, meanwhile, are a chance to make people cupcakes to help them celebrate! Her handmade decorating may not look like much to us, but each one is so lovingly crafted.
Baking is messy, and with little kids as the helpers, doesn’t necessarily produce beautiful results. But my family has found it to be a great way to spend time together, learning and growing.
Here is one of our favorite recipes:
Evie’s Banana Bread
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 c. buttermilk
½ c. vegetable oil, butter, or applesauce
1 c. mashed bananas (4 medium, very ripe)
¾ c. brown sugar
1 c. white flour
½ c. oats
½ c. whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. salt
½ c. chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
½ c. chocolate chips (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Spray one 9x5 loaf pan with cooking spray.
Blend together the eggs, buttermilk, oil, and bananas.
Sift together the sugar, flours, oats, baking soda, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt.
Add to banana mixture and stir in nuts and chocolate chips, if using.
Pour into prepared loaf pan and bake 55-65 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Also works great as muffins!