Making cupcakes in play dough (Sensory)

Recently, the children in House Room have been spending time “baking” cupcakes in the playdough area. To spur on the children’s interest and support their exploration, we decided to ask them what other materials might be needed to continue making the cupcakes.

The children listed some various items they felt they needed to continue in their baking endeavor. The list included:

  • Baking tins
  • Utensils
  • Spatulas/whisks
  • Mixing bowls
  • Sprinkles
  • Cupcake liners

Later that day we introduced all of the new materials that the children requested, along with some flour to enhance the experience. Immediately, the children got back to work creating their cupcakes. With access to the new tools, many of the children began to create their own versions of cupcake recipes. They also began to help their friends with create their own recipes and obtain ingredients.

Dramatic play experiences like this one are important in childhood social, emotional, cognitive and creative development. The children showcased their imagination by role-playing as bakers. They merged make-believe and reality by using both real kitchen materials and representative materials like playdough as props for their baking. Inventing new “recipes” put their creativity on display, but also showed their understanding of the need for processes in real life.

The creative and imaginative aspects of dramatic play are important because they reveal a child’s understanding of real life activities, ability to make connections between real life and make-believe and challenge the children to be resourceful when filling in the gaps between reality and pretend. The inventive aspect also instills a sense of independence and confidence in one’s ability to put their personal thoughts and ideas on display.

This activity also increased the children’s group work and communication skills and allowed them to foster positive relationships with their peers. They worked as a team to form the list of needed materials, practiced sharing resources and ideas, helped one another complete tasks, showed support by learning about other’s recipes and built upon leadership skills through the teaching their own recipes.

Dramatic play is a valuable aspect of our curriculum because it encourages children to explore a variety of creative ideas, build upon cognitive processes and skills and use knowledge from past experiences to further understanding of real world concepts.

Cauliflower Soup

Over the course of this week, the students in Wonderland Class learned a great deal about an important part of the human body by studying about bones. As a part of the study, the students were asked what they might need to keep their bones strong. Some of their answers were:

  • “Exercise and lifting stuff!” (The student was referring to working out to keep our bones strong.)
  • “Drink milk. It has protein!” (The student was telling us about protein and where it can be found.)
  • “Our bones break without good stuff for them.” (The student was telling us what happens when our bones do not get what they need.)

Student feedback has a great deal of influence on our classroom projects. Because we believe learning should be student led, we use questions and statements from students to determine the direction of projects. These statements influence the project work because it helps the teachers analyze how much the children know, in which direction their minds are going or what areas they need practice or improvement in.

After this conversation, the children were introduced to the mineral calcium and learned about its role in the human body. After doing some research, we decided to make calcium rich recipe- Cauliflower Soup. During the process of creating this recipe, the children were also introduced to a new vegetable that many of them hadn’t been familiar with - a leek.

After discussing our ingredients and their smells, textures and physical characteristics, the children began measuring and adding fractions with our measuring cups. Once we had all of the ingredients mixed, we took our pot to the kitchen where they let it simmer until snack time.

Throughout this experience the children got to practice their research and mathematical skills, both of which are foundational aspects of learning. They also learned about the process of cooking, and how to do so in a healthy way, which instills a sense of accomplishment and independence. Understanding the roles of vitamins and minerals and how to cook healthily are all important in maintaining a healthy body.

The cauliflower soup was a recipe that the children really enjoyed! It was a delicious treat for our taste buds, healthy for our bodies and an exciting intellectual endeavor. While consuming it was an enjoyable experience, being able to discuss its benefits as we ate together also served as a fun, communal learning experience.

Play-Dough (Food as a Language and Writing)

The children in House Room have picked up a new daily routine of baking cupcakes at the play dough table. Again, this is happening EVERY DAY! They get extremely excited about doing it everyday, and we are following their lead by incorporating provocations in this activity to strengthen math, literacy and other academic lessons.

While making their cupcakes, we have observed the children talking about “the recipe” and “the ingredients” involved. We encouraged the children to write down the ingredients and recipe on a large sheet of paper. This activity encouraged the children to practice letter recognition, enhance their vocabulary and build fine motor skills through writing. It also gave them an opportunity to work together as a group, encouraging social skills like teamwork, group decision-making and interpersonal communication.

The children have also been building upon their mathematical vocabulary and skillsets. They practice measurement when adding specific amounts of ingredients, making comments like “we need a little bit more.” Addition is also involved as the students determine the amount of treats they made, saying things like “I counted eight cupcakes.”

This experience also exposed the children to a variety of baking and kitchen related tools such as muffin tins, cupcake liners, plastic scoops and straws etc. Using these tools builds upon fine motor skills, and learning how to use them on their own instills a sense of independence.

While the children are not actually making “real” cupcakes, this form of symbolic play is meaningful because it familiarizes the students with the baking process. Practicing the science, math and general process related to baking instills a level of comfort and understanding in the students that will be useful in the future when their play cupcakes become real cupcakes.

Nutrition: Baking cupcakes (Food as a Language)

Lately, the children have taken great joy in making their own cupcakes in the play dough area. To further explore this interest, we decided to allow the children to bake real cupcakes for their Food as Language exploration. As a class we discussed all of the ingredients we would need to bake cupcakes. The children’s involvement in baking their play dough cupcakes prepared them for this moment and they knew exactly what was needed!

After gathering all of the necessary ingredients and utensils, we began exciting process of making our treats. Everyone in the classroom had the opportunity to help make our cupcakes. We all worked together to measure the wet and dry ingredients, stir the batter, place the cupcake liners in the pan, grease the pan and filled every liner with batter.

While the process required a great deal of teamwork, the children also learned the importance of taking turns. Each child had their own job to do, whether it was placing liners in the pan or pouring the batter. Having individual responsibilities within the group gave each child a feeling of importance and showed them that each member of a team is valuable.

Cooking is also always a great math lesson. Measuring the right ingredients, counting out the amount of cupcake liners needed and having an idea of how much time the treats take to bake all build upon counting skills and an understanding of measurements and time.

One other interesting concept to point out is the role of dramatic play in this experience. As noted above, the children had been making their own pretend cupcakes prior to making them for their Food as Language. When it came time to bake the real cupcakes, the children were prepared to do so. When they were working with play dough, they still discussed the ingredients that their cupcakes might require. They still practiced working together to create them, and determined who would fulfill what roles.

The children’s time of dramatic play (pretend, make-believe, role play etc.) equipped them with many of the skills necessary to complete the task in real life. This is one reason why dramatic play is extremely valuable and encouraged. Not only is it a momentary expression of creativity and imagination, but it also gives children good practice for real life experiences.