Teach your child to use a knife safely in the kitchen

Teach your child to use a knife safely in the kitchen
“How do you teach them to use knives when cooking?”

This is one of the things I get asked most often. Along with “Do you use a special knife?”

I hope to answer some of your questions here, but look out for more knife articles and guides coming here soon.

Which knife do you use?

When using sharp knives, I demonstrate first, I teach safe knife handling techniques and I teach safe hold of vegetables.

Each child receives 1:1 attention until they are fully competent using a sharp knife, and even then they are never left alone, but watched closely.

If cutting soft fruit or veg, or with very young children, we sometimes just use normal cutlery knives – the children have to saw a bit, but I feel happier with them doing that a little more independently which builds their confidence.

However the sawing motion with cutlery knives has been irking me somewhat lately, it seems a bit unnatural to progress from that onto a very sharp knife that can slip through the veg so easily when they are used to the applying more pressure and a  sawing motion. I kind of wanted a happy medium to bridge the gap. (scroll down to the bottom to find the results of my search)

Parental nerves

I’ve also noticed that (as a parent) when I allowed my children to use sharp knives at home, my anxiety (even though I teach hundreds of children sometimes on a 1:26 basis at school to use knives safely) went through the roof and I felt like I wanted to grab the knife from my child and just stop the whole thing.

Kids do pick up on this – and it makes them nervous… which in turn can make things more dangerous. So really it is best to remain outwardly calm and confident, but so much easier said than done!

young person safe knife child family friendly cookery skills looked after children's home cookery lessons 1:1 food hygiene food safety independent living

Teach your child the basics first! 

It’s far more important to cover the following basics first regardless of which knife you use.

  • Start by showing your child around the knife. Teach them how to identify which is the sharp edge and which is the blunt edge.
  • Establish your household knife ground rules. Where are they stored? Who is allowed to get them out? Do they need to ask first? When are they allowed to use a knife in the kitchen?
  • Teach your child how to pass the knife safely to someone else.
  • Show your child how to carry a knife (if they are walking around with one)
  • Demonstrate the safe way to hold a knife.
    Children naturally start by holding kitchen implements at the very top end furthest away from the action. This gives them far less control and a clumsy motion – and we certainly do not want that when handling knives!
    So encourage them to hold the knife as close to where the handle meets the blade as possible with a firm grip using the whole hand and not just fingers.

 

Teach by showing
  • The best way to teach is by showing / demonstrating.
  • Show your child how to cut by placing the point of the knife on the board first and then levering the knife downwards from there.
  • Demonstrate how to hold the fruit or veg safely. I’ll show the main grips I use in more detail in another blog – coming soon in video format.
  • Encourage them to work slowly and methodically and to keep their eye on the job at all times. No talking whilst chopping!
Make it age / ability appropriate
  • Use soft fruit and veg for little children such as banana, cucumber, mushroom etc
  • Do not use very small fruit and veg (e.g. grapes) for young children or beginners – there is not enough for them to hold onto
  • Don’t worry about the pieces being too big, too small or uneven. It’s the technique, not the end result that is important to begin with.
  • Make sure that little children are working at the appropriate height so that the work surface is about waist height – I often use the kitchen table as it is lower and kneeling on a chair is often a good way to start at the right height.
  • Make it fun! If it’s tedious, or you are striving for perfection, your little one will tire of it and possibly not want to do it again. Celebrate successes and reward them for their achievements.

Here is a video my nephew Sam and I made together to show off his culinary skills.

cookery children fussy eaters food family shopping cooking healthy balanced meal cook bake learn lessons ramsgate kent thanet East Kent

There is so much more I can talk about on this topic, so watch this space for further articles.

If you’d like to make sure you see new articles as they are published, why not join my mailing list here: cookery craft school summer learn children creative cooking cook recipe healthy activities childcare kent ramsgate margate thanet east kent broadstiars

 

About my favourite Child friendly knife

Although it’s not essential to buy and use a child safety knife, the confidence that owning a good one can bring very quickly is wonderful. ]

If things are a little tense for you when your child ‘helps’ in the kitchen, this could bring you a bit of  reprieve whilst still allowing your child to help and teaching them all the good tips, skills and advice above.

The knife that I recommend is my favourite because it cuts anything and everything that you could possibly wish to cut in the kitchen (but not fingers) easily and effortlessly. Yet it is blunt and cannot easily cut your child’s fingers. In fact, it is so easy to use (even for onions!) I use it more often than not now at home… and my mum (who helps at my cookery classes) has asked to buy one too!

child safety knife knives kitchen cooking learn to teach child children kids kid safe safety

 

Here it is.

If you’d like to see this fab knife in action – take a look at this video of me trying it out. You can watch the video by clicking on the photo.

If you’d like to buy your own, I am selling them for £6 each or you can buy a knife and vegetable holder together for £10

cookery craft school summer learn children creative cooking cook recipe healthy activities childcare kent ramsgate margate thanet east kent broadstiars

 

Christmas gift and present ideas for kids and teens

Christmas gift and present ideas for kids and teens

This year I faced a dilemma; for the first time in the history of having children, mine don’t know what they want for Christmas!

…. and Christmas gift ideas for my kids are just not coming readily.

Imagine that! Does anyone else have a similar problem?

 

christmas-1711545_640In terms of ‘things’ there isn’t anything they really want or need! So this year I’ve really had to put my Christmas Elf thinking cap on and get a bit resourceful. So I thought I’d share my ideas with you.

So now we’ve established that it’s not necessarily ‘THINGS’ we want this year, I’ve decided to think a bit out of the box.

Some of the things I’ve mentioned below are local to me, but I’m sure if you’re further afield there will be a range of similar options nearer to where you live.

 

 

Experiences:

For me, as a parent, it’s become more and more important to me to be spending time with my kids before they grow up and decide that I’m not cool enough anymore or I’m too old to do stuff with.

