How I got my kids to help me with the housework

I’ve been asked to share my new household task system designed to get my (reluctant) children involved in housework. It’s been brewing for a while now, but it’s taken time to come up with something that ticks all of my boxes and feels right for us. You are very welcome to use my plan, or tweak it to suit your family / household. For this reason I’ve provided a copy of our task list and also a blank template that you can customise.

Below I’ve outlined how I came up with the idea and my reasoning behind each aspect. You may or may not agree, it might be right for your family, it might not. We are all different, but perhaps it will inspire you to build your own system that is just right for your own set up.

It’s lonely doing it all by myself!

It get’s pretty lonely being stuck in the kitchen washing up / clearing up, hanging out washing etc alone…. most of the time.

Not to mention frustrating that I now don’t know whose knickers are whose, and no one was willing to help me sort them.

I was feeling annoyed that my ongoing household drudgery was keeping me from spending quality time with my children… in fact I’d often say to them “If someone would just help me… I’d be able to do x with you before bed… ” Sadly, this did not have the desired effect.

Money can’t buy you love

My eldest had recently asked if she could earn some pocket money by doing jobs for me. I have to admit, the way I was feeling, this was a tempting proposal.

Tempting as paying her to do the tasks might have been, I’m stubborn, and a bit old fashioned too. I don’t want my children ONLY helping me if I affix a payment to it!

My dream is to have a family camaraderie, for us to be a team, for them to appreciate what I do, and for me to be able to show my appreciation to them for their help and support.

Reluctant pre-teens

So, I knew what I didn’t want, I also know what they wouldn’t want too!

A long list of rules and an arduous rota to follow, chase and manage was not looking appealing to me or them.

So I really had to get my thinking cap on.

Whilst I really did not want my household helpers system to be all about payment, I did think that pocket money in some form could be tied in somehow if  cleverly worked out.

Firstly, I established  how much pocket money I’d be prepared to give my children and I settled on £5 each per week. However, I still want them to value money and understand the concept of working for it, so this money  would need to be earned, but not before we’ve worked together as a team with no recompense but good feelings and camaraderie.

Part of a family team

I’d love for us to feel more like a team, and for them to enjoy the camaraderie that I know comes with working together. I also hope that my children will learn some life skills from this. Even if my system doesn’t stand the test of time, for the period that it does last, I hope to be able to teach my children how to do a variety of household tasks independently … and properly!

New house – new rules

We’ve just moved house, and returned from holiday, so I feel that this is the perfect time to implement new systems. It’s an excellent time to start new habits, and to naturally teach the children where things go, and how I run the household. They each have their own print out and refer to it daily.

How it works

household chores tasks children help helpers pocket money earn teach cleaning washing ironing make system rota cleaning family kids children parents

There are two basic rules:

  1. Five family tasks must be completed each week
  2. No moaning or arguing over any tasks

There are two categories of tasks; Family tasks (unpaid, general daily tasks – always need doing!) Paid tasks (mainly weekly tasks, things they might not do already, but could learn to do independently, and most importantly – these are things I don’t really want to do myself)!

The paid tasks have different weightings, some are worth £1, some £2, some £4 etc. My children have been told that they can earn up to £5 per week with a combination of tasks. They could do a £4 and a £1 task, or 5 £1 tasks.

We have a blackboard tally chart in my kitchen that we keep a record on of how many family tasks have been completed, and how much is owed for that week on paid tasks.

chalkboard tally cleaninghousework household chores kids learn teach pay pocket money system

You are very welcome to download and use my system here 

household chores tasks children help helpers pocket money earn teach cleaning washing ironing make system rota cleaning family kids children parents

Here is the blank version if you’d like to customise it.

 

https://www.canva.com/design/DADAPcB4X0k/view 

This system is still very much in it’s infancy. We are just a couple of weeks in and I can see some tweaks I’d like to make, and some rules I need to establish with my girls – who are experts at seeking and testing out loopholes in the system! I’d love to hear your thoughts / feedback on my idea so far!

a word about creativity

a word about creativity
Read on for some of my musings on CREATIVITY and it’s role in my classes and clubs…

Did you know that creativity is considered to be the highest of the learning skills on Blooms Taxonomy?

Bloom’s Taxonomy

Blooms Taxonomy is a classification system used in education to identify the different thinking and learning skills that may be drawn upon in a task / lesson / activity.

