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The Waldorf curriculum emphasizes the importance of establishing a sense of rhythm in a child’s daily activities, of encouraging the imagination, and instilling a sense of reverence for the beauty of daily life. For this reason, baking with children is often included as an integral part of the Waldorf kindergarten program. Including baking as part of a homeschool curriculum is an easy way to introduce rhythm and reinforce key Waldorf values.
Kindergarten Aged Children Learn Through the Senses
Baking bread with children is the perfect way to stimulate all the senses and activate the developing mind, and is an activity easily integrated into a homeschool curriculum. The smell of yeast and of baking bread, the weight and texture of the mounds of dough during kneading and shaping, and, of course, the taste of the bread itself all lead children to feel completely engaged in the process. This gentle stimulation of the senses prepares the developing mind for later academic work as they move from kindergarten to the higher grades.
Adding Baking to a Homeschool Curriculum Promotes Intellectual Development
Authorities both from Waldorf and non-Waldorf backgrounds encourage baking as a child development activity, as it provides concrete and fun opportunities for a number of developmental activities.
- Fine motor strength: kneading of the dough and shaping of loaves works strengthens the hand muscles an improves manual dexterity.
- Attention and goal setting: Baking bread requires care, patience, and a willingness to delay gratification.
- Mathematical reasoning and number sense: The development of number sense is a primary goal of kindergarten programs. Measuring and counting ingredients and baking are fun ways to give math concrete meaning and teaching kids about math by teaching them to bake bread.
- Scientific observation: In the kindergarten years, it is more important to teach scientific skills than scientific facts. The baking process can seem almost magical, and children will become intently aware of the chemical changes that their little ball of dough undergoes. It is this kind of focused attention that lays the groundwork for later scientific exploration.
Baking With Children in a Homeschool Setting
While baking with a kindergarten aged child is usually a pleasure, there are a few things to keep in mind when baking is first introduced to the curriculum:
- It is best to start with a simple recipe, like this basic bread recipe, to keep things fun and stress-free. Later on, the activity can be expanded by experimenting with whole grains or sourdoughs.
- In a typical Waldorf Kindergarten classroom, the children are not asked to help with the day’s “work.” Instead, the teacher, or, in a homeschool setting, the parent, will begin the task without comment, and the child will instinctively want to be a part of it.
- The rhythmic nature of stirring and kneading can inspire the verses that are familiar to the Waldorf kindergarten curriculum. In a homeschool setting, the parent can introduce songs or verses, or allow the child to make up her own.
- A small patch of flour, scattered in front of the child just before he is ready to begin kneading, is an open invitation to tactile writing and drawing activities.
- When given the opportunity to shape the bread, children may be more interested in creating a bread flower, or a bread butterfly, than a loaf. This should be encouraged, and is also a good opportunity to celebrate holidays and festivals. For example, bread is easily shaped into a spiral for Advent, or a sun for Midsummer day.
The Waldorf Educational Philosophy
In the Waldorf homeschool curriculum, especially at the kindergarten level, the emphasis needs to be on the process, not the product. Worrying about achieving perfect, smooth loaves would defeat the purpose. If children are given the opportunity to use their imaginations create something that is beautiful to the senses, the curriculum goals have been met.
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