So I’ve come up with a lovely list of experiences that can be shared together.

Last year I bought membership to our new local theme park Dreamland and wanted this to be a stocking surprise, so I bought some gorgeous items from their gift shop and packed the membership cards up in a shoe box with the branded paraphernalia.

Here’s a link to Dreamland

 

Other fab tickets and membership ideas include:

Go ape,     Laser quest, paintball,     Zoo membership

woods-1246177_640        paintball-1282164_640     seal-1232186_640

theatre tickets, a day trip to France, a weekend city break and theme park day tickets. 

The positives of this type of gift are that they are something to look forward to once the Christmas glitter has gone, and they can be bonding experiences for families.

Photos can be taken during the experience and a montage created afterwards and framed as a memory.

Materials / tools to enable or encourage a hobby:

I’m all for encouraging my children away from their tablets and the TV. So any glimmer of an interest or hobby and I’m all over it. What better way to encourage this than by investing in their hobby.

I think Christmas is an excellent opportunity to buy really good quality materials and equipment that you wouldn’t normally consider spending out on during the year such as canvases, quality watercolour paints, a camera, football boots, specialist crafting equipment, roller skates, bike and sewing machine.

ballet-1816253_640inline-1694960_640
juggle-1027844_640

Here are some roller skates that I totally recommend as they are size adjustable and an excellent price.

Thinking even further out of the box, why not put together something or somewhere that makes you child’s hobby even easier to access.

A pop up dark room?

A crafting desk or storage facility?

Personal space:

Ooh, how about creating a secret kid’s cave only to be revealed on Christmas morning? A treasure hunt leading your child to the scene of their new hideout?

post-37284_640It could be a shed in the garden that you secretly decorate inside and kit out with kid’s stuff like beanbags, bunting, battery operated lanterns and a do not enter sign on the door.  

Or maybe you could cosy up the basement or cellar (if it’s in usable condition) with beanbags, TV and a mini fridge.  

For younger children, what about an under the stairs hidey hole, or teepee? Children and teens love to feel independent and they love to have something to call their own.  

 

 

Learn a skill:

Here’s a present that can last well beyond Christmas.

Christmas gift ideas kids Why not book your child onto a slightly more unusual course in something they’ve not tried before.

I attended some wonderful bushcraft courses at Jack Raven Bushcraft in Ashford last year –  here. They do organised group courses, family courses and also private bookings ranging from wood craft to cooking, to survival. 

 

Talking of cooking…. I couldn’t write a post without including my own hobby.

Every child needs to learn to cook at some point, some are desperate to get cooking and sometimes parents just can’t face it happening in their own kitchen, or maybe don’t have the time?

I’m offering a six week cookery course on Saturday mornings Christmas wish list gifts children children's kid kids child present gift presents experience unusual lessons cookery baking learn to ramsgate thanet broadstairs westwood cross kent east kent learn healthy balanced gift box cheap value quality teach learn cook cookery food meals utensils equipment kitchenin Ramsgate. A perfect pressie for grandparents, Aunties, Uncles, and parents to consider.   I’ve thought about this quite a lot and whilst I’d love to receive something like this…

…It just wouldn’t feel the same without something to unwrap. So I’ve prepared a gift box. It’s basically a pizza style box with a personalised letter explaining the gift, and inside are some totally funky, tactile and smaller (for small hands) kitchen utensils along with some recipes to get started with. Find out more here… http://makewithkate.co.uk/gift/

Do you think your child would like to receive this gift at Christmas?

 

 

Other courses you could buy into include climbing, horseriding, and cycling, skateboarding, dressmaking.

We have a lovely sewing shop here in Canterbury near to us that offers a wide range of courses, many for beginners and some especially for children.

I hope I’ve given you some inspiration for the child that thinks they have it all!

Please let me know of anything I’ve missed but could include.

I’m always on the lookout for a present that’s a bit different.

Shake up your shopping!

“Sigh! Another week  – another weekly food shop!”
“Food shopping – what a drag”

Is this how you feel?

It’s how I was feeling last week when I approached the supermarket.

So I tried something a little bit different instead. I challenge you to do the same too!

* SHOPPING CHALLENGE *

shopping supermarket trolley food family balanced chores household ramsgate kent cookery learn to cook mum dad kids shopping list products chore shake up challenge

Try starting at the far side of the supermarket and working your way back around to the fruit and veg isle. I tried this today and observed the following benefits:

1) Working against the traffic meant that I did not get caught waiting behind people. – other customers could see me coming and so moved out of my way.

2) My fruit, veg and bread did not get squashed.

3) I noticed new products that I do not normally see.

4) I took more notice of my shopping list as it did not feel as though I could do this shop on auto pilot -therefore I did not put things in my trolley just because I normally do, only if I needed them!

5) I ended up near to the less busy tills

6) I ended up nearer to the exit doors.

7) It made my shop a little less boring!

I know not all supermarkets are laid out the same, so I’d be interested to know if you try this what your findings are and which Supermarket you used.

*HAPPY SHOPPING!*

change cash shopping supermarket family food cook list spend trolley shop local english pound euro

Oh, and one more little tip – I also found out (having no suitable change in my purse and just a Euro in my car) that a 1 Euro coin will fit in the trolley at my local supermarket. It’s now going to be kept in the car for the weekly shop!

Pear crisp – autumnal baking

Pear crisp – autumnal baking

It’s that time of year when the leaves turn golden and hasn’t it happened quickly this year! I’ve started getting Hygge (Danish for cosy and snuggly for the winter months with blankets, candles, slippers and comfort food). The apples and pears are hanging off the trees and many have already fallen-  they are begging to be picked right now! I want to share my new pear crisp recipe with you.

Here’s a lovely recipe I made with my Saturday class this week and it’s too easy / good / satisfyingly “hygge” not to share with you.

