Category: Family Activities & Outings

Baking with Kids to Shape Their Future

Baking with Kids to Shape Their Future

Fall has arrived, and I am on the hunt for indoor activities to do with my children! Since Thanksgiving is the week, I thought it would be the perfect time to reach out to Cynthia of Mom’s Bread Bites to get her thoughts on the benefits of baking with kids. Grab some ingredients, and bake a loaf of bread together this week!

Why Bread?

The act of how to make your own bread has been a basic life skill for almost a long as we humans have been around.  It’s easy and more convenient to pick up a couple super big, chewy loaves at the store than to measure ingredients, mix them together, let it rise, shape it, then bake and cool it down.  Sounds more like an exercise regime, doesn’t it? Reading into the history of bread, YES, it used to be very labor intensive!

Yet more people are becoming aware of ingredients and for choosing to make what they can from scratch at home.  Even if allergies and diet aren’t high on your priority list, the benefits of bread making are so much more than just knowing what’s inside of your food. It can, in essence, help to build character and improve mental health.

Bread baking can be incorporated into busy lifestyles if you truly want to make the time. And starting children off young is half the effort. We all want our children to be their best, so invest in them.

Be sure to check out Cynthia’s Bread Making Bootcamp posts!

Baking with Kids | kids in the kitchen, indoor family activities, making bread with children, learning activities, Thanksgiving cooking

Your children can start helping in the kitchen as young as two years old and contribute until they are baking all on their own. Making bread is an inexpensive way to get them started contributing.  Much like chores and routines, the actual act of making bread gives your child a sense of value and a role to play in your family. When everybody has a job to do, including dumping and mixing, there is a certain peace in the home.  The kneading and shaping bread is very hands on. You can get elaborate if you like, but the goal is to share an enjoyable activity together while creating something.

Baking has also been proven to be therapeutic is using various ways of therapy!

It’s a Creative Outlet

There are many people who have children with special needs and it is harder for them to learn basic life skills be they social or otherwise. There is an art and level of creativity that can be used when learning how to make bread because there’s a lot that goes into simply feeling what it is in the dough and tweaking based on what it needs. Yeast bread is a living thing and needs care and attention.

Baking for Neighbors

I love baking for my neighbors, who almost never refuse one of my test recipes.  As an extrovert, it gives me a reason to knock on their door and bring along my littles so they can meet us. I have yet to have anyone refuse, and often they follow up later in the week with “that bread was GONE the same day!”

I believe that bread making can serve an important and vital role in our communities, be it an outlet for a child having “Big Feelings” and no words yet, or a local bakery offering an apprenticeship to at-risk youth. Children matter, no matter how small. Or big. Their future is based on their todays, so we cannot remind them enough that they are important and have value to the family and their community. We all want to belong and be loved.

I recently read a story about a downtown LA bakery that offered job opportunities to former gang members. Unfortunately, it was burned down in the 90s. The idea resonated with me about offering opportunities to people who need them, especially our kids.

People often need chances to prove and reprove that they are.  While I certainly don’t assume anyone’s child will become related to a gang or have less than desirable friendships, the benefits are clear. It’s very much a “teach a man how to fish” kind of thing. As our children grow, they gain more experience, and we offer more responsibility, more freedom, and more individuality.  Right in their home.


Baking with Kids | kids in the kitchen, indoor family activities, making bread with children, learning activities, Thanksgiving cookingMom’s Bread Bites

Cynthia is a self-taught bread baker and homeschooling mom of three. She began making bread as a way to cope with a tragic loss and it helped her to fight depression and work through grief in a healthy way. Now, she teaches moms how to use breadmaking to create lasting memories with their children.

You can visit Cynthia’s website, Mom’s Bread Bites, or follow her on Facebook!

Fall Family Traditions + Gratitude Journal

Fall Family Traditions + Gratitude Journal

Growing up in Texas, cooler weather and changing leaves usually arrived at the same time as Christmas. Now that we have moved to the Midwest, our girls get to experience a TRUE fall: harvest, apple-picking, pumpkin patches, and jumping in HUGE piles of leaves in the yard. We also have been able to start new fall family traditions! 

