The smell of kindergarten bread baking in the oven is a welcome staple in Waldorf schools around the world. Apart from the wonderful aroma and homey feeling it instills in many of us, there are actually many pedagogical reasons behind why we make bread. Baking bread with children has the potential to weave together many of the important aspects of life, to strengthen their practical skills and abilities and harness their abundant energy. The whole culture of bread-making, its recipes, stories, songs and poems has the ability to educate children and support their healthy development.
We often espouse the importance of play in Early Childhood and our kindergartens allow for ample free and imaginative play, but work also plays an important role in the Waldorf preschool. Teachers intentionally work in the presence of the children and with their help. Important jobs like making soup, washing placemats and napkins, ironing and of course, baking bread have their designated day of the week. Children willingly participate in this work because they long to knead, chop and even clean up. Participating and imitating this work enables the children to learn to do their fair share and to help others.
Children can also experience an interconnected world when we encourage them to see and participate in a whole process from start to finish. When each step is visibly linked with the one that went before, a real understanding of connection arises. It is important for children to experience that bread is actually the result of someone’s work, that it comes from stalks of wheat that are threshed from grain. In our kindergarten classroom, children will grind the wheat by hand using a hand grinder. They will then take the flour and help mix it with water and yeast to form the dough. Then, the fun of kneading can begin. Children will knead and shape and form the dough into rolls which are then baked in the oven. They smell it as it bakes. Snack is always preceded by the saying of grace so the mood brings an awareness and an appreciation of all that is given to us by the earth. The baked bread is then enjoyed with butter and honey- yum.
Bread baking is thus an important and valuable part of the Waldorf Early Child curriculum. The delicious smell and samples that sometimes make their way home are certainly an added bonus!
Recipe for Merrily We Meet Bread
- 2 cups warm water
- 2 tablespoons yeast
- 1/4 cup of honey
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 3 to 4 cups whole-wheat flour
- 3 to 4 cups white flour
Grease baking sheets (a pizza stone also works well). Measure 1 1/2 cups water; add yeast and 1/2 of honey. Set aside till yeast has bubbled and foamed. In a separate bowl, mix 3 cups each of flour and salt. Pour in yeast mixture, oil and remaining water and honey. Add extra flour as necessary to nice consistency of dough – not too sticky, not too dry. Sprinkle a bit of flour on surface for kneading. Knead for 10 minutes. Form into a ball and place dough in lightly oiled bowl. Cover and let rise in a warm spot till doubled in size (about 1 hour). Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Punch down dough, knead again and form into balls or shape into one loaf. Bake – mini rolls in muffin tins ~12 min, rolls for ~20 min, loaf for ~45-55 min. If you place a bowl of water into the oven while the bread is baking, it gives the bread a nice crust.