It’s a warm, spiced crunchy crispy and sticky comforting dish. It can be eaten with fingers or served with ice cream, cream or custard for a dessert. The children in my class were eating it as soon as they walked out of the door. I try to get them to save the food they make so that their parents can at least see what they’ve been doing. I wonder how often the food actually makes it to their homes!

So here’s the recipe

pear crisp crumble apple kids cook children cook cookery lesson autumn autumnal tasty delicious easy aromatic wholesome healthy spiced cinnamon oats pears apples brown sugar lemon juice

 

All you need to do is complete a quick sign up form with your name and email which will allow you to automatically receive free recipes , tips, newsletters and articles in future (no need to sign up again for anything from my website.  If you just want the recipe, but not the newsletter, it’s easy to unsubscribe as soon as you’ve received the recipe.

A bit more about the recipe:

Pear crisp is a baked pear dish with a spiced oaty crumble sprinkled over the pears and then baked. It’s great as a dessert or finger food. It would be a super tasty fireside snack or even camp food. It could be made in a foil parcel – yummy!

In our lesson:
Knife skills

This was a good opportunity for us to learn about using knives safely. My classes are mixed ages and so younger children have more assistance. I only allow usage of knives with 1:1 supervision and children are taught correct knife handling techniques for cooking.  I was so proud to see the progress and confidence of some of the children who had been attending my classes for some time.

Food science

We used lemon juice on the sliced pears while we prepared our oaty topping. The children learned about the use of an acid (lemon juice) to prevent the enzymic browning that happens once fruit has been cut and exposed to the air.

Nutrition

We also discussed fibre and it’s importance in our diet along with the multitude of vitamins that we get from eating fruit.

Working as a team to clear up afterwards!

Most lessons end with a quick washing up session. Roles are divided between the children (and me) and we work as a team to get the job done. Children covet certain roles – Equipment organiser is a popular one! It’s also a great opportunity for a chat and we have fun getting the job done together. I just wish that washing up was as fun at home!

If you’d like to know more about my cookery classes, please have a look here:

cookery school craft learn recipes children kids activities lessons holiday club autumn winter Ramsgate Westgate Broadstairs East Kent Margate Thanet Cook Cookery Food Healthy Beginners Make creative creativity art sewing lunch breakfast dinner

3 new packed lunch habits you should get into

3 new packed lunch habits you should get into
Some new habits

Packed lunches can be such a drag! Sigh! As a Mum, it’s one of the things I didn’t look forward to about the return to school in September. Packed lunch making can be monotonous, lonely and de-moralising, yet as a parent we want to give our child the best, and we are prepared to make the effort so that they can have a nutritious and tasty lunch.

So why not start as we mean to go on and get into some new habits this September. It is my personal goal to have an empty lunch box every day this term. What is your goal?

emptylunch box packed lunch family kids children back to school backtoschool sandwiches wraps planning easy quick habits healthy nutritious lunch

Make it a family thing

Firstly, no wonder we hate packed lunches so… we slave away every evening / morning packing, unpacking, washing and packing again. We rack our brains to send in new but nutritious products in our child’s lunch box, only to get half of it back again at the end of the day in a soggy, mushy mess in the bottom of the box. Seriously, if your children had to help would they be so nonchalent about it all? If you get your children involved, they become invested in the idea and want to make it work too. They might even have some cool suggestions of their own.

Here are some quick and easy ways you can get them involved:

  • Sit down with them and brainstorm some new ideas for sandwich fillings, yogurt flavours, non-sandwich products. (see planning tip below)
  • Ask them about what works/doesn’t work with their packed lunch
  • Do a tasting session – get them to try out some new ideas
  • Train them to empty their box and clean it out as soon as they get in from school
  • Get them involved in some baking sessions (see freezer tips below)
  • Teach them how to make a sandwich / wrap / salad pot
Planning makes packed lunches easier and more varied

You might already plan meals for dinner time and if you do, you’l know it takes the headache out of cooking dinner for the family, and it makes writing a shopping list easier and more efficient. Well, why not try out planning for your packed lunches. Here’s how I do my packed lunch planning:

My personal preference is for my children not to have the same sandwich filling, or even a sandwich every day. So I plan for them a sandwich / wrap only one day a week, then the other days could be; a salad pot, hot packed lunch, a picky picky lunch and a baked product lunch. This immediately brings variation to my children’s packed lunch diet and takes away the endless monotony of sandwich making. It also means that you can prepare ahead, so, for example if you ever have left overs from a family meal they can be frozen into packed lunch portion sizes for future use. You could make Mondays the Sandwich / wrap day and teach your children to make their own Sandwiches on a Sunday night.

hot packed lunch lunch box packed lunch family kids children back to school backtoschool sandwiches wraps planning easy quick habits healthy nutritious lunch soup

To help you with this I’ve created a packed lunch planner sheet. It includes tick boxes on each day for each section of the Eatwell guide so that you can keep on top of nutrition as well. It also includes a shopping list at the bottom so that you can write your shopping list as you plan.

You can click here to download it

meal plan family food packed lunch lunchbox lunch box cooking children drag back to school

Oh, and one last thing on planning…

  • Don’t throw away your planning sheets, keep them and reuse them in a few weeks time! So you’ll only need to do the planning once.
Make the freezer your new best friend

Many of us seriously under / mis-use our freezers. They are stuffed full of stuff we possibly may never eat and left overs we’ve forgotten about. Sometimes I could barely open the drawers of mine to get to the frozen peas (the main thing I use from the freezer!). A few months ago I had a really good clean out and dedicated drawers to certain things. For example, I made a drawer for left overs, a drawer for meats, a drawer for convenience foods and a drawer for packed lunch products.

