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

 

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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

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

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

Kitchen literacy (part 1)

Kitchen literacy (part 1)

Hi there!

I want to spend a few moments today considering the merits of the humble kitchen as a classroom. More specifically, today I am going to use literacy as a starting point.

Typically the kitchen is a place for social gatherings. No matter how small your kitchen, if you’re cooking when guests visit, it’s where everyone communes. I wouldn’t be surprised if it is the most inhabited  room in most houses. I suppose that is our first link to literacy!

Simple socialising and verbal interaction is a form of literacy.

As a teaching professional I often consider how my own subject specialism can be combined with others (the technical term is “cross curricular”) and my goodness, the links between food / cookery and other subjects is endless. At the school I teach in we link our projects to historical periods including a Mediaeval banquet re-enactment. In another project we learn about other cultures and practice language skills in the setting up of international cafes which form the basis for bi-lingual role plays and the making and selling of delicious international delicacies. We use the wonder of the physical and chemical changes that take place in food preparation and cooking to help explain scientific processes such as coagulation and gelatinisation, caramelisation and dextrinisation to name but a few. Not to mention the endless links that can be made to numeracy and literacy.

So this got me to thinking about things at home.

As a parent, I often feel a bit lost about how I can help and support my children’s learning at home without being too didactic.

Yes, I help with homework and I listen to my children read, but how else can I or do I already help support with learning in less structured ways?

Well, the great news is, if you cook with your child at home, then you are already helping them to apply numerous principals they may have learned more formally with a practical application. Even greater news… Blooms Taxonomy of learning shows that application is halfway up the ladder above knowledge and recall, with creativity as the highest level of learning.  What I am trying to say is that cooking can be a part of the learning process allowing children a new context to apply their academic knowledge.

I recently did a brainstorm with Jo Bradley, a colleague who runs a fabulous business helping parents to find fun ways of supporting their children’s learning at home. We came up with such a long list of numeracy and literacy links to cooking that I have had to make this the first in a series of blog posts in which we will demonstrate some ways you can bring literacy and numeracy into family kitchen life. We decided to start with a family challenge. Here’s Jo explaining the concept:

To help you to put this concept into action in the kitchen, I’ve designed a lovely printable fridge chart that you can use to start a family challenge. Click HERE to get your free chart. Kitchen literacy family fun cookery learning children

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both Jo and I would absolutely love to see how you get on with this and to hear your feedback. Was the chart useful? Are there any other concepts you’d like similar resources for? Show us your completed charts! Who was the champion in your household? I can’t wait to get some feedback on this. Just post your updates in the comments below.

Watch out over coming months for more kitchen literacy, numeracy and science freebies to help you extend your family’s learning in the kitchen.  If you sign up for my monthly newsletter at the same time you’ll get links to freebies delivered direct to your inbox without having to go looking for them.

What I’ll be doing for Halloween this year “Treat’s not sweets” (part 1)

What I’ll be doing for Halloween this year  “Treat’s not sweets” (part 1)

 

 

 

It’s Halloween soon. I can smell it in the wood smoke tinted evening air, and I can feel it in the crisp early morning chill.

What’s the cookie monster’s definition of a balanced diet? 

The same amount of cookies in each hand! 

Did you know Halloween this year falls on on a Moan-day, and next year it will be a chews-day! That’s great news for all wannabe chomping monsters and moaning zombies out there right?

Thank you for bearing with me through the awful jokes!

Last year, we went trick or treating for Halloween as usual. We collected the usual ridiculous amount of sweets. One house in particular stands out to me, and for my youngest daughter M.

Trick or treat healthy Halloween treats

Let me explain:

As we approached the ordinary looking house, we came across a  wicker basket on the door step. A sign by the basket said please take one. We took a little organza bag which contained a little note with a little message or rhyme (each one different) and a piece of fruit.

That was all.

A refreshing and welcome difference to the same old candy offered at everyone else’s door. My youngest daughter M eagerly ate her piece of fruit on the way home. I think the candy had made her thirsty, not to mention the fact that she is a fruit fiend.

For this year’s celebrations, it’s got me thinking.

Why not do something a bit more thoughtful or memorable. Why not do something a bit different. Why does it always have to be candy?  It’s worth thinking about.

This blog is the first of a few that I’ll post over the year titled “Treats not sweets”. I’m keen to get people thinking before they reward or gift children with sweets. My children are given so many sweets by others; teachers, parents, well meaning strangers and friends included. I never buy my children sweets. Not because I am mean or strict (OK, maybe just a bit), but because I feel they have more than enough already, and sometimes I feel it’s a bit misplaced.

