shortbread making

This Scottish-themed shortbread making activity will excite and challenge children from as young as 12 months old. Traditionally eaten around Christmas and an essential part of the traditional Scottish New Year Hogmanay, this is a great recipe to entice little hands and minds into scientific exploration through baking! Depending on the age and stage of your children, you can either roll with a pin which children love to do or press directly into a baking tin. Let their little hands and fingers get stuck in.

Learning through baking

  • Baking can teach a child how to follow verbal, pictorial or written instructions through modelling as well as using practical skills such as weighing out of the ingredients, which encompasses both literacy and numeracy skills.
  • Teaching them the skill of preparation and organisation through organising your ingredients, utensils and work area as well as preparing PPE (aprons) and carrying out routine personal hygiene routines through washing hands thoroughly before preparing food.
  • Children like to stand back and see what has been created on the tray as they learn through practical everyday science that heat is a catalyst and that what went into the oven can change state.

Safety tips

As with any activity with an element of risk, a thorough risk assessment should be carried out to prevent the risk of harm to the child. The benefits of baking with children make for beneficial learning, however, we should be mindful as to what can go wrong and put precautions put in place to avoid this. Always ensure children are supervised whilst in the kitchen at all times.

  • Be mindful around cookie cutters as these can be sharp, plastic one are great for this activity as the pastry is soft.
  • Don’t be afraid to show a child something is hot. Use PPE such as an oven glove when managing hot items from the oven and keep well away from children’s reach until cool.
  • The activity table should be free from hazards, and at the correct work level. It is best to stand as both hands will used, making balance for younger children trickier.

You will need

• 150g plain flour
• 50g caster sugar
• 100g butter
• extra caster sugar, for sprinkling (optional)

1. Prepare everything you require from baking utensils, to turning on the oven so that children are not left unsupervised. Talk through what will be happening so that children learn to wait. First, they need to put on aprons and wash their hands. This should be reinforced again and again and soon, children will anticipate this requirement every time you bake without you having to remind them.

2. Place flour, sugar and butter in a bowl and use fingertips to rub the butter into the dry ingredients. When you have finished the mixture should resemble sand.

3. Knead the dough until it is smooth.

4. Roll out the dough to about 1/4″ in thickness. Press cookie cutters into the dough to create shortbread shapes, before placing them on a greased baking sheet.

5. The shortbread biscuits should be baked in a pre-heated oven 160C/325F/Gas Mark 3 for between 20 to 30 minutes, or until they are pale and golden.

6. The baked shortbread can be sprinkled with sugar as soon as it is removed from the oven.

7. Allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight tin or container. NB: These will last for about 10 to 14 days. They can also be frozen with great results!

gift wrapped shortbread

The Shortbread can be wrapped and placed in gift bags or in irridescent film for children to take home for family and friends. Tie around the top with tartan coloured pipe cleaners or tartan ribbon.

EYFS learning goals supported by this activity

Communication and language development

Listening and attention: Listens to direction. Why not make picture prompt cards for very young children for them to read and follow. You can help your child to learn so many new words and concepts through discussion while you are baking as their attention is fixed on your lead: Has a strong exploratory impulse, focusing attention-still listen or do but can shift own attention.

Communication and Language development: Understanding of single words in context is developing, Selects familiar objects by name and will go and find objects when asked, or identify objects from a group, Identifies action words by pointing to the right picture. Developing understanding of simple concepts (e.g. big/little).

Communication and Language development: Speaking; Learns new words very rapidly and is able to use them in communicating. Uses different types of everyday words. Beginning to ask simple questions. Questions why things happen and gives explanations. Asks e.g. who, what, when, how.

Physical development

Moving and handling-Don’t be afraid to allow the children to make a controlled mess. (The flour will go everywhere) Rubbing in the butter and flour uses fine and gross motor skills. Let them begin as you finish off and bring together. Tasks such as holding a spoon, both large and small, beating or adding ingredients will help develop your child’s fine motor skills whilst encouraging your child to use their senses to touch and smell the ingredients.

Personal, social and emotional development

Self confidence and self awareness
Baking is a great vehicle for interacting both physically and verbally. In addition, following cues such as “your turn” and “can you make one for mummy?” Parents, carers and friends all love to receive gifts, especially made with love and pride from children. Boost children’s confidence through exaggerated “wow, these look great, would you like to taste what you have made?” Followed by sitting down to eat what you have made together with your friends.

Mathematics development

Numbers/Measure shape and space; Baking provides ample opportunity to use maths jargon such as ‘less or more’ as you use a spoon to add the ingredients into the bowl for weighing out. This activity can aid in counting and recognising numbers. “How many have we cut out?” The children enjoyed choosing the many different sized and shaped cutters. They can learn the various names of 2d shapes such as ‘the heart or circle’ You can even count how many sides the square cutter has as well as introducing the word ‘corners’ thus teaching property. For older children, you can use a clock to show them when the biscuits will be ready. Big, small, round, flat, long and thick are all words that can be associated with this task. Why not create a vocabulary list of new words?

Mathematics development: Enjoys filling and emptying containers. Shows an interest in shape and space by cutting out shapes or making arrangements with objects. Uses positional language, Shows interest in shape by talking about shapes or arrangements.

Understanding the world

The world; Baking is an excellent tool to discuss where food comes from. Healthy lifestyles and a balanced diet can be driven through working with food. An opportunity to answer lots of why’s, where’s and how’s. A great wat to tell children which food give them energy and help them grow and which are not so helpful such as sugar and how we should moderate our intake of these harmful foodstuffs. Knows things are used in different ways, e.g. a ball for rolling or throwing, a toy car for pushing or in this case cutters used for cutting out or a bowl used for holding the ingredients, the spoon used as a vehicle for transferring the ingredients to the bowl.

FozThis post was written by Fozia Benchiba

Fozia has a wide range of experience in childcare and delivering the EYFS. She is also a lecturer at Wiltshire College teaching and certifying childminders including early years outcomes, the characteristics of effective learning and the statutory framework She has extensive experience in managing and working with students with profound learning difficulties and challenging/behavioural issues. She is currently studying at Yeovil University as SEN specialist teacher at degree level.

Looking for more ideas? Follow us on Pinterest:


Visit The Consortium Early Years’s profile on Pinterest.