A Pancake Curriculum!
Did you know that Tuesday, March 8st, 2011 is Pancake Day? It kicks off Pancake Week throughout the world! Pancakes provide all of the ingredients necessary for lots of learning fun!
Pancake Day is also known as "Shrove Tuesday" among Roman Catholics, Episcopalians and other faiths. The origin of the name "Shrove" comes from the old English verb "to shrive" which means to absolve people of their sins.
It is common for priests to hear people's confessions on Shrove Tuesday, which is the day before the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday. Lent is the 40 days of penance, prayer, and fasting that precedes Easter. Traditionally, people abstained from eating eggs and fats during Lent, and pancakes were the perfect way of using up those ingredients before Lent began. Pancake Day or Shrove Tuesday is also known as "Mardi Gras" which is French for "Fat Tuesday."
Here are some fun and educational ideas for celebrating Pancake Day!
Pancakes are not only a popular food staple in the United States -- almost every culture in the world has some form of traditional pan cake or pan bread that is an important part of their diet. There are children's picture and story books about them too! Here are some titles to look for at your local library:
- Hey, Pancakes! by Tamson Weston
A simple pancake breakfast turns into a joyous, batter-splattering riot when three ragamuffins take over the kitchen. While the adults sleep, two boys creep downstairs and join a girl who's already at work on a wild flapjack production line.
- Poppy's Pancake Day by Sue Graves
Mum isn't feeling well so Poppy and Dad decide to make some pancakes to cheer her up. But they haven't made pancakes before ...
- Curious George Makes Pancakes by Margret Rey
A monkey causes a commotion when he makes pancakes at a fundraiser. [Get the CD & Book]
- If You Give A Pig A Pancake by Laura Numeroff
One thing leads to another if you give a pig a pancake.
- Mama Panya's Pancakes: A Village Tale From Kenya by Mary & Richard Chamberlin
Reminiscent of the children's classic, Stone Soup, this book tells the story of a family in Kenya who, along with their many dinner guests, manage to prepare a pancake feast. Lots of great detail about the people and landscape in East Africa.
- Pan + Cake = Pancake by Amanda Rondeau
Learn compound words.
- Mr. Wolf's Pancakes by Jan Fearnley
In the tradition of the classic children's tale, "The Little Red Hen," Mr. Wolf asks who will help him make pancakes. His neighbors refuse, but expect to get their share when the pancakes are done! [Get the CD & Book]
- Pancakes For Breakfast by Tomie Di Paola
In this wordless picture book, an old lady overcomes a scarcity of ingredients and the antics of her pets to make pancakes for breakfast.
- Pancakes For Supper by Anne Isaacs
Inspired by the pluck and tradition of Helen Bannerman's The Story of Little Black Sambo and infused with the flavor of an American tall tale, this story tells of Toby, who bounces from the back of her parents' buckboard and into the depths of the New England woods, where she must surrender her brand-new sartorial treasures to various denizens in order to secure her safety.
- The Pancake That Ran Away by Loek Koopmans
A Picture Book.
- Pancakes, Pancakes! by Eric Carle
A hungry boy named Jack gets flour from the miller, an egg from the hen, milk from the spotted cow, and butter churned from fresh cream to make his favorite pancake breakfast.
- Who Likes Pancakes? by Wes Magee
- Chicky Dicky's Animal Pancakes by Jennifer E. Sheehan
"Oh goody, goody. It's pancake day!" It is Sunday and Miss Bumples and all of her friends cooperate in a joint project to make animal shaped pancakes. Whether it is the mischievous beaver, the love-struck chickens, the tail-swishing alligator, or any of the other lovable animals, absolutely everyone chips in with different chores.
- Pancakes, Crackers and Pizza
by Marjorie Eberts & Margaret Gisler
A Book of Shapes.
- Marsupial Sue Presents 'The Runaway Pancake': Book and CD by John Lithgow
Marsupial Sue and her friends are presenting their version of The Gingerbread Man. Sue has the role of Auntie May, who cooks a pancake in the oven. As soon as it is done, it jumps out of the pan and rolls away, singing as it goes. It meets a variety of animals until it is finally outsmarted by a fox.
