Father’s Day Tomorrow! Cooking for Dad

by Deb on September 5, 2009

Tomorrow is Father’s Day, and luckily my husband likes mousse/cheesecake/icecream type cakes.  We’re quite big fans of packet cakes, a regular part of the weekly shop is that big girl gets to choose one for herself.  Firstly because I’m a pretty bad cook, so at least with a packet cake it has a chance of working.  Secondly they are nice and easy, with just a couple of steps so little ones don’t get distracted or have to wait while you do the dangerous/complicated bits.  We’re moving on to homemade recipes slowly, but packets are a good place to start.  Because they are so simple, you have lots of opportunities for discussion rather than trying to do lots of steps.  And finally they are very, very good for early literacy.

By this I don’t mean the 3 year old reads the instructions.  Of course she doesn’t.  But a good definition of literacy is ‘making sense of texts.’ And a packet cake has lots of texts pre-readers can make sense of.  At the most basic, they can look at the picture and choose the one they want.

biscuit packet

On the back, there are lots of symbols used.  So when we are at the shops she can check if it is a nice easy one.  When we are making it she can ‘read’ all the ingredients and get them out.  There’s nothing like the beaming grin when she announces she has everything out and is ready to cook.  This is the sort of thing that is so vital to early literacy – she has confidence because she has success, as far as she’s concerned she’s reading, and in a very basic way she is independently literate.  There’s even numeracy in there with measuring, and you can do lots of incidental talking about bigger, smaller and counting.  And as a science bonus they are set out in a similar way to an experiment, with materials, instruments and instructions.

back of packet

The cake we made today had lots of great science things to talk about.  When we cook they stand on a chair at the end of the bench, we’ve just graduated to two chairs so they fit better and I’m squashed in the corner.  We have a little set of electric scales, so the big one measured out the butter (she doesn’t read the scales, just puts butter in the bowl until I say stop!).  It was melted in the microwave, and there’s an opportunity to talk about solids, heat, melting and liquids.  At this point it’s labels and language that are important, saying things like “The butter got hot so it’s melted.”

Even the little one can help with the biscuit base – she copies me pushing it flat by hitting it with a spoon.  Then we have a set of measuring cups with very long handles, so with someone to steady her she can hold the cup while I pour in the milk then tip it into the bowl.  She’s just recently started being able to do this, at about 16 months.  Big girl cuts the tops off packets and pours the powders in, so there’s a lot more discussion about powder and dissolving, and usually there are colour changes as well.  Little one loves holding the ends of the electric mixer, while the big girl thinks she’s the bees knees being in charge of turning the bowl and scraping down the sides.  This recipe is great because it starts liquid then thickens quite dramatically as you are mixing it to make a mousse, so the girls can easily see the change.  Then it just gets popped in the freezer and goes even harder and colder.


Big girl made herself a little one, and the big one is ready for Daddy tomorrow.  It takes a lot of patience and acceptance, but cooking with little ones is one of the most fun and rewarding activities we do.  Happy Father’s Day!

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