I know the tradition of Halloween is giving sweets as the treat – and children these days don’t seem to know what the trick part is all about – but traditions can change. It’s not an ancient tradition really after all, it’s a borrowed tradition. I’d like to open up people’s minds to what a treat can be.

On that note, I’ve put together a printable Halloween jokes list if anyone wants to join me. My plan is to put together some healthy, Halloween themed treats  on a table outside my house and I’ll probably bag or box them up with one of these jokes.  If you’d like a copy, please be my guest and sign up for it here. I promise, they are better than the first few lines of this post!

Healthy trick or treat Halloween jokes

I’ve done a bit of research and collected together some other ideas for Halloween “Treats not sweets” and put them together on my Pinterest board.

If you’d like some inspiration ….  Halloween Treats not sweets!

I’ve tried to keep the ideas realistic and simple. So that they can be re-created on mass without too much bother. I actually feel spoiled for choice now I’ve done some research, I hope you will too!

 

Healthy Halloween treats not sweets

If you’re like minded and have some great Halloween Treats not sweets ideas, please share! I’d love to see and hear about what you’re all doing for Halloween.

6 ways to tackle your fussy eater

6 ways to tackle your fussy eater

Is your child a fussy eater?

Is dinner time a battle ground?

Does your child say no more often than yes at meal times?

Have you given up trying and now rely on the staple foods you know that your fussy eater will like?

One of the most common complaints that I hear from parents is that their child is a fussy eater, so I wanted to put my thoughts on this down into writing (I have a few theories) and to provide a space where you can share tips with others on what has or has not worked for you.

 

The biggest influence in the mealtime battleground  is control.

So who is in control?

The first lesson that a baby learns is to cry in order for their needs to be met. They will perhaps have a range of different cries – tired cry, hungry cry, bored cry.

There will ensue a period of training whereby the baby trains the adult to recognise and meet their various cries and needs respectively whilst the baby learns which cry works best and what type of response each provokes, and how far they need to push it to get the response they need.

They then learn that by throwing things on the floor an adult will pick it up …. but only for so long.

Once they become a toddler, they (and their parent) are subjected to huge feelings of not being quite in control over their lives as they would like to be. They want to decide what to wear, how mummy holds their hand, whether they are strapped into the high chair. Their desires are not always (in our view) logical or practical. We can’t always allow them to have what they want, and it is our job to teach them this in a firm but fair manner. What it boils down to is that as babies grow into toddlers and then children, they want to have a greater degree of control over their lives.

Common battlegrounds between toddlers / children and their parents are clothing, foods, wake up times, bedtimes, and more often than not – how things are done! The birth of the fussy eater.

Mealtimes can be a massive battle ground between a fussy eater and their parents.

Let the battle commence … oh it already has!

In the red corner: The parent: 

The parent’s job / desire is to feed their children as healthy a diet as possible, and this means amongst other things making sure their child eats their 5 a day, that they eat enough (so they can grow big and strong), and that they don’t get a sweet tooth / overweight or tooth decay.

In the blue corner  – The child (a.k.a fussy eater):

At meal times children can quickly learn that they have control over something the parent wants i.e. how much / what they will or won’t eat. Children (toddlers especially) react very badly to feeling forced into doing something. They want it on their terms. All too often, following one too many lost battles, life gets in the way. Parents are worn down, tired, fed up of wasting uneaten food and so they find a common ground (e.g. the vegetables the child will eat) and stick to what works. Consequently some children grow up with a limited range of foods that they will eat, and the parent almost gives up on pushing the boundaries any further.

I am not going to suggest any clever ways to hide vegetables in meals

Although this is a useful tactic, and has it’s place, it certainly should not be relied upon long term.  It does not solve the problem of the fussy eater. It is a form of trickery and if your child gets a whiff that they are being coerced in some way the barriers will come up and you will lose the trust that you are building.  It won’t help to inspire your child to make their own healthy choices as they grow up because they may grow up oblivious to the fact that they’ve eaten many of the foods that they claim not to like. How will they learn to make sensible food decisions in the future? 

So how can we tackle the problem of the fussy eater?

Before we begin the precursor to this journey has to be to forget about the control. When you start to relax your child will too and then you can start to have some fun.