- Papa's Latkes by Michelle Edwards
This is the first Chanukah since Selma's mother died, and she and her younger sister carefully follow all of Mama's traditions and tell Papa exactly how the latkes should be made. When they turn out fat, brown, and lumpy instead of light and crisp, Selma can't be brave anymore and begins to cry.
- The First Tortilla: A Bilingual Story by Rudolfo Anaya (English and Spanish Edition)
A moving, bilingual story of courage and discovery. A small Mexican village is near starvation. There is no rain, and the bean and squash plants are dying.
- The Tortilla Factory by Gary Paulsen
This simple prose poem describes, in broad strokes, how corn is harvested and made into tortillas while rough, warm-toned paintings set the scenes.
- The Day It Snowed Tortillas by Joe Hayes
Storytellers have been telling these stories in the villages of New Mexico since the Spanish first came to the New World over four hundred years ago. The tales are full of magic and fun.
- The Runaway Rice Cake by Ying Chang Compestine
In the tradition of The Gingerbread Man, this book is about the Chang family who only have enough rice flour for one nián-gäo, the Chinese New Year's rice cake. Just as they are about to enjoy the treat, the cake comes to life and leads the family on a fun-filled adventure through their village.
P is for Pancake
Lessons in Writing, Math, & Science!
After reading some books about pancakes, make up a batch of pancake batter -- it's a fun, educational, and edible activity you can use to teach your child about making letters while improving motor skills needed for writing letters and words. Holding a spoon to measure or mix is similar to holding a pen or pencil.
Find a suitable work space -- preferably a low table (not a high countertop)-- where your child can easily measure and mix batter. Get out all of the measuring spoons, cups, and materials you will need in advance, and then show your child how to measure the ingredients to make pancake batter. While measuring, make comparisons between one cup and 1/4 cup, or estimate how much a teaspoon is -- and then measure it to see if you guessed correctly. Invite your child to feel, smell, and taste the individual ingredients -- like flour, salt, sugar, baking powder, etc. Examining the various colors and textures teaches useful science skills. Count and add as you put the appropriate number of tablespoons or cups in the batter. These activities develop the foundation necessary to learn more complex math skills.
Depending on the age and motor skills of your child, once your batter is mixed, fill a clean squirt bottle with pancake mix. Show your child how to squirt out a letter P onto the skillet or griddle -- or let them watch while you do it. Did you forget how to make the letter "P"? Now is a good time to refer to those ABC magnets on the refrigerator door! They provide great visual reminders when your child wants to make a P-shaped pancake. Cook the P-pancake according to your recipe's directions.
Note: If you don't have a squirt bottle - use a clean turkey baster to make pancake batter letters, numbers, and designs.
Want more letter-writing practice? Write on your pancakes! Use food-color decorating pens available in craft stores such as Michaels. The markers are filled with edible ink in a variety of colors. Your child can write letters, numbers, or make colorful designs on his or her pancakes -- and then, gobble them up!
Pancakes or flat breads are part of the cuisine of many countries around the world. Why not try different kinds of pancakes? I've provided links to recipes below. As you try different variations, be sure to show your child where the country of origin is located on a world globe or map.
- Canada -- Canadian pancakes are fluffy. According to one Internet site, in the Canadian province of Newfoundland, meaningful objects and keepsakes such as coins, rings, and thimbles are baked into the pancakes. The lucky one to find a coin in their pancake will be rich, a ring foretells marriage, and finding an item like a thimble means you'll have sewing talent. While kids would probably enjoy excavating their pancakes to look for buried treasure -- it presents a potential choking hazard. You could cook up one (non-edible) batch with trinkets and let the kids search for them, and then cook up a separate batch without trinkets for eating. Again, make sure the children know the difference.
- China -- Paper-thin pancakes are served stuffed with meat or vegetables as in the dish called moo shu pork.
- Ethiopia -- Injera, a soft, spongy, sourdough round bread is usually served with stews spooned on top.
- France -- A French pancake is called a crêpe and is very thin and light. They are often filled with meat, cheese or vegetables for a main meal, or served with fruit filling and whipped cream as a dessert.
- Germany -- Eierkuchen is the name for German Thin pancakes. They are not as thick as the American flapjack, and not as thin as their French cousin (the crepe), but are simple to make.
- India -- Chapatis is a traditional pan bread from India.
