Having the Freedom to Bake!

Research practitioner:

Senior practitioner:

Project summary:

A practical project to inspire children’s skill development in baking with their early years.

Introduction

This project was undertaken by a group of 8 children aged 3-5 within a nursery setting. We focused our project on allowing the children to prepare and bake their own snacks during their time at nursery to develop their independence and to allow children to understand about the climate that they are currently living in. The purpose of allowing children to create their own snacks was so that the children were gained with valuable life skills that they could take later in life with them. The adults in our establishment ensure that the baking space is being used correctly by the children, by ensuring that there are the correct resources out for the children to self-select ingredients, then to follow the recipe and then to see the final product.

Context

An area was set up within the nursery setting during core time which were offered to the group of 8 children for 6 weeks, once the 6 weeks were achieved another 8 children would be offered the same opportunity. The imperative was to provide children with the developmentally appropriate resources in which they required to make progress in their learning. At the beginning of the project, a parent’s survey was sent out to discover if they baked at home with their children, the purpose of this was to select our first 8 least experienced children to begin our project with as we feel that baking can provide children with a wide variety of life skills. As we started our project, we discussed which recipes we could make for snack which included; banana bread, scones, bread which we would then make sandwiches with. By doing this, it meant that children would gain relevant knowledge on how to bake these things from scratch regardless of where they ended up in life. Froebel’s principle ‘Freedom with guidance’ allowed the children to determine their own actions and choices whilst learning, whilst the adult role was more of a guidance for children in respectful ways. This is something that we focused on during our project to ensure our environment was well planned out. “The role of the adult is therefore essential in ensuring that all children’s freedoms are protected.”

The project began with a questionnaire being sent out to 20 parents to discover which children are already developing key life skills at home through home baking/cooking. It was concluded, that the majority of our children baked at home with their parents, albeit sometimes using premade cake mixtures but it was determined that they were developing skills such as cutting, whisking, beating etc. There was a small number of parents who admitted that they do not make enough time to bake at home. This is the group of children that we chose to give the opportunity to first.

Ethics

Introducing the children to baking their own snack also sparked conversation about the cost of living and the price of ingredients used. The adults spoke to the children about the value of baking their own snacks and the quantity we can make, compared to quantity we would buy when buying the product already baked. Our children understood that it was also much more cost effective to bake our own snacks than buy the product. I feel that this was a positive addition to the children learning key life skills The questionnaires that we received from parents were anonymous and will be kept confidential within the parameters of The Data Protection Act. This reassures our parents who completed the questionnaire, ensuring the information they are providing will remain confidential is of the utmost importance and setting their minds at rest that will improve the survey response rates.

“Froebel’s notion of the adult making rick provision, guiding children in their play and interactions, opening up possibilities rather than constraining them, helping children develop autonomy and self-discipline within a framework of respect for others remains a powerful approach today.” (Tovey, 2020)

Tovey, 2020

Findings

I observed many benefits from the children having the freedom to bake their own snack. Froebel states that by mastering the use of tools, children develop a sense of autonomy which will result in them depending less on adults. Over the 6 week block children learned a variety of new skills through repetitive learning with an adult always close by. As the weeks progressed, children were less dependent on staff and by the end of the block staff found themselves being needed less and less. Our children’s language development was area that we observe progressed significantly throughout the block. We exposed our children to new works, expanding their vocabulary, allowing them to understand the actions that go with the different words. Children grew more and more confident at using the utensils as well. From our first baking experience to the last, children had learned the names for utensils and also the names of actions required while baking such as kneading, mixing and measuring etc to name a few. The children used recipe cards to follow basic instructions and learned the direction which the recipe cards move in. The pictures allowed the children to follow the step-by-step method on how to make their snack. Again, this is something that supported the children more and more as the weeks progressed. Staff developed children’s knowledge of following directions of recipe cards and reading the words to support children’s early literacy development. Through measuring jugs, spoons, scales etc, children are developing their numeracy skills. We observed children knowledge widen as they improved their counting skills for example, they needed 3 eggs or a teaspoon of sugar or half a litre of water. We observed that children, learned quickly about quantity and measure. They learned that by putting in too much of some ingredients they could level it out by adding more of something else. We also noticed that this was a skill that children then started to implement into the playdough area. They have the freedom to make their own playdough batches and we quickly observed that if they added to much water, they would add flour to balance it out. The children work well on this together and often communicated with their peers what had happened in order to problem solve what to do next. Staff were there to support the children when they made mistakes, some children needed reassurance during this time and others were happy to problem solve themselves. The more the children baked daily, the more they persevered with tasks, teaching them the importance of perseverance.

