As a child, I used to be delighted on seeing aromatic, crispy, hot cookies freshly baked and kept out of the oven to cool. Some things don’t change. I still feel the same when I bake cookies and the aroma fills up the whole house. There was another thing that I used to love about these cookies; the various shapes that mum would give them. I often ask myself, “What makes a child love shaped cookies?”
To quote Miss Maria Montessori, “children have a sort of touchstone within themselves which we as elders do not possess”.
A child keeps exploring the world around him using all his five senses. He is ever active and ever changing. The shapes he recognises at an earlier stage are that of nature: like leaves, flowers, stars or clouds or objects he usually sees: like a bell, a jersey, a ring or a ball. He loves to touch objects and feel their texture to determine whether they are hard or soft. He turns the object around in his hand and tries to compare it with something similar that he has seen before.
He associates the shapes with the objects he sees in his daily life. His eyes light up when a butterfly shaped cookie reminds him of the colourful winged insect he had seen in a park or on a colourful flower. But, added to this, when his hands and arms are moved about an object, an impression of movement is made. This attributes to the development of a special sense called the muscular sense which permits many such memories to be stored in a ‘muscular memory’. This recalls movements that have been made and the sense of shape is equally rejoiced by him.
The world is new and full of curious surprises for this child to explore. It is as tasteful for his sense of sight and his sense of touch as it is for his sense of taste of a cookie.
The moon on a clear breezy night brings cheer to a toddler. That cheerfulness is doubled when he sees a moon shaped cookie. Now, he not only sees the moon, but also feels the form and shape of the moon by touching it and running his fingers over it. He holds the cookie in his hand, turns it around several times before biting off a small piece. The exploration doesn’t end here. He turns it again and might compare it to a leaf or a petal and so on until the whole cookie vanishes!
For a slightly older child, in the age group of 3 to 5 years, giving shapes to cookies and helping in moulding them speaks of the motor skills that he has developed over the earlier years. He enjoys using his palms and fingers to shape the dough into things that he has been discovering of late, for example, a pancake, a worm or a ball. The child also enjoys feeling the texture of the cookie dough between his hands. He kneads the dough, pats it and pricks it with his fingers enjoying every action that he does. This satiates the little fellow of his need for touch and his need to seek forms (muscular and visual). These activities enable him to appreciate the beauty of finer things around him. I now understand why my mom keeps saying that if I indulge my kids in household chores or in baking, they would turn out to be better people. Making cookies keeps the child engaged with something new and worthwhile. Childrens cookie cutters readily available everywhere add joy to this activity but care has to be taken about the safety of the child.
- Only cutters with blunt and rounded edges may be used.
- Also, the material used in making such moulds should be considered; food grade material is the safest.
- Material should be non-toxic and lighter to handle.
When children start recognising symbols like alphabets and numbers, they love alphabet cookies and number shaped cookies. Cookies having basic shapes like triangles, bricks and squares attract them because at this age, they are able to attach forms and use them for building complex shapes. They may like making shapes of houses or flowers using these newly found shapes. They are delighted to find that they are able to put the things they have seen in the form of cookies.
Don’t disheartened though is you little one opts for a shape they know from TV or the media we all subconsciously absorb. One of the more popular cookie cutter shapes for children is without doubt the distinctive mickey mouse cookie cutter shape. By all means take a moment to feel sad for the commercialization of the world but see the lighter side and go with it.
We try to teach our children by giving them books. Some kids find books interesting while others prefer exploring the world around them with activities. With the television occupying a prominent place in our living rooms and children becoming more of couch potatoes, it’s time for parents to start indulging their kids in activities that ensure human interaction is not substituted in any way. Technology is here to stay and keeping kids away is next to impossible; why not try something that combines education and play together to help our kids be better?