Tinkering in the Kitchen

Children will tinker with a rotary beater and an electric mixer and will compare and contrast the two machines.

Lesson Objective

Children will tinker with a rotary beater and an electric mixer and will compare and contrast the two machines.


What You'll Need

  • Rotary beater
  • Electric mixer
  • 2 large bowls
  • Cake mix – 1 box
  • Measuring cup
  • Oil – enough for cake mix
  • Eggs – enough for cake mix
  • Water – enough for cake mix
  • Cupcake pan
  • Cupcake liners
  • Timer
  • Oven
  • Rubber scraper
  • Chart paper – 1 sheet
  • Marker


What To Do

  1. Display the two machines, and ask children to describe them and predict what they might be used for.
  2. Write the children’s observations on the chart paper.
  3. Explain to the children that both of the items are mixers, which are simple machines.
  4. Demonstrate how the mixers work, and ask children to describe the force that makes them work.
  5. Record their responses on the chart paper.
  6. Have the children help with measuring ingredients into the bowl.
  7. Divide the mixture into 2 bowls.
  8. Allow each child to try using the rotary beater, and assist them with using the electric mixer.
  9. Ask children for their reflections on the 2 machines (see Guiding Student Inquiry).
  10. Record children’s comments.
  11. When you are finished exploring the machines, pour the cake mix into cupcake liners in the pan, and bake.
  12.  Enjoy the cupcakes as a snack.

Guiding Student Inquiry

  • Tell me what you think this item is and what it is used for.
  • Explain what makes the machine work.
  • Describe what happened when you used the rotary beater.
  • Describe what happened when you used the electric mixer.
  • Tell me how the machines are different.
  • Tell me how the machines are alike.
  • Explain why one would want to use an electric mixer instead of a rotary beater.

Explore, Extend & Integrate

  • On another day, have the children explore other kitchen tools, such as a can opener, a chopper, or a salad spinner. Compare and contrast these kitchen tools with the mixers.
  • Compare and contrast a manual pencil sharpener with an electric pencil sharpener. Have the children try to sharpen a pencil using each of the machines. Discuss the similarities and differences. Remove the housing from the manual pencil sharpener so children can see the gears. Note that a hand crank powers the gears, which is similar to the rotary beater.
  • Place some kitchen toys—a child’s rotary mixer, bowls, measuring cups, cupcake pans, and empty ingredient packages—in the kitchen area. Children can pretend to bake with them.

Check for Children’s Understanding

  • Could children explain that the rotary beater works by a hand crank and that the electric mixer is motor driven?
  • Could children describe the mixture after using the rotary beater?
  • Could children describe the mixture after using the electric mixer?
  • Could children tell that the difference between the two machines is that one is electric?
  • Could children tell that both machines are used for mixing things?
  • Could children explain why one would want to use an electric mixer instead of a rotary beater?


Did You Know?

Both a rotary beater and an electric mixer are used for mixing ingredients. Although both types of mixers have 2 beaters, they work a bit differently. A rotary beater is a simple gear-driven machine that is turned with a hand crank. The hand crank spins the beaters. The speed of the beaters is determined by the speed of manual turning. The electric mixer is powered by a motor, and the mixing intensity is much faster than with a rotary beater. 

Cooking with children helps them to learn valuable, age-appropriate lessons that apply to all areas of development. Instead of being limited to the science of investigating physical properties and change, children are also learning other valuable skills. They are learning math skills by measuring, ordering, classifying, and developing spatial concepts. Children gain social–emotional skills such as taking turns, sharing, and trying new experiences. They are also tapping into sensory–motor development as they taste and smell different things, touch food textures, and incorporate large- and small-muscle coordination. 

Vocabulary: Child-Friendly Definitions

  • beater – a kitchen tool. It is used to mix ingredients.
  • mixer – a kitchen tool. It is used to blend ingredients.
  • rotary – able to turn.
  • electric – a kind of energy. It makes things work.
  • machine – a piece of equipment. It has parts. The parts work together to do something.
  • force – a power.

Lesson Tips

  • Check for any food allergies in your classroom before deciding what to make with the mixers.
  • Be sure to have the children wash their hands before and after handling food.
  •  If there is no access to an oven, instead of making cupcakes make a simple quick bread mix. Quick breads can be poured into small foil pans and baked in a crock pot. Consult the crock pot manual for instructions.


  • Simple Machines (Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out-Science 2) by D. J. Ward
  • Bunny Cakes (Max and Ruby) by Rosemary Wells
  • Cows in the Kitchen by June Crebbin
  • Piggies in the Kitchen by Michelle Meadows

Home School Resources

Home educators: use these printable lesson PDFs to teach this lesson to your home schoolers. They're available in English and Spanish.

Home/School Connections

Las Conexiones a la Casa

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Content Provided By

Common Core State Standards Initiative – These lessons are aligned with the Common Core State Standards ("CCSS"). The CCSS provide a consistent, clear understanding of the concepts and skills children are expected to learn and guide teachers to provide their students with opportunities to gain these important skills and foundational knowledge [1]. Visit the CCSS