Here are some ways you can use the freezer for your packed lunches:

  • Bulk bake and freeze in individual portions for packed lunches – muffins, sausage rolls, soups, stews, chilli, pancakes, biscuits

muffins bake baking biscuits home cook homemade lunch box packed lunch family kids children back to school backtoschool sandwiches wraps planning easy quick habits healthy nutritious lunch

  • Freeze drinks to defrost in the lunch box helping to keep the box  and your child cool
  • Clean out your freezer and get organised – label things really well – set up a system to help you with this. e.g labels attached to the fridge with a magnet?

freezer freezing freeze food organise organiser label freezer drawer lunch box packed lunch family kids children back to school backtoschool sandwiches wraps planning easy quick habits healthy nutritious lunch

  • Many things (more than you realise) even Sandwiches can be made ahead and frozen. They can then be left to defrost in your child’s lunch box during the day and will be ready by lunch. This means that you could actually make the whole weeks lunches on a Sunday night! Wow!
Lastly…

I hope these tips have helped you,

So, for the last year, I’ve been beavering away on a super package of packed lunch inspirations. It’s a bundle of ideas, recipes, worksheets and downloadable tools. It’s not quite finished yet, in fact I’m struggling to finish as I’m not quite sure HOW to package it. I need your help to get this thing finished… it’s too good to keep it hidden away on my computer.   Please let me know in the comments below if you’d like to access such a thing online in a hub of some sort, or receive it through the post in a little booklet, or even attend a course with a take away pack of inspirations, worksheets and recipes. What would you like?

Sign up here for the FREE planning sheet

meal plan family food packed lunch lunchbox lunch box cooking children drag back to school

If you found this useful, you could also check out my Three step guide to rebalancing your lunch box. It also includes a free downloadable packed lunch pick n mix sheet

Save money, time and feed your family better meals

A few months ago (it was the school holidays) I let things slip. In the relaxed and unstructured format of our holidays I broke away from my normal way of doing things. I forgot about family meal planning and just made it up as I went along. Which kind of made me feel liberated to start with but soon became a drag.

When I look back now, I can see from my bank statement that I was spending nearly double on my groceries, I was shopping several times a week for things I’d not bought in my weekly shop, and I had no idea from day to day what I was going to feed my family! Looking back, it felt like I’d fallen off the wagon. Things were out of control.

The meals I was cooking took forever as I faffed around not really sure what I was really making. If I’m really honest, those meals weren’t that great. I was making it up as I went along. It wasn’t until we got back to school and into our routines again that I was able to rationalise what had happened.

So, I thought I’d share with you what I’ve learnt from this sorry scenario. I’ve realised that in my normal way of doing things, I wasn’t doing that badly. If you’d like to know some of the routines, tips and planning I use in my rountine day to day life then read on.

Meal planning makes everything easier

Yes it’s a bit of a drag to sit down and do, but it doesn’t take long, and it doesn’t have to be done endlessly, forevermore … once you have a blueprint of meals that work, keep the meal plans from successful weeks and repeat them a month or so later. Life is so much easier when you don’t have to think too hard about what you are going to make for dinner that evening! Here’s an example one:

family meal planning budget meals cooking frugal list shopping list balanced diet meals dinner

I plan it according the the activites in our family during the week. So for example I never plan a meal for Wednesday evening because my mum feeds my children then as she collects them from school on that day. On Thursdays I pay for school dinners because we rush around to clubs after school, so I either cook a quick and easy dish or we have a packed dinner, wraps, stuffed pitta or left overs of some sort.

I stick to a format when planning 

This really helps to make the planning easy. I either plan my family meals based around the protein or the carbohydrate content of the meal. I try to use a different source of which ever one I’ve chosen as my focus each day. This ensures that we are eating a variation of nutrients and our meals do not become repetitive. The main reason I do it though is because it stops my mind going blank when I’m trying to meal plan. You could focus on protein planning one week and carohydrates the next. Of course each meal should have a combination of protein, vegetables and carbohydrates, it’s just a way of keeping things fresh, balanced and varied.

meal plan family meal shopping cooking dinner time evening meal family budget frugal planning

So, for example if I was focussing on protein, I might on day one have a fish pie, or oven baked fish, or a fish pasta dish, or fish fingers, or a tuna pasta bake. On the next day I might make a quorn based meal, or a lentil stew, or bean burgers as my focus accompanied by potato wedges maybe. On the Wednesday I might make a spaghetti bolognese or a chilli. Does this make sense?

Give it a go!

 

 

I write a shopping list

While I am writing my meal plan I write a shopping list. It helps to make sure I have everything I need for the meals I’ve planned. It also helps to write the list in my kitchen near to my cupboards so that I can check that I don’t buy what I don’t need! I use a notepad which has meal plan on one side and shopping list on the other. Soemtimes I set up a note on my mobile phone or tablet – this is particularly useful as it won’t get lost or left at home. Whatever suits you as the best way to work. Why not try out some different ways of writing your list until you find one that works for you.

My shopping list is organised and ordered 

Whilst I’m writing the list, I organise it into the sections that my favourite supermarket has. I even put the sections in the order of the aisles in my supermarket so that when I’m shopping, I can see what I need when I need it rather than having to search through the list repetitively and risk missing things from it. It really helps! It also speeds things up in the supermarket.

family meal planning budget meals cooking frugal list shopping list balanced diet meals dinner money saving organiser supermarket

I shop in a small supermarket

Yep! I shop in the smallest supermarket in my town… not an express or micro store, but a normal everday supermarket. It doesn’t sell a huge range of diverse foods, but it sells mostly what I need. It’s of a size that I know what they do and don’t sell, so if I do need something fancy, I occasionally need to make a trip to another supermarket. This really does not happen very often though. Would you believe me if I told you that I do my  shopping on a friday morning between dropping my girls at school, and my pilates class which starts at 9.30? I also shop for my business  and buy ingredients needed for the classes I teach. It is absolutely true! This is down to the fact that my supermakret is small and managable. I know where everything is, and I know exactly what I need. I’ve saved time, money and effort by planning using the above three tips. Yay!

