A friend stopped to see me the other day. She has three really bright, actually gifted is a better term, girls. We have had many a conversation about how to best provide them opportunities to grow and be challenged while having a slim budget. This is a common question and I was more than ready to offer some suggestions.
The girls’ mom had similar ideas of her own about how to enrich during the summer. I think my input was more of a being an available sounding board for ideas. I know they are avid readers, learning languages through online platforms such as Duolingo, and have a plethora of vegetables growing in their own suburban yard. Their mom is adept at providing the girls a multitude of experiences. They visited earlier this summer to pick cherries and I know many baked goods and drinks called “shrubs” were made in their kitchen. When they stopped on Saturday, a trip to the Hmong community gardens was underway with a blueberry poke cake to be made that afternoon.
Cooking and baking are great ways to enrich your children. The preciseness of measurements and ability to perform conversions are prime examples of the enrichment. Plus, you get an a product to enjoy and the children can be proud of when they are finished. My friend’s middle child, soon to be in middle school, has taken to the show The Greatest British Baking Show on PBS. She has been turned on (read excited here) by the show and has been baking this summer as a result. My friend is smart to support this interest.
I have had several conversations with math teachers about the fact that our local students do not really understand fractions that well. I have wondered for several years now whether the fact that our children, in general, do not do a great deal of cooking, baking. or sewing anymore has to do with their incomplete understanding of fractions. Baking and learning to sew were staples of my childhood. I memorized my conversion tables and know how to perform basic operations on fractions to either halve, quarter, or triple a recipe. Useful skills.
If you are looking to challenge your children, allow them to start baking or sewing. Allowing them to have real life activities involving math will add to the richness of their experience. They probably will not even realize what they are learning along the way, but you will be teaching sustainable living, especially if the products used in the baked goods come from your own yard or the community garden. You are reinforcing math skills that will be useful later on. And, you are allowing your child to produce, share, and consume a product of which they can be proud.
Baking and sewing also offers room for growth. Not everything will turn out as desired, but should get better over time. Seams will be more even. Measurements will be more accurate. The difficulty of both can be increased over time, as the skill set increases. They can be activities that allows for failure, without too much investment of time or money. Other than a dirty kitchen, or finding fabric scraps stuck to the carpeting, there are not a lot of downsides to baking and sewing with your children. Give it a try, like my friend has, enjoy the results and let me know how it goes!