Here’s my own version of Bloom’s taxonomy – I’ve added in  some of the ways how we practice each learner skill in my cookery and craft sessions.

blooms taxonomy bloom's Bloom's creativity evaluation analyse create cook craft art children

Bloom’s taxonomy is organised on a hierarchical system; those at the bottom of the triangle are lower level tasks than those at the top. Sometimes it is necessary to be able to achieve those at the bottom before being able to attempt those at the top.

For example, in order to create something new, a child must solve problems. They will experiment to find out what works and what doesn’t. They will analyse other similar products to decide what works and what does not and they will apply both learned knowledge and new understanding to help make the new thing.

In being creative, we will learn by our mistakes. Mistake are an integral part of being creative.

To be creative, a child must not feel scared of failure, they must be up for a challenge and feel relaxed enough to be able to make mistakes and learn from them without fear of reprimand or feeling stupid.

So, being creative, although fun, and one of the most rewarding things one can be/do, is not an easy thing to achieve. It’s fun, but it’s also a journey. It’s also an elusive state of being that can only happen properly when the conditions are just right.

The environment must be accommodating, inspiring, relaxed, not too tidy (in my opinion – tidiness can kill creativity).

A starting point is useful – some raw materials, some imagery, a problem to be solved…

A creative person needs to be relaxed…. thoughts cannot flow when there is other stuff to worry about, or time is limited. Too many restrictions can stop the creative flow too.

Often the fun is in the process not the outcome.

I try to encourage creativity in my classes.

creativity

I like to think that my holiday clubs are the perfect opportunity to foster creativity.

We have long enough together that we do not need to rush from task to task.

Children can spend longer on tasks that capture their imagination. Although I might start with a suggestion of a possible outcome and certain materials will be provided, I allow children to follow the path that their creative journey takes them.

An example of this was over the summer, at our summer club when a wooden box (intended in my planning to become a mosaic decorated keepsake box) became a fabric embellished handbag.

Here is the handbag in progress….. 

creativity creative blooms taxonomy learner creative creativity make sew create draw paint build children kids child

…Or in cookery lessons when weird and wonderful flavour and ingredient combinations are discovered to be amazing….or not!

One of my greatest joys is being privy to children’s creativity and watching it unfurl before me. I am always so taken by surprise at what the children make, and where their journey takes them. I feel honoured to be part of their journey.

I’m looking forward to see what happens at the Spring Cookery and craft club… I promise I’ll show you some pictures if you don’t manage to sign up to this one.

If you’d like to read more about my classes, or holiday clubs – read on here

My top tips for pancake making

My top tips for pancake making

pancakes pancake crepe recipe tips top how to learn cook teach cookery scotch american maple syrup lemon sugar

My top tips for pancake making

I am a total pancake fiend! I eat them regularly all year round. I’ve experimented and tweaked my pancake recipes many times, and put together a fab little guide for you if you are interested (it’s at the bottom of this post). I’ve also managed to come up with ten top tips for perfect pancakes. I hope you like them.

  1. Perfect pancake batter: Add the eggs to a well in the centre of the flour first. Spoon upright (vertical) stir from the middle with little circular movements.
    Then add the milk a little at a time keeping the spoon vertical and stirring fro the middle allowing a little flour to be incorporated at a time.
  2. Hot pan. Make sure the pan is properly hot before pouring the batter in. The first pancake is always the worst pancake, and I think it’s because the frying pan is not usually hot enough – like really warmed through. So don’t worry if your first one is a flop … the next one will be so much better.
  3. Use butter or coconut oil for the nicest tasting results
  4. Get your jug out. Pour crepe batter or runnier batters into the frying pan from a jug or use a soup ladle. Thicker batters can be dolloped in straight from the bowl
  5. Hands off! Don’t use your flipper / fish slice until your pancake is cooked on one side. No patting, no shifting, no lifting the edges, no sliding it around. Understood? Your pancake will move by itself when it’s ready just with a little shake of the frying pan.
  6. Don’t be a show off. If you don’t know what I mean by this – you need to check out the Pancake episode of Pepper Pig. It is really not necessary to flip  pancakes up in the air. Use a fish slice for goodness sake. I’d rather have more pancakes to eat than a mushy mess that’s been on the floor!  
  7. Keep them warm. Store the pancakes that have been cooked on a warmed plate with either a large upside down bowl over the top or a clean warm tea towel until you are ready to sit down and eat them.
  8. Offer a selection of toppings . Here are some of my faves: Natural yogurt with fresh fruit and maple syrup, Cinnamon and sugar, lemon and sugar, maple syrup, sliced banana and cinnamon. Tinned fruit, fresh fruit or defrosted from frozen are all excellent accompaniments to pancakes.
  9. Be experimental. Once you have a fool proof recipe have a play…. try different types of flours, different milks, add a dollop of natural yogurt or butter milk to increase fluffiness of American pancakes. Try adding cocoa powder, or cinnamon to your batter. Let me know any winning combinations you come up with.
  10. Kids can help. Make sure you teach your children how to make pancakes. The best way to do thi is to get them involved every time you make them. Let them help with weighing, stirring, ladling and flipping. Here’s my pancake guide if you’d like it. It has my all time favourite go-to basic pancake recipes. Tried and tested hundreds of times by me and my girls.

