Over the years, we tried many different Christmas cookies. Some we liked, some not so much. When I married my husband, he brought with him tasty Hungarian holiday treats that soon became part of our holiday tradition. There is something about cookies that make the holidays seem more festive.
Baking treats for the holidays in your Montessori classroom is a fun way to incorporate Cosmic Education, Cultural Geography, History, Math, Language, Science and Practical Life. Best of all, everyone gets to enjoy the treats they helped make. Here is a little history and tips about cookies to share with your Montessori students:
Holiday Cookies – Fun Montessori Curriculum OpportunitiesThe word “cookie” comes from the Dutch koeptje, which means small cake. The idea for cookies and crackers probably began with Neolithic farmers some 10,000 years ago, though I’ll be the first to admit their grain and water paste cooked on hot stones was a far cry from modern cookies. As time progressed, Middle Eastern cooks explored the possibilities of mixing butter, eggs, flour, and cream and sweetening them with honey or fruit.
When the Moors invaded Spain during the Middle Ages, they brought with them exotic spices that became popular throughout Europe. When sugar became available in Medieval Europe, it was both rare and costly. Due to this and the expense of spices and nuts, cookies were baked for special treats. Many Medieval holiday treats contained such ingredients as cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, almonds, and dried fruits. By the 1500s, the idea of Christmas cookies had caught on all across Europe, with German gingerbread, lebkuchen, being one of the first cookies traditionally associated with Christmas.
You can also use the idea of holiday treats to encourage your students to share their diverse cultural traditions at this time of year, and to explore what kind of holiday treats they enjoy with their celebrations.
Baking Holiday Treats in the Montessori Classroom
Here are some helpful hints for baking in the Montessori environment:
- Select a recipe that is age appropriate. Cut-out sugar cookies are always fun. Refrigerated dough can be rolled out, cut into shapes, and decorated by children of all ages
- Have plenty of help. Parent volunteers are really important, especially when working with younger students. Toddler and preschool aged children really need one-on-one supervision. And it is always important to have a few extra sets of hands to help with preparation and clean up.
- Expect a mess! Cover the tops of tables with bulletin board paper or paper tablecloths that can be rolled up later and recycled. You may think about covering the floor, as well.
- Avoid cookies sticking to the pans by lining them with parchment paper.
- Encourage your Montessori students to observe how mixtures behave and chemical reactions take place as you prepare your cookie dough and bake the treats.
- You may wish to limit the amount of cookies eaten at a time, i.e., students may eat one at school and take the rest home to share with family.
- Kids of all ages love sprinkles. Be sure to have plenty on hand so you don’t run out.
- Play holiday music in the background of your Montessori classroom. Have a sing-along while you’re baking and decorating.
- For Christmas cookie recipes from around the world: http://www.christmas-cookies.com/recipes/bycountry.php
- For historical information: http://www.foodtimeline.org/christmasfood.html
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Tuesday, November 9, 2010.