The magic ingredient – fun!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. A few health issues, the arrival of a new baby boy (The Bear) and the Bean turning 2 kinda made art and craft a little more difficult. That’s not to say we didn’t do any, it was just that it was the texta and crayon with paper kind of art rather than an art activity. We now have a large collection of drawings and I will post at a later date on what to do with that mountain of artwork. But now that The Bear is sleeping well and in a routine of sorts, we have been able to get back into our art and craft groove and have now extended that to baking and cooking.

I love baking. It’s so sensory – feeling, tasting and smelling and so it is a great activity for little people. Now that The Bean is 2, he has greater fine motor skills and so is able to do tasks such as mixing, pouring and rolling. And who doesn’t love squashing cookie dough in their hands? It’s also great to encourage little ones to explore with food and to have fun making something that they can also eat. The key to a great experience for both you and your child is to be organised. Have all of your ingredients measured and cut up, utensils close by and any tins or trays greased or lined. Make sure anything sharp or hot is well out of reach and of course supervise at all times. You can have a small table set up for them, or set everything up on their high chair table if they are still using one. Or you can have them standing on a stool, but make sure it is stable and that you stand next to them at all times. Here is a great link on cooking with kids: http://www.kidspot.com.au/meal-planning/Cooking-tips-How-to-cook-with-your-kids—and-have-fun!+3504+757+sponsor-article.htm

There are heaps of good websites for kid friendly recipes.

http://www.kidspot.com.au/ is great as it has a tool where you can type in a list of up to 5 ingredients and it will come up with recipes that use them. It is well laid out into sections such as kids cooking, cakes and baking, meal planning, dinner recipes and seasonal and party. I’m looking forward to making these with The Bean once the weather warms up : http://www.kidspot.com.au/best-recipes/Healthy+25/Yoghurt-popsicles-recipe+3294.htm

http://www.taste.com.au/ is a well-known resource for cooking and baking. They have a kid friendly recipe section and have some great tips on getting your kids involved in the kitchen –

 http://www.taste.com.au/news+features/articles/315/kids+in+the+kitchen I also like that you can see the nutritional value of the recipe and also read and add comments. I’ve used this recipe http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/3118/banana+bread many times and The Bean loved it. I substituted the butter with 1/4 cup of  canola oil and it turned out just fine and a little healthier too! We made it as a big loaf and also as some mini loaves which were a big hit with the little hands.

http://www.katebracks.com/ This next one is very new and I’m looking forward to watching it grow. Kate Bracks was the the winner of the 2011 Masterchef series and has just created a lovely website that also has a kid section called kids kitchen clubhouse. I love the look of the coconut bread plus it has fantastic features such as fact sheets and video tips. Fun to even just look at on a rainy day!

The next one has been a favorite since The Bean started solids. http://www.annabelkarmel.com.au/. Annabel Karmel is based in the UK and has written dozens of books on cooking for and with kids. She has a very extensive collection from baby purees to part food, lunch boxes, gluten free and family recipes. Although The Bean doesn’t have wheat intolerance, he does have friends who do so we might be making these soon – http://www.annabelkarmel.com/recipes/gluten-free/blueberry-muffins. The only drawback to this site is a heavy amount of advertising and promotion of her products and books. But otherwise a very helpful and visually friendly website.

Another great resource is your local library. Head to the cooking section and you’re  bound to find at least 5 kids cookbooks.We recently borrowed Annabel Karmel’s You Can Cook and had a lot of fun making our own bread (more on that later). It had great photos, easy to follow instructions and The Bean loved the end result. I also made the swedish meatballs, the vegie fajitas and the sweet and sour chicken for dinner and he enjoyed these too. I’m planning on trying out the orange and cranberry muffins next. Another one we borrowed was Baking with Tiny Tots by Becky Johnson. Lots of great ideas and The Bean really liked just looking at the photos of the children doing different things such as rolling, mixing and spreading.

I still have my first cookbook which II was given when I was about 7. Usbourne First Cookbooks – Hot Things is beautifully illustrated with cute little characters and inspired me to try out more difficult recipes. The Bean loves looking through this one and talking about what they are doing and I have made quite a few of the recipes for his dinner, including lemon chicken.

When I was pregnant with The Bean a dear friend of mine gave me a copy of Women’s Weekly Babies and Toddlers. This is a great book for the whole family and i love that it also has a nutrition guide for each recipe plus a section on allergies. I have made the cheese and vegemite pinwheels and the spinach and cheese monster scones so many times and yet The Bean still gets excited about them.

Last but not least is The Bean’s favourite, Junior Masterchef Australia: The Cookbook. He loves this book so much and calls it “the yum yum book” It has very clear instructions and is a lot of fun to use. We now have the second volume which is based on recipes from around the world and my inner geographer is very excited.

So, are there any recipes, websites or books you would recommend? Or do you have any fond memories of baking as a child?

