Bake up memories with your kids

Moms are about making holiday memories, and there’s no better activity for instilling them than baking with your children. Revel in this sweet-smelling activity and invite the aunties and cousins over for even more fun.

Benefits of baking with children

If you’re worried about your children’s literacy and math skills, break out the mixing bowls. Baking helps reinforce what they’re learning every day. It also covers a wide array of life skills including shopping for ingredients, sequence of steps, measuring, and even cleaning up.


“Your kids will actually become more literate just by reading and going thru the recipe,” explains Sharon Davis, a family and consumer sciences educator who teaches for and

Science and math skills

Explain the role of baking soda and powder in baked goods and how they differ from yeast. Recipes may involve multiplication or fractions.


You can prepare your own baked goods, and they can be better for you.

Problem solving

What happens when you run out of an ingredient? Perhaps you can substitute another similar ingredient. Or you may lack the exact sized pan the recipe recommends. Your child will learn how to solve these little problems, which is practice for tackling bigger ones later in life.

Healthful ingredients included

Davis says a higher nutrition profile is one of the principal reasons people bake at home. Take sodium, for example.

“In general, food companies are trying to reduce it in soups [and] baked goods.” She suggests using unsalted butter and halving the salt in most recipes with the exception of yeast breads.

• Portion control is easier at home. Davis says, “They’ll see an option [that is] not like what they see when they’re eating out. You can cut that piece of pie into the right size.”

• Any recipe you make yourself can be made with whole grains. In addition to wheat, whole grains include oatmeal and whole-grain cornmeal. It’s easy to substitute whole grain for half the flour. Consider white whole-wheat flour or the new ultra-grain whole-wheat flours if taste and texture flags go up.

• For liquids, consider substituting 1/4 to 1/3 cup of pumpkin, cooked sweet potato or squash, grated carrot, apple or zucchini, or pureed banana.

• Add dried fruits to almost anything including yeast or quick breads and cookies.

• Sprinkle toasted nuts on top of pancakes or muffins, or knead into yeast breads.

Tips for getting started

1. Pick out a recipe and read it together during story time the night before.

2. Get tools that are easy to use with young children. Look for large numbers, visible lines, and sturdy spoon handles. A whisk, two baking sheet pans, three nested mixing bowls, nine-by-13-inch cake pan, nine-inch square cake pan, 12-cup muffin tin, and two bread loaf pans can get you started. A rolling pin is helpful, but a one-inch by one-foot dowel rod works just as well for kids.

3. Store the tools in a low cupboard or drawer and let the children help you get them out. Allow time to read the recipe together and assemble the ingredients and pans before you start.

4. Teach your children the difference between dry and liquid measuring cups. Measure liquids flat on the counter with a liquid measuring cup. To measure dry ingredients, fluff into dry measure cups, then level off.

5.The website provides over 130 “how-tos” for getting started baking, ingredients, methods and pans.

Baking is about making memories, which is reason enough to risk getting flour onto your kitchen floor. Yet it’s also about literacy and life skills. And nothing beats the smell of freshly baked goods emanating from your kitchen — especially during this magical time of year.

Christine Palumbo is a dietitian from Naperville, Ill., who plans to bake her usual repertoire of ethnic Christmas cookies using real butter. Follow her on Facebook at Christine Palumbo Nutrition, on Twitter @PalumboRD or

Country Fruit Cobbler

PREP TIME: 30 minutes

BAKING TIME: 50 minutes

Makes eight servings


4 cups sliced fresh or frozen peaches (about 8)

½ cup fresh or frozen blackberries

1 cup sugar, divided

1 tablespoon corn starch

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

½ cup whole wheat flour

¼ cup all-purpose flour

¼ cup yellow cornmeal, whole grain

2 teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1 cup 1 percent milk

¼ cup unsalted butter, melted

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease or spray a 13- by nine-inch pan, baking dish or cast iron skillet. In a large mixing bowl, combine peaches and blackberries with a mixture of ½ cup sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon. In a separate medium mixing bowl, combine remaining ½ cup sugar, whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. Combine and add milk and melted butter to dry mixture. Blend just until all dry ingredients are moistened. Pour or spoon batter over peach mixture. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes until crust is crisp and golden brown. Serve hot with whipped cream or ice cream.

NUTRITION FACTS: Each 6 ounce/174 gram serving provides 257 calories, 4 grams protein, 48 grams carbohydrate, 3.5 grams dietary fiber, 6 grams fat (4 grams saturated), 72 milligram calcium, 182 milligram potassium, 229 milligram sodium.

Source: Adapted from “Baking with Friends: Recipes, Tips and Fun Facts for Teaching Kids to Bake” by Sharon Davis and Charlene Patton.