A stay at home Mum who doesn't stay at home much; too many exciting things to be discovering in this city...
Published April 17th 2012
Getting your kids involved in the kitchen sounds like a wonderful bonding activity and something you might win a Mother-of-the-Year Award for. The reality can be somewhat different with said child swinging a knife around like a baton and great clouds of flour raining down upon you.
When you're creating in the kitchen with very young children (pre-schoolers), I reckon you have to let go of your inner control freak and realise that a) a bit of mess is okay, b) what they produce in the end may well not be fit for human consumption and c) it's not the end result which is important, but the fun they had getting there which counts.
The more squishing and rolling involved, the better. Use recipes which don't call for exact amounts of ingredients. Below are 5 easy peasy recipes which you could try with your little ones. They have not been chosen for their nutritional value. For each one I have suggested which parts you might like to prepare in advance so that your toddler is not standing around waiting for you; this is when they are more likely to start eating the raw eggs you left out on the side...
Home made icy poles are an easy treat for young kids to make and the flavour combinations are endless.
Ingredients: Bag of icing sugar, few drops of peppermint essence, few drops of green food dye, cup of tepid water.
Preparation: Sieve a few handfuls of icing sugar into a bowl and stir in the food dye and peppermint essence. Gradually add enough water so that as you stir, the mixture comes together to form a stiff dough.
Junior's Input: Provide Junior with a rolling pin and a selection of small cookie/fondant cutters. S/he can squish, roll and cut to create little morsels of sweetness from the mixture. Pop each shape onto some greaseproof paper as they are finished and leave an hour or two to set in the fridge. Expect plenty of the mixture to end up in Junior's mouth – these are sickly sweet.
2. Fruit Smoothie
Ingredients: Fruit (berries and bananas work well), blob of yogurt, splash of milk, dash of honey.
Preparation: Remove any peel, pips etc from fruit and separate different fruit into individual containers. Set up a blender and have other ingredients to hand.
Junior's Input: Junior can select which fruits and how much of each to drop into the blender (don't be surprised if they chuck it all in). Help him/her to add a spoonful of yogurt, a splash of milk and a good squirt of honey to the blender too. Show them how to turn it on and when it's done, they can pour their smoothie into their own cup and sample their creation.
3. DIY Pizza
Ingredients: Pizza base, tomato paste, cheese, variety of toppings, e.g. salami, tomatoes, capsicum, rocket, onions, mushrooms, ham etc.
Preparation: Peel and chop all veg, grate cheese and arrange everything in little tubs so it's easy to access.
Junior's Input: Junior may need a bit of help spreading the tomato paste on the base, but sprinkling the cheese and selecting and arranging the other toppings can be done independently. Individual pizza bases work best if you only want Junior to make his own.
4. Rice Krispie Cakes (I suspect these may be called something else in Australia, but I am a pommie, so excuse me if I have erred).
Ingredients: 3 tablespoons of butter, 1 packet of regular marshmallows, 6 cups of rice cereal (Rice Bubbles, Rice Krispies etc).
Preparation: Measure out the ingredients and have a pan and wooden spoon ready on the stove top with a stool or step for Junior to stand on.
Junior's Input: Under supervision, Junior can tip the butter and marshmallows into the pan and stir them as they slowly melt. When melted and removed from heat s/he can tip the rice cereal into the pan and give it a thorough mix. S/he can either spoon out dollops of the mixture into cake cases, or spread the mixture out into a shallow dish. A couple of hours in the fridge will produce a very tasty treat (if Junior didn't eat it all at the mixing stage).
5. Super Easy Snake Ice Cubes
Ingredients: tap water, few drops blue food dye, packet of snakes or other gummy animals.
Preparation: Not much – just have all ingredients to hand, as well an ice cube tray.
Junior's Input: Junior can pour the water into the ice cube tray from a jug or cup and add a drop of food dye to each section. Then let him/her put 2 or 3 snakes into each cube of water. The snakes don't have to be covered by the water; in fact it's more effective if their tails are left hanging over the sides. Supervise whilst s/he transfers the tray to the freezer. When frozen these cubes can be popped out and added to Junior's drink – the snakes will 'come to life' as the ice melts and leave a treat at the bottom of the drink. This one is great for birthday parties and playdates.