"The sight of a twenty-two-month-old spreading biscuit dough with a rolling pin, using a cutter to form the shapes, and putting the biscuits into a hot toaster oven for baking, all without assistance or an un-toward incident, is a scene that is not soon forgotten. The look of pride and self-satisfaction on the child's face after such an accomplishment is a clear indication that inner development is taking place." - Paula Polk Lillard, Montessori in the Classroom.
The idea of using a toaster oven in a Montessori environment is not a new one. Although at home my children have only just started to use the toaster oven for baking independently. I don't know why we didn't do it sooner. This has been a game changer, a lightbulb moment! It has made a huge difference. This is baking independently - completely, from start to finish!
My children don't like to use our main kitchen oven, it's up high, the door is large making it really difficult for the children to reach in and put in or pull out a tray. With the toaster oven children can safely open the door and reach in. They can easily set the temperature and timer or they can use the presets, it's easy to read and easy to use safely. The children can watch the timer tick down. They can watch every second of the baking process, and it's interesting to them. Let's watch the muffins rise!
My children may be older than the twenty-two-month-old but the sense of accomplishment is the same! "I made these!" Even for my eight-year-old, it's so nice for him to cook his own pizza without needing any help.
Out of the oven and who would like a muffin?
Or perhaps a cookie...
It really is like magic!
Some of my tips for independent baking with toaster oven;
- Halve the recipe. Or if possible refrigerate half of the dough or batter for another time. The toaster oven can only bake small amounts at a time and halving the recipe works well, the child gets to bake without it taking hours and the quantities are easier to handle. Consider using simple or pictorial recipes children can use independently.
- Use small trays and tins. Our six muffin tin and small pizza trays work well but we have needed new and smaller cake tins and baking trays, we even have a small casserole dish to fit in the toaster oven.
- Keep an open mind about what and how you can cook. These little toaster ovens will cook almost anything, from toast, pizza, muffins, cakes, pies, quiche, frittatas, toasties, quesadillas, bread, pastries. Keep an open mind and consider using it whenever you are baking with children.
- Use child size materials. Children need two oven gloves or mitts, one is not going to be enough, children naturally reach to pull a tray with two hands. It's a good idea to have a few child sized tools like spatulas, turners and tongs nearby for serving.
- Use it age appropriately, supervision is still required. Model and show the children how to use the oven safely. For young children use at the child's height, children are more stable with their feet firmly on the ground, especially when holding and moving hot trays.
I've tried to make this cooking station flexible and suitable to all cooking situations, we might need some new storage ideas for this area to keep some cooking equipment nearby. Below is a picture of this same area being used over the weekend, Otis is cooking pancakes for breakfast using an electric skillet. Putting cooking equipment at the child's height makes a difference.
Some additional reading on using the toaster oven and a few other examples include;
- Making Biscuits at A Montessori Musing Place. This post shows each independent step in the classroom environment.
I'd love to hear your ideas or examples of baking with a toaster oven.