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Great British pancakes

Pancake Day or Shrove Tuesday (4 March 2014)

by Janice Ross

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To show that one wrong ingredient can spoil the whole batch.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need an apron, plus two mixing bowls, two balloon whisks, a sieve and a table.
  • You will also need the following ingredients: a bag of plain flour, salt shaker, eggs and carton or bottle of milk. Have available, too, a bottle of cooking oil and a can of motor oil.
  • Note that you will need to keep one bowl, one whisk and the cooking oil hidden in one bag and the motor oil in another bag.


  1. Tell the children that you love watching cookery programmes on TV. Ask, ‘How many of you have been watching the Great British Bake Off? How many of you enjoy baking?’

    Share briefly about the competitors, the judges and some of the challenges.

    Explain that you are going to be making some pancakes in assembly today.

  2. Next, make the pancake batter, but be a bit haphazard and big in your movements when you add the ingredients to the bowl, as if you were some expert who doesn’t need to measure anything out. The messier you and the table become the better! Bearing that in mind, sift some flour and a little salt into the bowl, creating clouds of flour, crack a couple of eggs into the flour and salt mixture and mix noisily with a whisk. Add the milk gradually, pouring from a height, beating all together well as you do so.

    Then say, ‘Now, the batter’s nearly ready, what else do I need?’

    Hopefully someone will suggest oil (or have someone primed to say this in case no one does).

    Take out the can of
    motor oil from the plastic bag. Add a good splash to the batter. As the children say ‘No!’ and so on, pay little attention, as you mix it in and add a further good amount. There should be a strong smell of motor oil!

    Look surprised at the reactions of the children, saying, ‘What is wrong?’

  3. Identify that one wrong ingredient will spoil the whole batch of pancakes. The eggs were fresh, the flour and milk were good, but the oil was definitely not the right kind of oil!

    Liken this to our lives. There are many good things about our lives, many good things that we recognize in people around us. Mention any kindness, care, thoughtfulness, patience, effort you have noticed the children exhibiting recently.

    Ask them, ‘What happens if we add in some wrong ingredients?’

    – If we add lying, it spoils all the other good things that make up our lives.
    – If we add cheating, it spoils all the other good things that make up our lives.
    – If we add disobedience . . .

    Once again, add anything relevant to your school and the children present.

  4. The Bible, which is like a recipe book for our lives, says that the good ingredients for our lives are compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness and love.

    Ask the children, ‘So, what happens when we mess up, when we add something nasty like lying or cheating or disobedience, just like the motor oil, and spoil things?’

    Suggest that we say sorry and simply start all over again, this time with the right ingredients.

  5. Put all the used baking things to the side. Take out the clean bowl, whisk and the right kind of oil, as if to start again.

Time for reflection

Show the can of motor oil.

Ask, ‘Did you get a shock when the motor oil was added? You knew that was a wrong ingredient. Sometimes it is easy to notice when other people add a wrong ingredient to their lives. It’s not so easy to recognize our own mistakes and to own up to them. Take a few moments to think about anything in your life that spoils it.’

Put the can of motor oil to the side and show the cooking oil. Say to the children, ‘You, too, can start again today and add good things to your life.’ 

Dear God,
Thank you that you always love us, even when we mess up and spoil our lives. 
Help us to say sorry and start over again. 
We ask that you help us to add compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness and love to our lives. 


‘When God made the garden of creation’ (Come and Praise, 16)

Publication date: March 2014   (Vol.16 No.3)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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