I'm sure I was an adult before I realised how yoghurt was made! Last week Caspar's (Year 6) class made science experiments using yeast, changing the environment and noting the differences in growth. We've made a lot of bread together so he had a basic understanding of yeast. But what about bacteria, would he be able to grow bacteria and what are it's optimal growing conditions?
We've made yoghurt before at home using a starter packet, not realising that a little fresh yoghurt (with live bacteria/active cultures) is all you need. We've also made it in one pot and using a thermos style container. This time we've used a temperature controlled environment which gives us much more control but also the ability to experiment a little, or a lot.
Putting the science aspect aside, it's so important that children learn where their food comes from, what is in their food and how they can make it themselves. It gives the child choice! Some yoghurts have a lot of sugar and additives, making your own yoghurt you know exactly what is in it. It also helps to teach children about how to reduce their waste, making your own yoghurt significantly reduces disposable packaging. This is a perfect activity for children in the second plane.
Making yoghurt at home also teaches children problem solving skills. Now and then we have a failure or more often than not, one pot doesn't set. We need to work out why it didn't set, what went wrong, do we need to test our equipment, was the starter yoghurt fresh, was the equipment clean, was the milk at the right temperature? It's almost like an experiment every time we make it!
It also teaches children that life is less than perfect, food bought from the store is most often perfect, no imperfections. Food made at home is often less than perfect, perhaps the yoghurt is a little lumpy or needs straining, it's totally normal and ok! It's like growing your own vegetables, a completely different experience to buying from the store. We also learn how to make our ideal tasing yoghurt and what conditions are good/better/best.
There are a lot of different ways to make yoghurt, we are not experts, but this method works for us. As a family of five, we like setting the yoghurt in smaller pots, we only half fill them so there is plenty of room for fruit or granola. They are a good size for breakfast or snack. We use a temperature controlled yoghurt maker (here UK and similar here US), so we can change the temperature and timer settings.