Cooking with kids – developing early maths skills

Children love to help with cooking and baking. It’s great fun, and a brilliant way to talk about maths together. The trick is to choose recipes that give your child as much control as possible, so they feel like they are the ones doing the cooking. And don’t worry about perfect results. Muffin and biscuit recipes can be quite forgiving!

Watch Isabel’s tips for using maths while cooking in this short film, or read Isabel’s suggestions below.


Some children feel a lot of pressure when they’re faced with pen and paper activities. Hands-on tasks can help them to focus, and feel more confident about having a go.

Baking gives you lots of opportunities to count, and to talk about shape, size and quantities. Words like ‘more’, ‘heavy’ and ‘full’ are the first steps towards mathematical language. Baking is also brilliant for getting your child used to the idea of estimating, and trial and error.

My children are 4, 6 and 8, so there’s quite a spread of abilities. Baking is a great activity to do together, because you can just ask older children different questions. For example, “How many spoonfuls do you think we need to fill the cup?” or “We’ve got 10 stars left. If you share them out, how many will be on each biscuit?”

Cooking is one of the best ways to build a few minutes of learning into the everyday routine – and best of all, it ends with a built in reward!

If you have a younger child who would rather freestyle, use cooking sessions as a chance to ‘experiment’. My four year old loves mixing up random ingredients, just to see what happens. I squeeze as much learning out of the mess as possible, by asking him to compare his mixtures and talk about colour and texture.

At the same time you’re developing loads of useful literacy skills. You’re showing your children how to use a non-fiction book or giving older children the opportunity to read for a purpose.

You’re talking and introducing new words all the time, and decorating cakes and biscuits is a brilliant way to develop the fine motor skills your child will need as they learn to write.

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