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It’s a Knockout

This is a fun one for a rainy day or if your little one is sick but bored of being in bed. I will admit though you will have to be a regular recycler to have the materials for this one. We go through a LOT of milk in our place so we always have milk containers in our recycling box. But other ideas are drink bottles or dishwashing detergent bottles. Just make sure that the containers are thoroughly washed out and dried before use. Also, make sure that the lid is securely sealed, so the little one cannot get to what is inside.

approapiate age: 9 months+

materials you will need:

  • several containers ( the number is up to you)
  • rice, lentils or dried beans
  • a small ball or something that can be rolled easily
  • strong sticky tape or pva glue
This is easy. Simply fill your containers with about half a cup of rice or lentils then secure the lid on with tape or glue (unless you want lentils and rice all over the place!). Then line them up in a row or a group and roll the ball towards them. Your little one is also bound to use the containers as shakers too! This is a great activity for hand/eye coordination and for sensory exploration.
I thought this would be a huge hit with the Bean, as he usually likes anything that makes a noise. However, he was more interested in trying to take off the tape from the bottle and trying to get the lentils out! ( he didn’t succeed, thankfully). Perhaps i should have introduced this activity at a younger age. Still, it was very easy to put together and i usually have all of the materials on hand, so not all bad after all.

not just a box…

I love the book ‘Not a Box’ by Antoinette Porrtis. So cute, great illustrations and I love rabbits. It reminds me so much of my own childhood, when I would happily transform a box into all sorts of things and happily play for hours. The Bean quite likes this book too, so I thought we might use it as inspiration as an activity this week. This one is super easy and requires only a few things to make it happen so is great for a rainy day.

suitable age: 9 months +

You will need:

  • cardboard boxes of about the same size (as many as you like) – you can get them from the greengrocer or Aldi if you don’t have any lying around.
  • packing tape
  • scissors (adults use only)
All you need to do is take apart the bottom the boxes so that you can connect them. You then tape the boxes together using the tape to make a tunnel.It doesn’t need to be a long tunnel as little ones may become stuck or get scared. This is a great activity for little ones who have started to crawl as well as older ones who like somewhere to hide. You could place favourite toys inside as well.
I found that pushing the cardboard flaps inside the box made it a lot more sturdy. The Bean was a little cautious about it at first and wasn’t completely sure about it. So i went to the other side and looked through the tunnel at him and he thought this was funny, so we played a game of peak a boo for a while. He did eventually climb through it (as you can see in the photo) but was actually more keen to climb on top of it. Still, it took 5 minutes to put together and even less time to pull apart, so I might do it again.

gloopy goop goop

What baby or toddler doesn’t love getting messy? The simple joy of running their hands through something wet and slimy brings instant joy. My little one loves feeling different textures ( especially anything wet like yoghurt or mushy peas) so I thought I would give this a go. Now I know it’s VERY messy, but I figure that’s half the fun and a little preparation can go a long way. Make sure your child is wearing old clothes or a smock and that you lay down plenty of newspaper if you are inside. This doesn’t keep very well, so it’s more of a one-off kind of activity.

Age: 9 months+

You will need:

  • 1 cup cornflour
  • 1/2 cup water
  • small bowl
  • more water
  • Food coloring (if desired)
  • newspaper or a plastic sheet (if indoors)
  • a plastic table or work area that is easy to wipe down, or a cookie tray.
  • plastic objects such as pegs, spoons, toy cars and balls.

Add the water to the cornflour in a small bowl. Mix it together with a spoon. If you need to add more water, add just a couple of drops (especially after playing with it for a while). Then spread it over the baking tray or plastic table and set out an assortment of small plastic toys or objects to use with the goop.  For children with a gluten intolerance, you could use rice flour instead for a similar effect.

For older children, you could ask questions about what it feels like, is it cold or hot, or what is it doing., and you could get them to help you stir the goop in the bowl.

This was a HUGE hit with the Bean. His face absolutely lit up when i placed him in front of his table. I expected him to play with it for about 10 minutes, but he ended up playing with it for half an hour!  He tasted it, squished his hands through it, drew in it with his fingers, pushed a car through it and used a spoon to scoop it up and then let the goop splatter onto the newspaper on the floor. I’m glad I put down heaps of newspaper on the floor as it made cleaning very easy. I highly recommend having plenty of wipes on hand. Though next time I will put on some old clothes as well as I got covered in the stuff! This will definitely be my go to activity when it’s pouring with rain outside, though I also look forward to taking his table outside in a shady spot in summer. a ten out of ten from the little one!

Atishoo A tissue, we all have fun

treasure box ideaTissue Boxguitar box

This post is all about the humble tissue box. For something that costs so little it can provide all sorts of entertainment for both babies and toddlers.

For 6 months -12 months babies, buy a cheap box of tissues and let them pull them out one by one. For some reason they think this is funny. They think it’s even funnier when you try to stuff the tissues back int to box!

For those 12 months + , a great idea is to fill an empty tissue box with scrunched up balls of paper (newspaper is ideal). They can shake the box to make a sound or have fun putting their little hands through the slot (it’s the perfect size) to pull out the paper balls.

Another idea that the Bean is very fond of is filling the empty tissue box with an assortment of different objects such as pegs, plastic spoons, small soft toys and building blocks. He loves putting his hand in and fishing out a surprise and also likes putting things in as well. On the downside, he now thinks every tissue box he sees has a toy in it!

For older children (2-3 years) decorating a tissue box to make it into a treasure box is a fun idea. Use stickers, coloured paper, crayons, or whatever they like to decorate their box. Children of this age love to hide things that are precious to them and this can be a great place to store it ( providing it is small). You could also turn the box into a musical instrument instead by placing some rubber bands across the slot. When they are plucked they will vibrate like the strings on a guitar.