Few holidays embrace STEAM like Halloween. Kids dress up as mad scientists poking around their labs, while parents decorate with mummies, skeletons, ghosts, and other curious creatures.
There are dozens of opportunities to turn a Halloween activity into a learning experience, especially in the kitchen. Here’s how kids learn STEAM through baking and how you can turn spooky treats into educational activities.
How Cooking Benefits Your Kids
There are several benefits to asking kids to help with the cooking process. Even asking your child to hand you ingredients or mix them in a bowl can build similar emotional connections to when you’re playing games or reading a book together.
“Cooking time is bonding time,” journalist and author Stephanie Gallagher writes. “When you cook together, kids feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves. They feel responsible, because you are trusting them with an important family task.”
During this time, you are a teacher, mentor, and parent. Your child can build self-confidence measuring ingredients or creating sauces and will better realize how capable they are now and when taking on future challenges.
“Kids who cook become adults who cook,” vegan chef Del Sroufe, author of Forks Over Knives writes at the Center for Nutrition Studies. “While younger kids may sometimes be more of a hindrance than a help in the kitchen, with patience and practice, those messy young sous chefs will one day cook entire meals for the family.”
The memories of cooking, as well as the acquired skills, will stay with your kids long into adulthood.
Start With Small Steps and Activities
Your child doesn’t have to become a five-star chef overnight. Find activities that are age appropriate for them to do.
Mique Provost at Thirty Handmade Days shared an incredibly useful chart that shows what kitchen skills are appropriate for each age group. You don’t want to hand a knife to a toddler, but kids 2-5 can stir and wash food while older children can measure ingredients, peel fruit and handle more complex tasks.
“Remember they don’t have to do ALL the things all at once,” Alissa Marquess, founder of Bounceback Parenting writes. “They can do part of a task before they do the whole thing. They can gain skills gradually so if you have a hard time handing over the reins, no worries.”
Cooking might take a little longer at first, but once your kids get the hang of it, the process will speed up.
What STEAM Subjects Can You Cover in the Kitchen?
The great thing about baking and cooking is that you can choose the lesson based on your child’s age and mastery of various subjects. You can also change the lesson each time.
Marci Goodwin at The Homeschool Scientist goes into detail on how you can use baking to discuss different states of matter (and how temperature affects it), fractions, and converting from metric measurements. She includes a printable volume chart that your child can reference later.
Many scientists turn to baking to conduct experiments and practice their love of science outside of the lab. Science education writer Bethany Brookshire, Ph.D., at Science News for Students uses baking to make science seem less intimidating. Science is a way of thinking about the world, approaching problems, and brainstorming solutions. When kids do science outside of the classroom — and the main result is cookies — they feel more comfortable when in a learning environment.
Baking Teaches Hard and Soft Skills
Along with hard skills, there are also soft skills and concepts that kids learn when they bake, journalist Erik Missio explains at CBC Parents. Children learn about planning and patience even before the first egg gets cracked.
During the baking process, kids might help choose a recipe, gather ingredients, and learn how one step affects the next. They’ll follow the recipe through to completion — and that includes doing the dishes and cleaning up after.
Check Out These Halloween STEAM Cooking Ideas
To begin the baking process, pick your child’s favorite topic related to Halloween: mummies, science, spooky animals, ghosts, and even aliens. You can even let your kids decide what they want to learn.
For example, the team at ACS ChemClubs has Halloween science ideas related to body parts, costumes, pumpkins, and spooky elements. Whip up a batch of fake blood while discussing the actual components of human blood to connect education with a fun activity.
To get started, STEAM Powered Family shares 31 STEAM-related ideas for Halloween. These are easy crafts you can do at home. Make gummy mummies to add a history element to your activity, or develop glow in the dark Jello to spook kids at your upcoming Halloween party.
Fortunately, not all of these snacks have to be chock full of sugar and candy. It’s possible to create savory recipes that contribute to your child’s health, rather than their chances of getting a cavity. Brianna Steinhilber at Everyday Health has recipes for grilled cheese jack-o-lanterns and veggie skeletons for alternatives to the traditional sweet treats kids eat during this time of year.
Improve Your Knowledge Alongside Your Kids
The best part of baking with your kids is that you get to learn along with them. Chemist and recipe developer Janice Lawandi, Ph.D., at Kitchen Heals Soul shares her top five reference books about baking science so you can learn and pass the knowledge on to your family. By reading books like Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking by Michael Ruhlman and How Baking Works: Exploring the Fundamental of Baking Science by Paula Figoni, you’ll be able to answer all of your child’s questions while answering your own. Learning and curiosity have no age limit!
Invite your kids into the kitchen this Halloween. From anatomically correct chocolate spiders to mystery monster spaghetti, you can turn your kids into mad scientists exploring STEAM concepts over a bubbling cauldron — or at least over a mixing bowl.