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

6 ways to tackle your fussy eater

6 ways to tackle your fussy eater
Do you have a fussy eater in your household?
Is dinner time a battle ground?
Do you worry about your child’s limited diet?
Mealtimes can be a massive battle ground between a fussy eater and their carers, but it doesn’t have to always be that way. 
So how can we tackle the problem of the fussy/faddy eater?

I’ve put together some ideas for fun tasks, and tweaks to normal everyday family life. Have a read and maybe try one per week. Changes in behaviour take time, but it’s so worth it to see and experience the changes when they do.

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

  1. Give them some choice – Once a week, have a ‘bits ‘n’ bobs’ taster session.

    food choice fussy eater healthy ingredients Put a range of different foods out on the table and have fun trying different foods – this can also help with emptying the fridge of leftovers on the day before your weekly shop.

    Dips and dippers are an excellent start to this.

    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. This is not a practical option 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 – Start a dialogue around food at the dinner table.

    Encourage your child to describe the food they eat. Ban words such as nice / nasty / yuk and yummy when describing foods. Encourage sensory adjectives that describe texture, flavour and smell instead.

    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 can find some sensory vocabulary lists (here) .  These are 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 ‘talk about it’ 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.

     

  4. Allow your child to eat with more than just their mouth – never underestimate the novelty factor! 

    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.

    There are loads of lovely ideas here that I’ve collected together on a Pinterest board for you to see. 

    Another lovely idea to try is allowing your child to have a special plate  – one that they have chosen themselves. Jane Fox of Created 4 U (a pottery painting shop and personalised online pottery service) says;

    I find when kids paint a personalised plate they are happy to eat off it all the time. My customer mums tell me all the time – if they’d realised a plate which the child painted with their name on made them happily eat pretty much anything, they would have come to the studio sooner

    In fact Jane and I are running a competition to win a plate that has been personalised with your child’s own drawing. You can enter here. 

    competition win healthy children fussy eater safety knife personalised plate win winner cookery eating family food parents children kids

  5. Get your child involved.
    DSC_0252Little chefs

    Get your child involved in the preparation. I have developed a kitchen helper checklist of age appropriate tasks if you’d like one, click herekitchen 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

     

    As a cookery teacher of children of all ages, I have to say that simply preparing a meal for someone else has a massive effect on the fussy eater. I’ve lost count of the amount of times a parent of a fussy eater has said to me that since attending my cookery lessons their child has begun to relax around food and ask to try new foods – result!

    Family 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.  Remove the pressure – but don’t give up

    When your fussy eater senses that you are more relaxed about their food intake then they will relax too.
    Allow them a sense of control over food – let them serve themselves, choose ingredients, prepare them, experiment with them.
    Keep talking about food and building that dialogue using sensory vocabulary.
    Make a deal with yourself to back off a bit. Make all interactions with food as relaxed and fun as possible and encourage and celebrate trying foods but never pressurise or create a battle. 
     

    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.

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.

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