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

When your child wants to help in the kitchen…

When your child wants to help in the kitchen…
Mummy … can I help?

Sometimes help in the kitchen from your child feels like the last thing you want or need. Pictures of the mess, and images of dinner just not getting cooked. Or perhaps dinner burning whilst you assist your young children may float through your already busy mind. Meanwhile you’re desperately searching for an excuse for your child not to ‘help’, or for something easy/ non messy / non dangerous that they could do instead.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. There are so many wonderful benefits that it’s a shame to pass up this opportunity.

 

  • Your child will gain valuable life skills
  • You’ll have a team of helpers for preparing meals
  • You’ll get to spend time together whilst getting a chore done.
My kitchen helper checklist

I’ve put together a guide to age appropriate jobs that children can help with in the kitchen without causing you too much stress or angst at a busy time of day.

It’s free, downloadable and printable – a perfect addition to your fridge door, or maybe inside the larder cupboard door. You can quickly refer to to it and assign a task. 

kitchen helper little toddler preschool child kids school age teenager chores help to cook how old list checklist age appropriate cooking learn to cook lessons mum family kids dad home help helper safe safely knife cut chop burn boil fry toast kettle

Use it like a checklist

You could also use it a bit like a checklist and cross off tasks that your child can now manage independently. The age guide is really just a suggestion as all children are completely different and will manage things at different ages, however it is helpful to give you a starting point.

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

The age bit is just a guide – we can all enjoy the toddler ones!

Don’t think that just because your child is now a tweenager they won’t enjoy playing with an off-cut of pastry – they will LOVE it. I’ve listed that job under toddlers and pre-schoolers because it is something they can do unassisted, but it is also something that everyone can enjoy doing.

It’s never too early to get your child involved with cooking.

In my opinion it is an essential part in having a healthy relationship with food for life.

Feel free to enjoy using the guide however it fits your family best.

As always I’d absolutely LOVE to see and hear from you how your family is getting on. I love to receive and (with your permission) share pictures of children cooking at home.

Here’s a pic of my lovely Mary bunny ‘helping’ with the washing up quite a few years ago now. I wish she’d still want to help me like this now!

help helping kitchen washing up children toddler preschooler cooking learn to cook mum dad family child children task age appropriate

How to make your own small piping bag

How to make your own small piping bag
Our favourite biscuits to make (and eat) are gingerbread and for these we fill our homemade piping bag with royal icing. However once you know how to make your own, you can fill the piping bag with melted chocolate, frosting, whatever you fancy. Read on to find out how to make your own piping bag.

So we’ve been making rather a lot of these biscuits lately. My eldest wanted to make them for a school project and event, I made some for the school cake stall at their Christmas concert and I ran a class making them. Unfortunately we ran out of time to ice them and I’d really like to share that part of the process today so that you can have a go at home.

We made a special effort with the icing and I made up a stiff batch of royal icing (egg white and icing sugar) and some homemade piping bags.

kids cook learn ramsgate kent lessons teach home baking icing piping bag royal icing gingerbread men fine motor skills children cook recipe  

I was blown away by the outcomes, they had really improved their technique from last time (probably about a year ago). 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.

You can watch my “how to” video here

If you’d like my family friendly gingerbread recipe – you can receive it here by signing up for my newsletter

Why you should bake…

Here’s why I think making and decorating gingerbread men with your children is super good for everyone…

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. There are many technical words in recipes and these can be a challenge to children. So here’s a good opportunity for you to start to demystify the world of baking.

Scientific understanding
In my class we talked 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.   Find out how to make the piping bags here

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

 

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

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