(Reminder: Rolling Prairie Readers uses affiliate links at no additional cost to you.)

Fall Family Traditions:

  • Visit a pumpkin patch or apple orchard.
  • Rake up leaves from the yard and jump in them. (Bonus points for raking a neighbor’s yard, too!)
  • Go on a nature hike and gather items for a homemade wreath craft.
  • Complete a family puzzle or LEGO set over a few weeks’ time.
  • Listen to an audiobook on the couch while doing a project.
  • Participate in our fall reading challenge.
  • Invite a family over for a meal.
    This can be for Thanksgiving (think of someone who doesn’t have extended family nearby) or another meal during the month of November. Have your children help plan the menu, go shopping, set the table, and prepare the meal together. Teach your children about serving others and being hospitable.
  • Do a family service project.
    Gather items for the local food pantry or women’s shelter. Snuggle dogs or cats at the animal shelter. Write letters for veterans. Create small care packages for the homeless (warm socks, toiletry items, snacks). Participate in Operation Christmas Child or Angel Tree.   
  • Bake (or buy) cookies and talk about what each family member is grateful for. You can make a gratitude jar, banner, or start a gratitude journal to add to each year.

Fall Family Traditions | family activity ideas, teaching kids to be grateful, helping others, gratitude journal for families, making a difference


Make a Gratitude Journal:

When your children are old enough to understand what “thankful” means, go out and buy a family journal. I would recommend one with unlined pages and a spiral binding.

Decorate the cover together with fabric or scrapbook paper. Trace each child’s hand on a page in the journal and allow them to fill it in with markers, stickers, colored paper, magazine scraps, etc. Write down what they are thankful for (or let them write in the journal) and date the entries. Each year, bring the journal out and reminisce about previous years.

Start a new family tradition: create a gratitude journal!


Join our Fall Reading Challenge:

Reading aloud with your children for 15 minutes a day can have significant impact on your:

  • family bond
  • child’s love for learning
  • child’s emotional and academic success
  • and MORE!

You can grab our FREE printable reading log and get details about our November book giveaway below.

Grab our free printable reading log at rollingprairiereaders.com!

Teaching Kids Problem Solving Skills

Teaching Kids Problem Solving Skills

When it comes to the main things I want my girls to learn in their childhoods, problem solving skills would definitely be at the top of the list (along with kindness, respect, perseverance, and integrity).

In the past year, our family has gotten bolder with our outdoor adventures, but we still have plenty of room to grow. Today, I am excited to share this helpful guest post and freebie from Isaac and Stephanie Ashby at Tyee Outdoor Experience.  As Isaac explains on their blog, “As a child, adventure was my passion, and wilderness was my medium.” Read on to learn how we can present our children with opportunities for learning problem solving skills!

Teaching Kids Problem Solving Skills | critical thinking, problem solving activities for kids, fun challenges, free printable, child development, life skill


Me: Siri, why is my VCR not working?

Siri: Did you try throwing it away and going digital?

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Maybe I’ll try Google.

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Me: Google, why won’t my VCR work?

Google: Because you are stuck in the 80’s.  Try Netflix or Amazon.

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Fine, I’ll ask Mom and Dad.

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Me: Mom, I can’t get my VCR to work.  

Mom: Oh sweetheart, you’re using a VCR?  Why didn’t you tell us the world was crumbling around you?

Me: But Mom…

Mom: Don’t “but mom” me, I’m you mother.  I know you’re 40 years old but that doesn’t mean I can’t baby you.  Now are you hungry?  As soon as your father finishes outside, I will have him fix your VCR.


While this sequence of events is hilarious, it is becoming much more common.  Why?  Because kids growing up in this age have smartphones and easy internet access with a built-in answering service.  We rarely solve problems on their own anymore!  And there are a lot of problems electronic devices just cannot solve.

Not-so-little-known-fact: Problem solving is an essential skill that employers look for when hiring new employees.  It’s a disappearing art form these days!  

So how do parents teach their kids problem solving skills without merely looking it up on your favorite search engine?

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You: Siri, how do I teach my kids problem solving skills?

