While the lockdown ends our social and office-composed professional lives, we must find something to occupy ourselves with – a healthy hobby, or a fun activity. Similarly, our little ones are also out of school and have a disrupted day-to-day life. Believe it or not, our children have better defined days than us!
Skip the usual TV days and computer skills, and choose to cultivate some culinary skills with your tiny ones during the lockdown. Cooking can help young children learn and practice basic math concepts and build communication skills – through questions and ideas. Also, what better way to nurture your children’s nutritious eating habits than by giving them a chance to prepare the food themselves? here are some basic tips on how to get your children started on their culinary journey:
- Make them spend time in the kitchen with you. Let them sit on the counter (away from heat and fire of course!) and give them some dough to play with. Let them observe your chopping, stirring, mixing and pouring actions
- Give them tools – the handier the better right? Small bowls for salad mixing (pretend first, learn second)
- Find a set of kid-friendly knives. Start the chef-habit early – let them learn about ownership of tools
- Simple cooking projects before tedious ones – small pancakes, chopped salads, butter toasts
Here are some very easy recipes to get you started on a teach-my-child-cooking journey. A little messy, but the ultimate goal is learning and adapting, right?
Almond Shortbread Cookies
Sweet, sugary and nutritious, these cookies are a delight in any kitchen. Very easy to prepare and crumble in the mouth goodness – make sure to add this to the kid’s cooking list.
All you need is:
- 225 gm butter
- 3/4th cup sugar
- 125 gm of flour
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 70 gm ground almonds
- Beat together the butter and sugar until smooth.
- Add the flour, vanilla and almonds and beat for another 20 seconds.
- Shape them into small balls and place on parchment-lined baking tray.
- Bake them for 30 minutes at 175 degrees Celsius. Dust with sugar once cooled.
- These cookies keep well for about 2-3 weeks in an airtight container!
A little sweetness goes a long way with a toddler or even young teens. Fudge, an easy to prep and a quick snack to kill those hunger pangs, is a good way to get your little ones started.
All you need is:
- 450 gm icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
- 100g marshmallows
- 2 tbsp milk
- 100g unsalted butter
- A few drops of vanilla extract
- Sift the icing sugar into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Put the marshmallows in a pan and add the milk, butter and vanilla extract. Put the pan over low heat and stir very carefully with a wooden spoon for a few minutes, until melted. Pour the mixture into the middle of the sugar and mix until it is a smooth dough. Cool for 10 minutes, then put onto a piece of non-stick baking paper, wrap and chill in the fridge for about 1 hour to firm up.
- Sprinkle icing sugar over the kitchen counter and a rolling pin. Cut the fudge into 4 equal pieces, then roll 1 piece at a time with the rolling pin until it is about 5mm thick. Choose some small design cutters of your choice and use to cut out fudge shapes. Re-roll the trimmings to make about 70-80 shapes.
- Put on baking sheets lined with baking paper and leave for 30 minutes to firm up slightly. Store in an airtight container with baking paper between each layer to stop them from sticking together, and keep in a cool place for up to 3 weeks.
Granola, Peanut Butter & Dark Chocolate Banana Pops
The perfect summer saviour, these pops are a delight to prep with your little ones – I mean, who doesn’t like an icy stick in this heat? Here’s how to go about this:
All you need is:
- 2 bananas, cut into half
- 1/4th cup creamy peanut butter (let this sit out so that it's not too jammed up)
- 1/4th cup dark, milk or white chocolate (play with your palate – or your little ones)
- 1/3rd cup Rice Power Cereal Mix from Gouri’s Goodies
- 4 craft sticks (or popsicle sticks, if you have them)
- Insert a popsicle stick into each banana piece and spread each with peanut butter. This is a fun one for the kids – with their child-friendly knives!
- Place them on a lined baking tray and let them freeze for about 15 minutes until solid.
- Melt the chocolate until then.
- Dip each stick of banana and peanut butter into melted chocolate and immediately sprinkle with the cereal. (You could do one, and let the children take care of the rest of them – while you watch!)
- Place them back on the tray and freeze once again for 20 minutes at least, before consuming.
Morning Yogurt Jars
This is the perfect go-to breakfast idea for a lazy morning. Also, a very clever way to keep your little ones busy (while you get some me-time). All you need is 300 grams of yoghurt (home-made solid curd is fine too) – topped with fruits of your choice along with 7 to 8 crushed walnuts.
Why is this fun for the kids? Chopping fruits in any size they like. Spooning the curd into little jars and enjoying their own kind of mix-and-match parties!
Twist – Chop up a Belgian Dark Chocolate Orange Energy Bar – with a combination of oats, Belgian chocolate, orange rinds, nuts and seeds – covers the sweet, crunch and nutrition that your yoghurt parfait needs. Chocolates are synonymous with a sweet tooth craving which in-turn is a child-magnet!
Of course, it is easier if we just do it ourselves to save time and avoid the extra mess. But then, how will our children learn? There is a lot that children can learn by helping out in the kitchen for fun projects or by handling little food-making projects themselves too:
- Builds basic skills – something as simple as counting eggs or pouring water into measuring cups will harness their math skills practically
- Encourages an adventurous palate – less pickiness and easing into various diets is better achieved by exposing children to food types and their uses & benefits from an early age. Of course, less rigorously than forcing them into a no-taste all-nutrition diet
- Exploration with your senses – children learn by exploring with their senses – where better than to do it in the kitchen? Invite them to listen to your blender whirring, or your vegetables being chopped, or to let them smell a coffee brewing or masalas being fused together. Let them taste what you make – if it smells good and looks appealing they will learn to accept its taste
Let your little ones into the kitchen to learn how they work around things – we may learn a thing or two from them too. The ideal jobs for them are – tearing salad leaves, stirring batters, adding ingredients (sprinkling) and assembling dishes (for example, a pizza or tortilla). In the famous words of Guy Fieri, ‘Cooking with kids is not just about ingredients, recipes and cooking. It’s about harnessing imagination, empowerment and creativity’. Enjoy quarantine with your little ones! I sure miss the younger days!