A Preschool Theme on Bread & Baking
Circle Time and Literature
Bread is a staple of life, and most children eat it every day. It is made from grains, and some people make homemade loafs while other are bought at stores. Use bread as a preschool theme in your classroom and take this topic across the curriculum using activities to implement how bread is made and tasting the varieties of bread that are available to eat. The use of literature can also help you in this task.
Grains such as wheat, rye, oats, and rice are easy to grow and bread is made from grinding grains to make flour. One of the most famous stories about baking bread and one to include in your preschool theme on bread is The Little Red Hen by Paul Galdone. This English folk tale has been passed down through the generations.
The story is about a little red hen who grows grain, harvests the wheat, bakes bread, and feeds her chicks: all by herself, without any help from her lazy barnyard friends. Talk with the children about the process from start to finish. Ask the children what they would do if they were the hen. Would they share? Did the friends help the hen when she asked for it? After reading the ending, talk about what the hen did. What do the children think will happen the next time the hen asks her friends to help?
This is a great story for children to act out. It helps them to understand what happens in the story (first, next, last). Talk about the process of planting, caring for, and harvesting the grain.
A Little Bread Science
Bakers use the same basic ingredients to make bread: flour and water. Many years ago, bread was flat and heavy; however, the ancients Egyptians discovered that fermentation improved their bread, thus learning how yeast makes bread rise. Yeast is an important ingredient in making bread today because it creates tiny holes to make the bread lighter, higher, and better tasting.
Yeast is actually a fungus (a tiny plant) that is purchased in the grocery store. Combined with sugar, water, air, and warmth, yeast will grow and multiply. As the fungus feeds on the sugars, it produces carbon dioxide and alcohol. This carbon dioxide makes bubbles and looks like foam. Cooking destroys the alcohol and kills the yeast but leaves the bubbles to make the bread soft and full of holes.
What better way to teach children about how bread is made and rises than to make some in the classroom if possible. Follow a basic bread recipe with the children helping you mix the ingredients. Before shaping the dough for rising, take out enough to make three balls. Place each ball in a clear glass jar and cover this with plastic wrap. Use a piece of masking tape to mark the height of each ball of dough on the outside of the jars. Place one jar in the refrigerator, one in a warm place with no drafts, and place the last one in a neutral spot (neither warm or cold). Check on the balls of dough from time to time to see how they are rising. Ask the children, "Do you think it makes a difference if the dough is put in a cold or warm place?"
Bread Dough Letters
Some bread dough comes already packaged as frozen bread dough. Let it thaw and introduce the children to this bread dough. Make sure all the children have washed their hands. Encourage them to explore it with their senses (touch, smell, sight). Show them how to roll snakes with the dough. Make alphabet letters with the dough. Remember at this age, exploring the dough is more important than forming the letters. When all the dough has been used and arranged on a baking sheet, bake the letters in an oven following the package directions. After the bread is baked and cooled, serve the bread letters as a snack.
Have a Bread-Tasting Party
Bread is multicultural. It is eaten all over the world but made with different flavors and textures. Ask the parents to bring in and share some of their favorite breads with your class. Here are a few different types of breads to try: Jewish challah or matzos, pita, Mexican tortillas, English scones, French baguettes or croissants, American corn bread, English muffins, Irish soda bread, German pumpernickel, Italian panettone, Swedish rye crisps, and others.
Cut the breads into bite-size pieces and place on a platter. Invite the children to choose a variety and let them spread butter or honey on their bread cubes with a plastic knife. This activity helps children learn about these different types of bread with their senses (sight, smell, touch, and taste). Talk about how the breads are alike and different as you enhance your preschool theme on bread. Try also the ideas in Let's Bake! Bread Activities for Children.
As children taste the varieties of bread, emphasize that bread is a grain and necessary for a healthy diet. This lesson should help your class understand how bread is made from the growing of the grains to the science of baking a loaf of bread.
Other Suggested Books
- Tony's Bread by Tomie dePaola
- Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban
- Bread is for Eating by David Gershator
- Everybody Bakes Bread by Norah Dooley