What’s in the cupboards already helps to kickstart my planning

Before I start my planning I have a quick look into my fridge and cupboards to see if there is anything lingering that could be used up, or could inspire a meal for my planner. It’s worth doing. Sometimes it inspires a new meal, sometimes it saves money and waste. It’s worth a try.

The freezer is my friend

This has become true over the last year. No more does my freezer house ready meals and convenience foods which never get eaten and lie forgotten about. I have organised my freezer into sections. The sections are as follows – packed lunch bits such as frozen yogurts, bread, muffins, drinks etc. Frozen fruit and veggies – this means I can eat fruit and veg that are out of season and they don’t go off as quickly so I have a wider variety of fruit and veg in my house at all times. Convenience foods – because we all need a little stock for when things don’t go as planned or we are having a “meh” day.  Pre-prepared batch cooked foods – you know – left overs, or family sized portions of soup, chilli, fish pie, shepherds pie, lasagne – a great way of saving time – cook once, eat twice!  Your freezer sections might differ depending on what you use your freezer for… but that’s a whole other blog. Keep an eye out – I am planning that for later this year.

Vegetarian meals are healthy and cheap!

Why not have a vegetarian day of the week. Generally vegetarian meals are healthier (lower in fat and usually contain more vegetables), cheaper, easy to cook and someting different if your family is not accustomed to eating vegetarian cuisine.

Buying in bulk is a brilliant way of minimising spending.

I’ve started buying washing powder, cooing oil and washing up liquid in bulk. I rarely have to buy those items. I decant the washing up liquid into smaller bottles and keep the large ones tucked away out of sight.  Things like meat can be portioned and frozen, flour, sugar, oats, rice, pasta and cereals can be decanted into jars and tubs and stored much more eaisly in a store cupboard. They’ll last longer in these containers too. I’d love to hear if you buy anything else in bulk. Using this tip will not only save you money in the long run, but it will save you time and effort when shopping and meal planning.

I hope these tips help. You might want to use one, or two of them, or all. Make changes slowly and satep by step at a pace to suit you. remember, no one is perfect, but we can keep trying to improve things for ourselves and our families. Let me know if there are any tips that you use that could be useful to others.

Happly planning!

If you’d like to receive extra downloads, recipes, useful downloads and news, why not sign up to my newsletter. I send it once a month.

 

Your biggest packed lunch mistake

Your biggest packed lunch mistake

One packed lunch mistake you are probably making and three things you can do about it right now! 

packed lunch lunchbox sandwiches ideas children school lunch lunchbag

 

I’ll just start by saying, well done Mama, you’re great. I know you’re a wonderful mum and you really care about doing the best for your child(ren). That’s why you’re reading this after all. Because you care, and you want to do your very best for your family.

The mistake I’m going to tell you about, I think we’ve all done it.  Many of us still do it, day in and day out.

But the fact of the matter is, by repeatedly making this well meaning mistake, we’re probably denying our children access to a wide range of vital nutrients, vitamins and minerals. 

 

So what is this terrible mistake I hear you mutter.

 

What am I doing so wrong that will cause my child(ren) to become malnourisehed?

 

You probably go to great lengths to make sure that you include foods that you know your children will like and eat so that they don’t spend the afternoon hungry and unable to concentrate.  Am I right?

 That’s because you are a great mum. You really care, and you do your best, and it’s not easy, right?

I know, I’m there myself. Like many of you I have two daughters, I’m a single mummy, it’s all down to me, and I care. I really, really care about the food my children eat. Yet for years, I’ve made this terrible but well meaning mistake too, and one more than one occasion. It got us into a terrible rut.  So terrible in fact that at one point I gave up on packed lunches altogether. I’ve never been much of a fan of school dinners, but at one point I thought it was for the best. We’ve been on a journey of discovery since then now we’ve reached a happy medium. We’ve mixed it up a bit and now we do a bit of both.

The mistake

Anyway, back to this terrible mistake. The one that most of us make at some point when feeding our families, is ….

lunch box lunchbox packed lunch sandwiches school dinner children lunchbag

 

Feeding your kids the same stuff, using the same formula.

Sandwich, veg, fruit , yogurt, biscuit.

Is this how your kid’s box looks?

For years I stuck to this formula. 

It makes our lives easier…… Tick

It’s a way of making sure our children will eat their lunch without complaint. Tick

You can do it in your sleep without too much bother.  Tick

We can shop for the same things week after week. Tick

My packed lunch making is like a well oiled machine. Tick

We don’t have to worry about the moaning or whimpering “but I don’t like…..”  If we dare to try something new. Big tick!

It’s just easy right? The same sandwich on the same type of bread, same filling, same yogurt tube product, same two or three types of fruit on rotation. On the face of it most packed lunches pass muster, they are balanced, contain some fruit or veg, no products too high in fat or sugar. The primary school lunch box police keep us on track in that respect.  

We know what we have to do so we figure out a formula for a balanced lunch box that works well for the kids and us. It meets nutritional guidelines, AND our kids will eat it. Right?

 

WRONG!

 

Sorry, lovely mama, it is wrong.

Nutritional guidance

Ieatwell guide teaching resources food cookery nutrition use the Government’s Eatwell guide as a basis for my meal planning, and I think most of your lunch boxes probably meet the model more or less too.

However, by picking the same foods from each section of the Eatwell guide every day, we are limiting access to the many many vitamins and minerals out there. For example – sticking to cucumber, cherry tomatoes and grapes as the vegetable part of the box. Always using white wraps. Always slipping in a yogurt tube and a biscuit. They are the same. Each day. The sandwich filling may change daily, but that’s it.

We are allowing our children’s finicky opinions to limit their diets. 

By expanding our children’s repertoire we are giving them a far wider access to the goodies that will nourish them. We are also giving them a gift for life – the enjoyment of great food!