  1. Give them some choice. 

    food choice fussy eater healthy ingredientsOnce a week have a ‘bits ‘n’ bobs’ taster session. Put a range of different foods out on the table and have fun trying different foods. Dips and dippers are an excellent start to this. It doesn’t even have to be a meal – it could be a fun rainy afternoon activity. You could try the blindfold game where one person is blindfolded and they have to guess the food they are tasting.
    A cheese board is another great way to start experimenting with different foods.
    Alternatively,  sometimes if I am introducing a new meal that I think my children will be apprehensive about I make a safe option to go alongside it. I then allow my children to fill up on the safe option whilst having a taste of the more exotic option. Now, this is not practical every day of the week, but once in a while it is fantastic for your child to see you try something new, and to give them the choice to try it without the pressure to eat a whole plateful of the new food.

  2. Talk about food
    (my absolute favourite past time – even above eating it!)

    Start a dialogue around food at the dinner table. Encourage your child to describe the flavours, textures, aroma and appearance of food. This not only helps to broaden their vocabulary, but gives them a new way of expressing how they feel about food rather than the all too familiar “I don’t like it”. They will start to be able to explain why they don’t like the food which may give you a greater understanding of their perceptions and preferences.
    You could go one step further and ban the words nice / nasty / yuk and yummy when describing foods and encourage the use of sensory adjectives instead. The benefits of doing this are that you will start to gain a greater understanding of what it is that your child actually does or does not like and your child will stop thinking of food in the black and white terms of like / dislike and see that there are many, many nuances of flavour and texture offered by foods. If you decide to take me up on this tip – you will find some sensory vocabulary lists (here) very useful as a way of helping your child to choose the right words to describe a food.
    A fun way to kick start the use of sensory vocabulary is to play the game where you have to describe a food to others without mentioning it’s name. You could even challenge them not to mention colour or shape. and rely on textures, flavours and aromas instead. For example. This food is crackly, salty and light as a feather. It does not grow on land, it is not an animal.   Can you guess what it is? Guesses welcome in the comments below. 

  3. Remember that children have a different palette to ours.

    Some children are very sensitive to strong flavours and literally can’t handle the sensory overload. The vocabulary tip above will help you to understand what it is that they struggle with exactly and you can then work on introducing flavours and textures that start very mild and build up.
    Remember that your child’s palette will change over time so give them plenty of
    non-confrontational opportunities to try a tiny taste of something new, they may surprise themselves. An example of this might be curry. I always serve a bowl of natural yogurt with curry and my children help themselves to as much or as little as they need and stir it into their curry to reduce the spiciness of the curry. In my opinion the curry is not that spicy to start with, but to their taste buds it is.
    It is also worth considering the situation from your child’s perspective. Can you remember a time where you have felt anxious, stressed, or just not hungry. Picture how your body physically feels. Imagine somebody persistently trying to get you to eat when you feel like this. How does it feel? How will it feel when the food is in your mouth? When I try this exercise, my mouth goes dry and my throat constricts. A dry mouth and taut throat make it almost impossible to chew and swallow effectively, thus taking away any sense of enjoyment whatsoever. Try to remember this at meal times. Use weekends and holidays to practice a bit of playfulness and mindfulness around meal times.   

  4. Allow your child to eat with more than just their mouth

    wonky vegetables presentation of food fun meal fussy eaterThe saying is true, we do eat with our eyes, even as adults. So it is useful to remember that it may be down to something as simple as the appearance that prevents your child from even trying a food. Once in a while (not at every single meal) have a bit of fun with appearance – make a picture on the plate with food- get your child to join in. Use sites like this to help inspire you. I would caution you not to use this tactic at every meal time as it can get tired, and it’s an awful lot of effort to put in.

  5. Get your child involved.

    There are numerous ways of doing this and I recommend you try all, but at different times – do it subtly – maybe one a week.
    * Put all foods out in the centre of the table and allow everyone to help themselves – if your child is too young to do this. Serve up in front of them allowing them to have larger portions of some foods and smaller portions of others

    DSC_0252*Get your child involved in the preparation. They could peel the carrots, stir the stew, lay the table, put items onto a baking tray etc. In this way they will learn the effort that goes into preparation of food. But also if they have invested some of their own effort into something, they are likely to be more open minded about wanting to try these foods at the end.

    *Get your child involved in planning. Look through recipe books together and talk about the foods. Get them to choose a few meals they would like to help make. Involve them in shopping for the food and preparing it. Give it a name – Tom’s fish pie.
    My children used to adore a game whereby they would write a menu for the meal I was preparing. They wrote place settings and seated ‘guests’ and took drinks orders. They would offer a choice of desserts and take orders for that as well. It was a way of them feeling that they had control over the meal, and it gave them some insight into what was coming.