Conclusion

Overall, the project was very successful. We received verbal feedback from parents, informing us that the children were actively asking to participate in baking at home and also talking about the value of producing your own snacks. Parents informed us that the children were also using new vocabulary that they had learned from their baking experiences such as whisking, beating and kneading.
Our next step is to take our children in groups to the supermarket to allow them to buy the ingredients to create their recipes. We have also been asking from our parents for some of our snack recipes, so we might create our very own Nursery Times Baking Book to send home or baking home link tasks for the families to create at home.

Research implications

Before implementing this project, myself and my colleague began to think what we felt would be most beneficial to the children in our setting. Firstly, we put out a questionnaire to parents to have an overall view of what children in our setting baked at home. Giving that, we got a great response in and it was demonstrated that children did bake at home, however it was pre- packed ingredients, which were measured out accordingly. At nursery, we wanted to involve children in the whole process, souring the ingredients, weighing out the ingredients, putting it through to the kitchen for cooking and then finally eating the snack that they had created. Within our setting, we did involve the children in preparing snacks however, we wanted this to be a more of an everyday thing. Within our setting, we have 3 indoor zones and the team as a whole all participated and encouraged the children in sourcing ingredients for preparing snack to reach a final end goal. Each day the children would prepare something different for snack, such as; bread, scones and banana bread. We chose things to prepare that children could take anywhere in life with them, taking into consideration the cost-of-living crisis, that currently we are experiencing. We took this into consideration as it meant it would be a lot cheaper to batch bake, instead of buying individual packets day- to -day, as it works out a lot cheaper when buying resources, which was a factor we wanted to focus on, developing the children’s numeracy skills. By participating the parents within our project, it gave the practitioners and overview of what children we could make a focus on, so that each of our children were given an equal chance of achieving. Going forward, we plan on participating the children within the wider community. Where our nursery is placed within Paisley, we are quite local to a number of shops. We are eager to allow our children to get out into the community, developing a sense of safety whilst doing so. We are enthusiastic about allowing our children to select their own resources and ingredients, to learn about the money factor behind it all, to develop life long skills, which sets them up for their future ahead of them.

Practitioner enquiry

Throughout this research project, there were many values that were achieved such as bonding and creating close relationships with the children, the learning and creativity that was taken place throughout the research project and most of all having fun whilst taking part. That was our main aims and values for the children and staff to all achieve, and given that most of the children did, I think we achieved our project well. As our project worked so well, we will continue to ensure children within our setting, create and make their own snacks at nursery. Rotating the children to allow an equal chance of learning. After we plan on going out to the wider community to the supermarket to resource our own ingredients, we then hope to make up home – link bags for baking so that the same skills can be continued at home, whilst their time at nursery.

Leadership learning

By taking part within this project, I have learned that children are very enthusiastically hands-on learners who enjoy stirring, kneading, and scooping batter into baking pans. We encouraged them to use their senses — smell spices like cinnamon, touch flour, and even taste an ingredient before it goes into the mixing bowl. I have learned that children have the ability, or attention span to follow a recipe from beginning to end. But by giving them lots of opportunities to add ingredients into the mixing bowl and stir and not to undermine our children and their strengths, we learned that our children were very capable in following a recipe (with adult support) and becoming familiar with ingredients.

Author and role

To be completed

Comments from other network members

What did you appreciate about this research? What forward-looking questions did it raise for you?

  1. Rhona Wilson
    Rhona Wilson
    06 Jun 2023 at 1:12 pm

    An interesting project – I liked in particular the observation that children took a new skill (knowing to add more of an ingredient if a mix was too wet) to another area of the setting (playdough). A Nursery Snack Cookbook sounds a lovely idea.


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  2. Mairead Wilson
    Mairead Wilson
    08 Jun 2023 at 9:46 am

    I really enjoyed reading “Having the Freedom to Bake”, I particularly liked that you had a core group of children for a block of time and the important conversations that occurred about the cost of living and home made compared to shop bought.


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  3. Kerry McCormack
    Kerry McCormack
    08 Jun 2023 at 2:10 pm

    I like that this project addresses current issues such as cost of living etc which adds to the life skills and experiences for todays children. It’s is nice to hear that your project has been appreciated by the parents and the skills and language developed through this have been transferable to the home environment.


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  4. Amanda Letarte
    Amanda Letarte
    11 Jun 2023 at 9:17 pm

    I really enjoyed reading your project Jennifer. I liked the skills for life aspect within it, transferable skills from baking to playdough, being aware of choosing home cooked as opposed to prossessed food and building on money skills. A nursery recipe book is a great idea. I am wondering if making their own snacks would encourage children to try more foods in nursery or at home? Thanks for sharing.


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