Claymation

The Bean has really started to get into play dough a lot recently when we have been at other people’s places, playgroup and at kids church. So This morning I thought that it was about time I made some for him. But Alas! No Flour! What to do?

I did have some cornflour though, so I googled cornflour play dough and came up with this gem: http://www.grandpapencil.net/activity/cornclay.htm

This recipe is so good on so many levels. It requires only 4 ingredients, takes minutes to make and another huge plus is that you can bake or dry it to make fun decorations for presents or to hang on the Christmas tree. It has a lovely smooth texture as well, so It might become my new favourite play dough recipe for a while!

Tomorrow is forecast as a rainy day, so we might bake a few of the shapes to make into  gift tags for Father’s day and for a few birthdays coming up. I will add the photo when they are finished 🙂

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Just loafing around

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There’s nothing like the smell of freshly baked bread. That warm, toasty yeasty aroma that makes you instantly hungry. I used to work in a bakery and yet I still love it every time. So, The Bean and I decided we would try out the bread dough recipe from You Can Cook by Annabel Karmel. ‘Making bread – that’s pretty ambitious!’ I hear you say. Well yes, there are a lot of steps, but the beauty of it is that because it takes a while to make you can leave it to do other important things like building a train track, changing nappies or having morning tea. It doesn’t require many ingredients, in fact I always have these ingredients on hand anyway. And there are so many things your little one can get involved with – adding the yeast,  stirring the flour and butter, pushing the dough, brushing it with egg and sprinkling on seeds or cheese. The Bean was fascinated by the magic of the yeast frothing up and also the proving process.We made a loaf one day and bread rolls the next and both were a huge success. We used the bread rolls to make hamburgers for dinner, and The Bean was very proud of his contribution. So here is the recipe!

You need:

  • 1 sachet of yeast (7g)
  • 300ml warm water
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 15g butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 450g plain flour (white or wholemeal)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • sesame seeds, grated cheese or pumpkin seeds (optional)
  • extra flour, for dusting

Equipment:

  • 3 small bowls
  • 1 large glass or ceramic mixing bowl
  • a wooden spoon
  • measuring spoons
  • measuring cup
  • a large chopping board
  • a small loaf tin (if you are making a loaf)
  • 2 baking trays (if you are making rolls)
  • olive  oil spray
  • baking paper
  • pastry brush
  • cling wrap
  • cooling rack

To make a loaf:

  1. Place the warm water, sugar and yeast in a small bowl and stir. Leave it for 10 minutes. It should look frothy with bubbles.
  2. Next, melt the butter.Place the flour and salt in the mixing bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour in the melted butter and the frothy yeast and stir to combine. When it just starts to come together, stop stiring.
  3. Dust the chopping board and your hands with flour. Take the dough out of the bowl and place it on the chopping board and knead (pushing and pulling) the dough for 10 minutes until it is smooth and elastic. To test if it is ready, push your finger in up to your knuckle. The dough should spring back into place.
  4. Clean the mixing bowl and lightly spray with oil. Place the dough in the bowl and cover it with cling wrap for 1 hour to prove.
  5. Take the cling wrap off and punch the dough. Take it out of the bowl and knead it for 2 minutes.
  6. Grease your loaf tin with olive oil and then place the dough into it. spray some oil on the cling wrap and then place it over the loaf tin and leave for 1/2 hour for it to prove again. Now is also a good time to turn your oven on to 200c.
  7. Remove the cling wrap and brush the loaf with the egg. sprinkle on the seeds or cheese if you wish to use them.
  8. Place the loaf tin into the oven and bake for 25- 30 minutes. It should be golden brown on top and make a hollow sound when you tap it. Turn it out on to the cooling rack.

To make rolls, follow-up to step 5. Then divide the dough in half and then in half again until you have 8 large portions (regular rolls) or 16 small ones(dinner rolls). Place baking paper onto the baking trays and then place the rolls on, ensuring there is enough space between them. brush with egg and seeds and bake for 20 minutes.

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?

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.

spaghetti-o-splat!

My little one LOVES spaghetti( actually the only food he doesn’t love is tuna). Anyway, he likes to slurp it, hold it up and let it fall onto his high chair table, and throw it on the floor (it makes a very satisfying splat). So, once again we’re combining his love of food with craft! Basically you use cooked spaghetti to make a collage. Very easy and great sensory (and tasty) play as well. If you don’t want make glue, clag is fine.

age suitable for: 1+

You will need:

  • 1 x sheet of coloured paper or a roll of brown paper (both available from the newsagent)
  • 1 tablespoon of cornflour
  • 1-3 tablespoons of water (depends on how runny you like the glue to be)
  • plastic cup or container
  • large paintbrush
  • spaghetti
  • saucepan
  • food dye (optional) – will stain hands for a day or two or you could add 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder
  • small plastic bowl
  • newspaper
cook a small amount of spaghetti for about 10 minutes with 3-4 drops of food dye or turmeric (if using) in the saucepan. Drain and cool then place in the plastic bowl. To make some glue, mix the cornflour and the water in the plastic cup with the paintbrush. Apply glue all over your sheet of paper and then let them throw or drop the spaghetti onto the paper. Make sure you place plenty of newspaper under their table or high chair to make cleaning up easy peasy 🙂
The Bean had a lot of fun with this one! he especially enjoyed throwing the spaghetti and continued to play with it and the bowl after we had finished. It was a quick activity, so good for days when you just want something short and sweet. I found that a little bit of diluted lemon juice mixed with soap did a great job at getting the stains off his little hands.

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!

Cream of the crop

Now here is something a little bit different, but was always a hit at the childcare centre where i worked. Sensory play is very important for little ones to learn about their environment and this one is great for touch. It’s very messy, so make sure your little one has on old clothes or an apron or smock. On the plus side it’s very easy to clean up afterwards. You basically spray shaving cream all over a table (one that is at their height and you don’t mind having shaving cream on) and let them squish their little hands in it and push toys through it. It’s great fun and afterwards your table will smell very clean! IMPORTANT NOTE:if your child has skin allergies (ie eczema) then it might be better to go for the second option which i will discuss further on in this post. Also, it is important to teach the child not to put it in their eyes or mouth.

Ideal for 2 years+

So what do you need?

  • Shaving cream (low or no fragrance)
  • a small table
  • cars, balls or rolling pins
  • a small bowl of water (to wash hands in afterwards)
If you don’t have a small table, another alternative is to spray the cream onto a glass window outside. This is great as it also cleans your windows!
For children under 2 years, an alternative is to use is yoghurt (provided they are not allergic to dairy) and let them play with it in their high chair or make up some goop. I will be making goop with the Bean soon and will post about it.