    The onus of ‘will they eat it or won’t they’ was off and they could just enjoy the role play.

  6.  Lay down your arms but never give up. 

    You know that you are never going to give up, but this has to stop being a battle ground. Relax the reins and allow at least one opportunity a week to break away from the normal routine at dinner time and try something new – whether it be a new approach to the way meal times run, or a new meal that the family has not tried before, or a game based around food such as the role play suggested above. If you are more relaxed about food then so will your children be. It’s o.k. to serve the foods that you know your fussy eater likes for 6 out of 7 days in the week. We are humans after all, we can’t create all singing all dancing dining experiences everyday of the week, but once in a while do something out of the norm and you may just be surprised at the results.

    When your fussy eater senses that you are more relaxed about their diet then they will relax too. Allow them a small sense of control without the battle first. Keep talking about food and building that dialogue using sensory vocabulary. 

     

    I hope that some of what I have said has inspired you to try something new at meal times. May this be the beginning of a family love affair with food and many enjoyable experiences for every member of the family.

    I have collected some resources for you to use including some sensory vocabulary flash cards that you can make use of. They can be found here 

Please do comment below with any tips or ideas you’d like to share with others.

7 super reasons why you SHOULD make gingerbread with kids

7 super reasons why you SHOULD make gingerbread with kids

The benefits of traditional baking with mother

This week my girls and I reveled in some traditional home baking. We made gingerbread.  Oh how wonderful it was to do something so familiar and comforting and wonderfully homely. I’d like to celebrate that now. It just happened to be the perfect solution to all our wants and needs on that day.  

gingerbread18

Whilst making the most of a long awaited ‘home’ day with my girls, M asked if we could make something in the kitchen. “Yes!” I leapt out of my seat “YES! What shall we make” My enthusiasm was due to the fact that I am always asking the girls if they want to cook so that I can practice new recipes with them, or photograph them for my website, so actually, they are not usually that excited by the prospect even though they usually really enjoy themselves once they get going, I guess the novelty has worn off.

Just because

Today M’s recipe of choice was Gingerbread men. I bit my “Make with Kate” tongue and sat on my hands, I wanted just to enjoy doing something nice with my girl, ‘just because’ with no other added agenda. So I put the recipe on my laptop screen and M started to get out the ingredients and confidently weighed out the flour, sugar and fat.

You could hear a pin drop

Later when the biscuits were cooked H came to join us with icing the biscuits. I was blown away by the outcomes, they had really improved their technique from last time (probably about a year ago). So yes, at this stage I conveniently forgot the ‘just because’ intention and got out my camera to photograph the results. I loved seeing the concentration on both girls faces, and listening to the unusual silence that accompanied the painstaking decoration process. This was a real feel good moment.  

gingerbread men fine motor skills children cook recipe

Why you should do it today

Here’s why I think making gingerbread men with your children is super good!

Family time
As well as being a sweet treat, gingerbread men must be praised because the process of making and decorating involves spending valuable time together.

Good quality ingredients
The ingredients that go into the biscuits are completely within your control. There are no added nasties to make the biscuits last longer, look better, hold together better, more crisp etc. You can include wholemeal flour, free range eggs etc according to your personal preferences / needs.

Nutritional education (you didn’t think I’d actually leave this out did you?
When you make treats yourself, your children can appreciate for themselves just how much sugar and fat goes into biscuits and later on they will be able to make informed decisions about how many they want to  / should eat.

Numeracy skills
M practiced weighing out the ingredients independently. There are loads of ways you can include numeracy in your baking time with your children, but that’s a whole other blog post. 

Literacy skills
Following instructions – M read the recipe herself and I assisted where necessary. There are many technical words in recipes and these can be a challenge to children, but here’s a good opportunity for you to start to demystify the world of baking for your child so that in later life they feel competent and confident about using recipes. 

Scientific understanding
On this occasion M asked questions about the jobs that different ingredients do and why we were using them in this recipe. E.g. bicarbonate of soda. The more you cook, and talk and ask questions the more they will pick up, sometimes subconsciously.

Improves handwriting (fine motor) skills
Icing the biscuits is an excellent way of practicing fine motor control skills, especially for children who struggle with handwriting. We made our own mini piping bags from greaseproof paper and cut a tiny nozzle. The girls had to concentrate really hard to get the designs they wanted. Their outcomes were so much improved from last year, it was really exciting to see.   

 gingerbread12

I’d love for you to enjoy this experience with your little ones and so I’ve put together this downloadable recipe sheet for gingerbread men. Enjoy!

gingerbread recipe cook gingerbread men