- Jewish Cuisine -- A blintz is a traditional pancake. Of course, many people are more familiar with latkes or potato pancakes. Try this fun and delicious alternative to the standard Hanukkah potato pancake recipe: Not Your Mama's Latke — don't forget the toppings.
- Mexico -- Tortillas are thin pancakes make of cornmeal or flour that are part of Mexican and Latin American cooking.
- Sweden -- Scandinavian pancakes (including Swedish) are similar to British pancakes. They may be served with jam, ice cream or whipped cream, or as a main dish with a variety of savory fillings. Traditionally they are sprinkled with a bit of sugar and eaten with lingonberry jam.
- Russia -- Blini is the Russian equivalent of a pancake. They are thin, crisp pancakes, and commonly served with caviar and sour cream or folded over and filled with cream cheese or jam.
Now here's a fun activity to try. Make a batch of small 3-4" diameter pancakes. Give your child a clean, cold skillet (or a lightweight aluminum pie pan) and invite them to try flipping the pancake. Demonstrate how to do it. This takes some coordination. If your child doesn't yet have the dexterity to flip the cake, then just see how high he/she can toss it in the air and catch it in the skillet or pan.
Fun Flapjack Fact: Did you know that a German named Ralf Laue holds the Guinness Book of World Records as the Fastest Pancake Tosser in the world! He flipped one flapjack 416 times in two minutes! What's your personal best?
Since 1445, the town of Olney, England has held annual pancake races. Legend has it that on Shrove Tuesday, a townswoman was so busy making pancakes, that she was caught off guard when the church bells rang summoning the parish for the shriving service. She raced to the church in her apron with her skillet and pancake still in hand. Ever since then, the women of Olney don aprons and conduct a race through the streets carrying skillets and tossing pancakes as they go! The winner is the first to cross the finish line having tossed the pancake a certain number of times. In 1950, the Olney race was extended to the town of Liberal in the state of Kansas -- where pancake tossing is a serious pastime.
Have your own family pancake race! Put a pancake in a cold skillet, hand it to a family member and tell him/her to run fast to a certain distant object, then, turn around and run back. Careful! Don't drop the skillet or the pancake. Use a stop-watch to see how fast they went. Record their time this year -- and compare it with their time next year.
Make a batch of pancakes and set out small bowls of toppings to taste and try. Let your kids get creative with toppings for their pancakes. Some ideas for toppings include:
- Fresh Fruit such as blueberries, cut-up bananas, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, kiwi, thin apple slices, etc.
- Dried Fruit such as raisins, cranberries, chopped dates, papaya, pineapple, etc.
- Shredded coconut
- Chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, peanut butter chips, cinnamon chips, carob chips, etc.
- Syrups such as maple syrup, corn syrup, and fruit-flavored syrup. Golden syrup is popular in Australia and can be purchased in some specialty food markets. Let your children "paint" the syrup on their pancakes with clean watercolor paintbrushes.
- Sundae toppings such as chocolate or caramel sauce and whipped cream.
- Grated cheese
- Chopped green onions
- Bacon bits
- Sautéed mushrooms, onions, or zucchini
If you think you can't have pancakes because you have allergies to dairy, think again! Don't let allergies get you down, now you can enjoy tasty Dairy-Free Pancakes, Crepes, Waffles & French Toast with these terrific recipes.
More Pancake Fun
- Free, printable Pancake Coloring Page
- Pancake Batter Finger Paints
Put some plain pancake batter on a paper or plastic plate. Add a drop of red food coloring and let your child mix it into the batter with his/her fingers. Make fun designs in the batter. Add a drop of yellow food color or blue food color. What color does the batter turn? This is a great way to introduce primary colors and how combining them makes other colors. Talk about how the batter feels -- is it cold, squishy, smooth? Add some syrup to the mix and see if the texture changes -- is it sticky? Don't forget to remind the kids that this batter is a science and art experiment -- it's not for eating.
- Free, printable Pancake Maze
- Have a Pancake Sing-Along!
Here you'll find lyrics to a pancake song.
In celebration of Pancake Day, the International House of Pancakes offers guests a free short stack of pancakes from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. while supplies last. (They do ask you to consider making a small donation to the Children's Miracle Network.) Visit the IHOP website for details and to find an IHOP near you.
Enjoy Pancake Day and give your little ones a hug for me,
Diane Flynn Keith
Updated January 26, 2011