If you’re interested in a more detailed look at children’s nutrition and dietary reference intakes, check out this article by the British Nutrition Foundation You can also look up the Nutrition requirements as revised in 2016 here 

The main thing we can do to improve our children’s lunch box content is to vary it.

But what about fussy eaters? 

Many children are fussy.  I get it!

I work with many, many fussy children. Most families have at least one one. Catering for them is a nightmare.

It really is.

I have a semi-fussy child myself.

But by drifting along accepting this and doing whatever we can to keep the peace, we are doing our children a disservice. It’s our jobs as parents to guide them and not to pander to them. This is not the kind of thing we can change in a day. This is a drip feed change. We can do it little by little one week at a time. 

Here’s what I did:

I started implementing packed lunch changes within my family unit about a year ago. I committed myself seriously to it and within three months we were seeing changes – positive ones. Big ones.  

It’s kind of hard work, but it is rewarding and engaging.

You have to commit yourself to make the changes, but the benefits will outweigh the efforts you put into it. I promise! 

  • Your child(ren) will become more open minded.
  • Their vocabulary and eloquence will improve.
  • Your relationship with them will improve.
  • Things will begin to work like clockwork again, just a different type of clockwork – one where everyone is involved.

So what can I do to make a change?

I have been busy, busy, busy putting together a package of a guidance, inspirations and resources so that you can try my approach. It’s nearly ready. I just want it to be perfect before I release it!

So in the meantime, I’ve decided to give you some tips to get started with now.

Talk about it.

Ask your children questions about packed lunches and school dinners. What works, what doesn’t, who has the best packed lunches in their class. Do they think their packed lunch is healthy? What improvements could be made? What are the school rules about packed lunches? How does it feel at lunchtime? Do they have enough time? Does their box work o.k? Is it easy to open and close?

By opening up a discussion forum with your family you’ll gain a greater insight into their mind, how lunchtime at school feels for them, and what the hurdles and problems there are to overcome.

They’ll be so pleased that you’re interested and you might be surprised by some of their answers.

Try including one new change a week.

These could be tiny changes – a slightly different bread, a wrap instead of a sandwich, a different type of cheese, A different or novel way of presenting veggies. Talk about the changes with your children, before and after.  Make sure they know you’re listening and responding to feedback.

Get making

Why not have a baking session on a Sunday afternoon. Save some of your produce for lunchboxes. You could make mini quiches, biscuits or muffins. Let your children help with the baking – this in itself will mean they are more likely to want to eat it.

Feedback from my own children (the guinea pigs)

What I noticed with my own children is that they are pleased and grateful now not to have the same packed lunch day after day.

They are enjoying the variety.

They also know that if they don’t like something one day, it’s ok, because the chances are they’ll have something completely different the next day anyway!

 

packed lunch inspirations lunch box

 

 

I hope this has inspired you to embrace change in the packed lunch department! If you’re interested in finding out more about my online package (nearly finished!) Click here for more info

My family friendly pancakes guide

Pancakes I love you so!

 

I’m a self confessed pancakes  junkie. I can out-eat my children in a challenge any day. There are no signs of my obsession waning any time soon either. I cook them most weekends and we usually don’t have any left to do anything sensible with like freezing them.pancake pancakes cooking recipe children family

 

So I’ve decided to share the love and publish my own guide – how to cook them, how to serve, them, how to let the kids help to make them and how to tweak them… oh and what to serve with them.

My pancakes guide includes:
  • My all time top four recipes for four different styles of pancake.
  • How to serve them to not only make an occasion of eating them, but to make it a truly interactive experience for all.
  • How to tweak them to suit different diets – or to add extra flavour or nutrition.
  • Loads of exciting flavour and ingredient combinations for toppings
  • How to freeze them so that you can eat pancakes all year round, even when you just don’t have the time.

Does that sound good?

Yes?

Click on the lovely pic below and you can download my fab guide for free.

pancake day pancakes family children cooking recipes ideas flavours topping freezing ingredients

 Enjoy! 

and get flipping!

pancakes pancake family food children cook

Family friendly fish

Family friendly fish
Another mum recently asked me for suggestions to help her to encourage her three children to eat fish.
They used to enjoy a variety of fishy dishes.
One by one, for differing reasons, they’ve now started to reject it.

fish recipes kids children eat cook fussy

Sounds like they might have got a bit spooked, scared of finding a bone, does this sound familiar?

It certainly does to me. It’s not so much reminiscent of my own children. This fishy phobia reminded me more of me, when I was a child.

I remember being a child in the eighties and sitting in the back of the car eating fish and chips.  I found something hard in my mouthful of fish and my (vegetarian) mum muttered absentmindedly “It’s probably an eye”…

Well, that was the start of many years of me being scared of eating any fish whatsoever. Eventually I became a vegetarian at 11 and didn’t eat fish again until I was at uni. My friend and housemate Helen, (Hello Helen!) took it upon herself to open my eyes, mind and taste buds  to it again.

I knew that nutritionally for me it was the right thing for me to do. But I had years of imagined fishy phobias to undo. So, Helen (bless her!) meticulously planned my re-introduction to fish, starting with a Fillet o’ fish at Mcdonalds. I know! – I’m cringing at this thought! We had decided that this was the least scary form that fish could take! I think we were right. 

It was…. O.K,  what more can I really say?

So, where it lacked flavour, texture and general foodie excitement, it was at least safe. The experience successfully de-armed fish in my mind. It really wasn’t the monster I’d built it up to be.  

My next fishy foray happened a couple of weeks later at lunchtime when we shared a tuna melt toasted sandwich.

Yeah! That was nice, I was converted.

fish recipes kids children eat cook fussy

I’ve continued to eat it ever since, but never really been hugely ambitious (definitely no food served with a face … or fins for that matter!) however I wouldn’t be without it now and absolutely love cooking with it. Thankfully my children have always been open minded with fish and my eldest regularly enjoys sardines on toast for breakfast.  

So actually I think I’m quite well qualified to help with this dilemma – I’d like to think I know how these children feel.

