I am so thrilled to share with you the backbone of Little Cookery: the Coloured Cups Method, also known as Cooking by Colors™. This method is so fundamental to the success of kids succeeding in the kitchen.
It’s also the way that you will be able to teach your kids how to cook. Or rather, to assist them while they learn cooking by doing.
Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best. And, thanks to Eli’s persistence that he be allowed to help in the kitchen, I came up with an idea so simple that it turned out to be quite brilliant at helping my boys and their friends how to bake.
the eureka! moment
I came up with the Coloured Cups Method when I was trying to teach Eli to measure ingredients. Aged two, he found all the fractions and numbers too abstract to use without supervision. But it was so frustrating because I knew he could play matching games with simple numbers, colours and foodstuffs. It just felt like traditional recipes were not talking his language. I had no faith in traditional recipes to teach kids how to bake.
The thought of finding a way to communicate it to him kept swirling around and around in my head until I had that Eureka! moment.
First, I chose a simple recipe, then I “translated” the recipe by switching the cup fractions for a colour. I attached ribbons to my cup measures so Eli knew which cup was which colour. Finally, I drew out the ingredients and steps in a notebook.
Suddenly, not only was Eli able to pick the right cup for the right ingredient, but the seeds for a cookbook truly tailored for kids were sowed.
Little Cookery: simplifying measurements
The Cooking by Colors™ method essentially refers to the colours I gave to each cup and the simplifying of the number of measures needed. After all, if you are a young kid, why would you need to be burdened with dealing in eighths of a teaspoon when really a pinch will do? And so, 1 cup was re-branded as purple, 1/2 cup as pink and so forth.
And why complicate things? Instead of having yet another measure I used coloured dots indicating the measure, underneath the step. What you get is an image of the step, a simple instruction and one or more coloured dot at the bottom of the box. One coloured dot indicates the need to use one measure, two coloured dots means two measures. Ultimately this means that all kids need to do is ‘fill one pink one with blueberries’.
It’s about gaining self confidence
Using the Cooking by Colors™ method, along with my special recipe design, children as young as two are able to follow recipes without an adult hovering over them. Instead of the grownup being the one to teach kids how to bake, the kid becomes their own teacher.
As you can see in the video below, my kids have gained so much self confidence using this method and I really hope you see similar results. They can understand so much of a recipe and they love it!
Cup measures probably seem like the simplest things in the world. There are however, a couple of technicalities worth knowing about before you delve into using them with Little Cookery.
- The volume of US cup measures is slightly different to those from Europe or Australia. For the purposes of being able to teach kids how to bake, it does not matter which type you use, as long as you use them consistently.
- It’s worth buying a set of cups for your kids to use with Little Cookery. They don’t have to be expensive – you can get them from pound shops and dollar stores! Doing this means you can remove the measures not used by the cookbook. Also add the tags, scribble over them with coloured permanent pens, and give the kids ownership.
- It might seem obvious, but if you’re investing in cups specifically to use for Little Cookery, don’t buy coloured ones! There are beautiful rainbow sets out there by excellent manufacturers, but none of them are quite right for Little Cookery. It would be a disaster when you’re starting out if all of the tags and all of the cups were different colours to each other. Much better to go for all one colour or better still, stainless steel cups.
Using Cooking by Colors™ cup colours
One of the most useful, yet utterly simple, discoveries I’ve found when using cups with preschoolers and kids is this.. Decant dry ingredients into a much larger zip-loc bag or container. The cups can then be used to lightly scoop up a heaped cupful and shake off the excess, which is less messy (well… sort of ). This ensures that the cups are packed full and the they don’t need to be patted.
4 free ways to make your own Little Cookery tags
When I came up with the idea for the Coloured Cup Method to teach kids how to bake, I did not have multicoloured cups, or an easy way of tagging them. So I got crazy (check out my Instagram to see how that went!). I would implore you to as well if you’re keen to get started. If you need some ideas, start here:
- Coloured string tied around handles;
- Permanent, coloured permanent markers (Sharpies for example);
- Glued-on paper strips will do for the first few tries. Download the coloured strips using the button at the bottom.
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