By: Robin Lundgren
When the weather keeps you indoors, making homemade pizza is a fun, educational activity that kids really enjoy. Making “pies” from scratch lets kids get hands-on, giving them the chance to measure, mix and knead. It also offers the opportunity to learn them a little about the science of cooking.
Before your child gets started making dough for the pizza crust, talk about the use of yeast in the recipe. Explain that yeast is a living organism that expends carbon dioxide as it feeds on sugar and water. A simple experiment can illustrate this point.
What you need…
– Measuring spoon
– Sandwich bag
– Liquid Measuring cup
– Tape measure
– Pencil and paper
What to do …
1. Give your child a balloon and have her stretch it out a little
2. Direct your child to combine 1 Tablespoon of active dry yeast with 1 teaspoon of sugar in the sandwich bag.
3. Help your child stick the funnel into the opening of the balloon and pour in the sugar and yeast mixture.
4. Have your child fill the measuring cup with one cup of lukewarm water and pour that into the balloon also.
5. Help your child tie the balloon shut.
6. Using the tape measure, assist your child in measuring the length and width of the balloon. Ask him to record the measurements on the paper.
7. After 15-20 minutes, have your child measure the length and width of the balloon again and record the measurements.
8. When the balloon expands to its fullest, discuss with your child what she thinks yeast does in a recipe? How might yeast affect the recipe for pizza dough?
9. Now on to the pizza making! This gives kids the opportunity to see how the yeast experiment applies to actual cooking.
What you need…
– 1 pkg. dry yeast
– 1 c. warm water
– 3 c. flour
– 1 tsp. sugar
– 1 1/2 tsp. salt
– 1/4 c. oil
– tomato sauce
– mozzarella cheese
– pepperoni, mushrooms, or other toppings as desired
What to do…
1. Have your child dissolve the package of yeast in the warm water.
2. Help your child measure and add the sugar, salt and oil, then mix it thoroughly.
3. Help your child measure 3 cups of flour into a separate bowl. Tell her that she needs to add just half of the flour first. How much would half be? Ask her to add that amount and stir until there are no lumps.
4. Help your child gradually add the remaining flour, mixing it well.
5. Explain how to knead dough. Let him knead the dough on a well floured surface for about 5 minutes.
6. Help your child roll the dough into a circle and place it on a greased pizza pan, leave edges a little thicker than middle.
7. Allow the dough to rise for 20 to 30 minutes. Discuss with your child the changes she sees taking place during that time. How is this similar to the yeast experiment? What does she think is happening?
8. Bake the crust at 450 degrees until it just begins to brown, and then remove from the oven.
9. Let your child add sauce, cheese and toppings.
10. Return the pizza to the oven and bake until the cheese is bubbly and begins to brown.
11. Dig in!
Cooking activities, such as making pizza, offer opportunities for kids to explore math and science in many ways. Measuring and math skills are practiced in everyday cooking. Kids learn science skills such as observation, data collection and hypothesizing by conducting “experiments.” Children can extend the activity by trying to figure out what other kinds of foods might require yeast, as well as exploring the applications of other leavening agents. Best of all, with cooking, there is a tasty reward at the end of the activity.
This monthly family activity series, “Hands-on-Kids!” is brought to you by a partnership between the Children’s Science Center (CSC) and FAMILY Magazine. CSC is committed to building a place where children can grow in their love of learning that will carry them into adulthood. We invite you to visit the CSC website, www.TheChildrensScienceCenter.org, where you and your children can “Explore, Create, Inspire.” Robin Lundgren, a CSC volunteer, is a freelance writer and Vice President of Aquarian Entertainment. “