Here are my top five tips for getting children to try some new fishy foods, and I’ve included a few recipes / meal ideas at the end to help you get started.

 

Take away the pressure.

Don’t force it at meal times … in fact don’t even mention it!

I believe that tasting and trying new foods should be light hearted and fun, an experiment and experience and not an ordeal.

Some ways of introducing fish and other new foods are below:

  • Play the tasting game. Set up a platter of teeny tiny tasters maybe just one or two being fish, start with ones that you think will be least offensive to your children, and make sure they are attractively presented. Some nice ones to start with might be: smoked haddock, salmon, tuna, prawn, crab, mackerel pate – imagine the pretty pastel colours of those on a white plate. You could perhaps give your child some mini crackers to taste each sample with. Make sure to mix the fish tasters in with some others that are a little less scary. Then number each sample and put little numbered pieces of paper in a bowl and play the tasting game by taking turns to pick a number and taste a sample. Here’s a video of my girls playing the game one day with a selection of sauces, spreads, fruit, veg and cheeses.
  • Get your children to help you to make a fishy meal for the adults – do this a few times, let them choose seasoning and help to present and serve the dish. They might eat something else at the same meal, or it might be an adult only meal that they help you with prepping. Just let them see, feel and smell the fish, with no suggestions at all from you about them tasting or trying it. Do this a few times before asking them if they’d like to try some. You’ll probably find they’d like to try it before you ask them.  Hopefully this will demystify fish in their eyes, as well as taking the pressure off of them having to eat it. Children would find the following dishes fun to help prepare: Fishy parcels, fish pie, goujons, mackerel pate, tuna pasta salad, garlicky prawns.   Download my Family fishy recipe guide here – recipes with the hands symbol are ones that are especially good for children to help with. children cook helping hand recipes recipe learn to cook fishfree fish recipe guide learn to cook fish

Educate your children about the benefits of eating fish.

Try to get talking around the subject of nutrition at meal times, from time to time you might like to slip into conversation WHY and HOW particular foods are useful for our bodies. I’ve included a brief summary below of the benefits of fish nutritionally. 

  • It’s rich in protein which helps your body to grow and repair
  • Oily fish are a good source of essential fats (omega 3 fatty acids). Good for your brain, eye health, blood pressure and heart health.
  • If you eat the soft bones (often found in caned fish such as sardines, and salmon,) you’ll benefit from extra calcium – great for bone health and formation.
  • Vitamins A, D, E and K are abundant in oily fish which will benefit your bones, muscles, skin and eye health.

Be a good role model.

Don’t let your children’s fussy shenanigans stop you from eating and enjoying fish. Make sure you do it in front of them. If you are a bit wary too, then be a good role model by being up for tasting and trying new foods regularly.

Here are some suggestions of things you might do together:

  • Go for a tapas meal. The Spanish tradition of tapas where you order a wide selection of dishes to the middle of your table and then share is ideal for tasting new foods and being a bit brave when ordering in a restaurant.  You’ll only have a small portion to share between the whole table. Strike a deal with your kids – if you try something, they do too. Or maybe you’ll have a competition of who can try the most new foods. Or perhaps you could all be restaurant critics and grade each dish out of ten. 
  • You could buy or make some sushi with fishy fillings, this is easy, fun and a fantastic way of tasting new foods in tiny parcels. 
  • Have a family meal around a big family friendly paella.  Another Spanish tradition – the paella is typically shared on a Sunday – a huge rice dish filled with all sorts of sea food, your bowl becomes a lucky dip. 

Talk about it.

Keep a dialogue going about food.

Ban the words yuk and yum.

From now on no one is allowed to say if they do or don’t like something.

When teaching, I use word prompt cards like these to help children to find the right words. They help children to express their experiences of foods beyond like and dislike. The words are sorted into smells, textures, flavours and appearances. If a child is really reluctant to taste a food I always tell them that they do not have to taste it, they can describe the smell, texture or appearance instead. This immediately takes the pressure off them. 

                                                                               

fish tips cooking children fussy eater

 …and then get cooking!

learn to cook fish recipe fussy

I know from experience that cooking breaks down barriers. Cooking is theraputic, educational, productive and sociable. It also helps fussy eaters enormously by de-mystifying ingredients. Cooking allows sensory introductions to foods that may otherwise seem scary to children. The very best thing would be to get your children being hands on in the kitchen as often as possible.

Use your conversations with your children to inform your cooking and meal planning. If they don’t like skin or bones, go for mashed up or blended fish such as pate or fish cakes.

If they like to see what they are eating, take them to the fish monger. Get them to help choose a piece and have a conversation with the fish monger about it.

Perhaps strong flavours are off putting,  in this case go for cod, or haddock, or mix the it into mashed potato in a fish cake.

They might prefer to be able to see exactly what they are eating, have fun with baked foil parcels and different seasonings.

To move away from slimy textures, you could have fun with a barbeque or racklette, and cook the fish for longer. 

Below are some meal ideas that I think are perfect for family cooking and eating sessions. If you’d like a bit more detail on how to make them, click here to download

Fee free to mess around with them and adapt them to suit your family.

free fish recipe guide learn to cook fish

Hiding veggies

Hiding veggies
Hiding veggies in your child’s dinner is a tried and tested parental tip.

hiding veggiesBy “hiding veggies”, I mean mashing up cauliflower into mashed potato, blending veggies into a pasta sauce and sneaking disliked fruits into smoothies. There are endless ways you can do it – I confess, I’m no expert at it. 

It’s an excellent way to boost your child’s nutritional intake whilst maintaining peace and harmony at the dinner table….

or is it?

 

 

I’m not saying don’t do it, I’m going to suggest we take a step back and consider whether it is the best option for the long term and what we could be doing instead.

Here are my three BIG reasons why  I think we should NOT hide veggies in our children’s food and SIX things we could be trying instead!