Siri:  Keep reading this article.  Tyee Outdoor Experience is the best!

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If you’ve made it this far, I assume you are interested in teaching your children how to solve problems…

Well, here… we… go…

The best way to learn problem solving skills is to practice.  

Practice, practice, practice!  If your kids encounter a problem, make them solve it without electronics.  And let them struggle with it.  Don’t swoop in like the helicopter parent and solve everything.  Make them work for it.

Because I run a perfect household and there are never problems for my kids to practice on (I’m sure you are all the same), here is a strategy to choose a problem and practice these skills.

Step 1: Choose a task or problem for the kids to solve. 

We recommend they do this outside to get them active, out in the fresh air and sunlight.  As well as a billion other reasons for going outside.

Open ended problems with a variety of solutions and make them fun!  Problem solving skills sounds very formal and dull but coming up with fun problems will go over much better.

Here are just a few open-ended, outdoor problems to get you started.  We have even 20 ideas in the Problem Solving Practice Guide printable.

  • Building a bridge that will hold your weight
  • Collecting rain water
  • Build an igloo with snow
  • Dig a hole without a shovel

Step 2: Print the problem solving skills worksheet found here.  

The worksheet is optional but I recommend using it the first couple of times to teach the kids an organized way to solve problems.  It also includes more outdoor example problems and tips.

Step 3: Introduce the task.  

Tell the kids the problem, the boundaries or limits (space, time, necessary conditions) and what they have to work with.  Like Iron Chef but not cooking.  Today’s ingredient is mud!

Step 4: Let them get to work!  

Try not to hover but provide supervision for safety.

As the kids work, resist the urge to give tips, hints, or help.  If they can’t figure it out for themselves, the problem is too hard.  They must learn to do it on their own.

If the task is too hard for them, don’t tell them the solution.  Put the task on hold and give them an easier task.

Step 5: When the kids find a solution, have them talk you through their thinking process.  

It’s important to understand what parts of the process they are good at and what parts they need work on.

Ok now you may be saying this is too easy or obvious but give it a try.  Sometimes we overlook the obvious so think of it as a good skills assessment.

Teaching Kids Problem Solving Skills | critical thinking, problem solving activities for kids, fun challenges, free printable, child development, life skill

Strategies for tough problems and brain farts

In solving problems, we all hit those walls of “I don’t know how”, “I can’t do it”, [insert whining excuse of choice here].  Therefore, TA DA, we give you strategies to break out of those tough problems and brain fog.

1 – Work backwards.  This can seriously open up the mind to new ideas.

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Me: Siri, how do I work backwards if I don’t have a solution to work backwards from?

Siri: Ask Google.  That question just fried my circuits.

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To work backwards without a solution, clearly identify the conditions you want your eventual solution to fulfill.   Then think of how you can make these conditions happen.

2 – Brainstorm the WORST possible solutions to the problem, go through them, and see if any might be a good place to start or at least spark a new (and hopefully better) idea.

Example: Task is getting Frisbee off the roof without getting on the roof.

Worst solutions: Throw a piece of meat up and a vulture will come to knock it off, pay the Air Force to retrieve it, build a go-go gadget arm to grab it, convince it to come down with loving words, etc.  

See why we call them the worst solutions?  But maybe the gadget arm idea sparks another idea for some kind of reaching device.  You never know when inspiration will hit.

3 – Just start messing around and playing with available tools and supplies.  Touching and playing with stuff is a great way to get the creative juices flowing.

And there you have it!  Do you feel the little grey brain cells moving yet?  Problem solving skills are probably not at the top of your to-do list but they are a hidden gem and worth the time to help our kids develop.  Plus, it’s fun get out there and solve some problems together!

See you outside!

Teaching Kids Problem-Solving Skills | critical thinking, problem solving activities for kids, fun challenges, free printable, child development, life skill

Hey there! This is Isaac and Stephanie Ashby from Tyee Outdoor Experience and we get families OUTSIDE. Lessons, games, resources, and activities that pull you outside every day because you enjoy it, not because it is a box to check off on a list of things you “should be doing”. Throw out inconvenient, boring, or expensive. We know you’ve got this!