  1. Trust
  2. Knowledge / education
  3. Longevity / the future

Ok, so we’ve all done it, I still do it from time to time, but here’s why I think it’s a really bad idea to rely on veggies undercover in your children’s meals.

Trust

Hiding veggies could be considered a form of trickery. In this case it’s trickery that has been implemented with the purest of intentions, but all the same it’s trickery, and your 5 year old would most probably see it this way too if they found out.

Just imagine; when your child discovers that you’ve been squirreling away (the hated) carrots in their favourite bolognese sauce for goodness knows how long –  in their eyes, they’ll wonder what else you have been up to that they don’t know about? It’s like finding out that your husband has been sneaking extra pints in on the way home from work when he says he’s been working late to earn money for your new extension, you might start to question what else he’s been doing that you don’t know about.

I believe we need to be transparent and honest with our children, they trust us 100%, they rely on us 100% and we are their world.

Over the next decade (and more) you are going to need to convince your children to do so much more than eat veggies and without that trust and an open and communicative relationship you may struggle with some biggies down the line. Keep it straight now and  perhaps you’ll have your child where you want them when they are a teenager wanting to go out with friends until all hours. If they are able to trust you, you’ll be able to trust them. It works both ways and you need set the bar on this one.

Knowledge and education

By sneaking the extra veggies into our children’s mashed potatoes, we are allowing them to grow up in blissful ignorance. They are ignorant of the fact that their diet is providing them with vital nutrition. They may grow up believing that even though they (think) they eat only one type of vegetable they are still perfectly healthy.

I know this is an extreme example, but children learn by example, by seeing and by doing. It’s all very well telling them that an “apple a day keeps the doctor away”, but will they actually believe this and value the part that fresh food plays in our diet if they don’t actually see or experience it?

Longevity

If you are an avid “sneaker- inner”, have a think about this;

What exactly is your plan for the future? When do you plan to stop sneaking those veggies in? What happens when your son leaves home and has to manage his own diet? Will he be blissfully ignorant and believe that his healthy body and brilliant immune system is down to his diet of mashed potato and sausages. No veg needed here, thank you very much? When are you planning to stop the veggies in disguise? How are you planning to make the transition?

It’s a great short term solution, but we do need to be realistic here that hiding veggies is just a short term helper.

We need to start laying foundations for the future and we need to start with honesty and integrity.

I’ve included six simple ways you can start  to move away from hiding veggies below:

  1. Educate
  2. Empower 
  3. Sneak the veggies in (in an obvious way) before dinner (and then enjoy a veggie free dinner?)
  4. Work as a team
  5. Talk about it
  6. Have fun Click here to download my list of foodie fun and games activities.
Educate

Knowledge is power and education is the route to knowledge.

Educate your child about their diet. Explain at meal times how different foods help our bodies, and if you don’t know something, look it up together – you’ll be modelling good research skills at the same time.

Here are some good books I use on a regular basis as a reference point:

Healing foods nutrition book reference recipes hiding veggies  family nutrition reference book recipes hiding veggies

You can use my short video here which explains the New Eatwell Guide. You could even show this to  older children, or you can drip feed information to them about why different foods are good for us… there’s truth in the old saying that you might have been told as a youngster the carrots help you to see in the dark… , the beta carotene in carrots does indeed help with night vision.

Show your child the new Eatwell guide eatwell_guide_colour and show how large the vegetables and fruit section is. Explain that fruit and veg of different colours bring different nutrients to our bodies and we need to eat as wide a range as possible to be as healthy as possible.

Empower them to solve the problem

Once they understand why they need to eat vegetables and fruit, or milk and cheese (or whatever it is they are fussy about) you can make this your child’s problem. Knowledge is power – so give them the power to work out a solution… give them a blank Eatwell guide and a list of foods and ask them to organise a day’s worth of food into the correct sections. Can they see if it is balanced?

Or, get them to count their vegetable intake on a chart and reward them when they meet a target set by you.

Sneak the veggies in but in a transparent way.

One of my favourite things to do whilst cooking is to chop up a selection of veggies and nutritous goodies. I  put them in a couple of small bowls and set them down beside my daughters whilst they are watching TV, doing their homework, reading etc. More often than not, the bowls are empty by the time I serve up dinner and Bob’s your uncle, they’ve eaten a couple of portions of veg!  The pressure is then off at dinner time. You won’t be worrying about whether they’ve eaten enough veg and they won’t need to dig their heels in.

Work as a team

Make your children part of your team. Consult with them on which vegetables they think would best compliment your planned meal , ask for their help in the kitchen, make it all part of your daily routine, get them to prepare the vegetables, the more contact they have and the more input, the more invested they will feel in the outcome. They will be more likely to try the food even if they don’t like it. This is not 100% foolproof, but it is a small stepping stone towards harmony at the dinner table.

Talk about it

Start having conversations about food, whilst eating it, whilst preparing it and whilst planning it. Encourage your child to use sensory language to describe foods and discourage “I don’t like” “yuk” and “yummy”.

Encourage informative language such as bitter, salty, bland, chewy so that you can all start to better understand your child’s tastes.

Make it fun

We want our children to grow up with healthy attitudes towards food and with that in mind, meal times need to be relaxed and associations with food should be fun and relaxed.

The best advice I know is that we need to take away the battle, relax and have fun.

Choose your battles wisely and concentrate on the fun stuff. I’ve put together a list fun ideas that you can try.

Click here to download my list of foodie fun and games activities.  hiding veggies fun food games and activities

I hope I’ve spoken some sense here, of course I realise there may well be people that disagree with me. I’d love to know your viewpoint on hiding veggies. Do you do it? Have you tried some of my suggested fun foodie games and activities? Are there some that you do already at home? Do you have a new suggestion you’d like to share? Please do comment below.

I’d love to hear from you!

Kate x

 

 

hiding veggies fun food games and activities