Cooking with children, in particular toddlers is a sentence that makes the strongest of adults weak at the knees. It's a sentence that divides the nation and makes those fences sitters jump right off! You either get excited by it or feel a little woozy.
Yes it's messy, I won't lie. It's far messier than just doing it yourself, but the benefits are so rewarding that you will be questioning why you hadn't tried this earlier! I promise!
Cooking with children is a cheap activity that you don't have to leave the house to do. It's fun and engaging and has so many educational benefits too!
Cooking with children promotes
-life skills (cooking- an essential life skill)
-fine motor development (getting the muscles in children's fingers and hands moving through rolling and kneading)
-gross motor development (getting the muscles in children's arms moving as they pour and mix)
-promotes positive self esteem and goal setting with achievable results (baking a cake for example)
-promotes creative thinking (decorating a cake for example)
-introduces early mathematical and scientific concepts (measuring, pouring etc)
-gets children thinking about budgeting (getting older children involved in the menu planning and purchasing of ingredients for your home or talking to younger children about ingredients as you buy them in store)
-introduces early reading concepts (following and reading a recipe)
-promotes safe practices (be careful not to touch the oven, the oven is hot)
-health and nutrition (discussing sometimes food and all the time food, relating back to healthy bodies)
-gives children responsibility (helping to cook dinner for the family)
-speech and communication (talking about what the food looks like, tastes like etc)
-a bonding exercise that will create special memories for you and your children
Not to mention it is so MUCH FUN!
One thing that I love to make with my two year old son James is pizza.
Pizza is easy, fun and allows children to get creative. Making the dough, leaving it to rise, making the pizza bases, cooking them and then topping your pizza promotes ALL the learning skills we discussed above and the result is a yummy dinner at the end that the whole family can enjoy.
The sky is the limit when it comes to the different toppings you can use for your pizza and children can really get creative making patterns or pictures using the topping ingredients!
My easy pizza dough recipe is as follows
4 cups plain flour
1 dry yeast sachet
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups warm water
Grab a jug and pour the warm water into it. Mix in the dry yeast sachet and cover with plastic wrap and set aside. Leave this until you see little bubbles appear (this will take approx 5 minutes) and this will mean your yeast has activated and is ready to use.
Next great a big bowl and add the flour, oil and salt.
When the yeast is ready add that to the bowl and mix well. You can take it out into your bench and give it a good knead or you can leave it in the bowl to do it. Either way knead for a good 5 minutes and then set put your dough into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rise. When your dough has doubled in size it's ready.
Take the dough out of the bowl and divide into portions.
I normally get 2 thicker large bases or 3 thinner bases from this recipe. Another idea is making mini bases from this recipe, which I love to keep in the freezer for a fast weeknight meal.
Ensure you precook your bases before freezing.
Take a portion of dough and using a rolling pin roll it into a pizza base shape. Place this onto a pizza tray (I like to spray mine with cooking spray and sprinkle with polenta so it doesn't stick- otherwise if you use good quality non stick pizza trays you can leave out the polenta).
Now grab a fork and make lots of fork footprints into your base by pressing the fork into the base multiple times. This will help any air escape during cooking without making the base rise.
Place your pizza base in a preheated oven 200degrees and cook until it has just, I mean just a little colour to it in places. You don't want to over cook it here.
Now you can top with your sauce (I like to use store bought pasta sauce instead of tomato paste- check ingredient labels as there are some great pasta sauces with no added nasties on the market) and cheese and any other flavoured toppings that you choose.
Some suggestions are
-ham and pineapple
-spinach and feta
-broccoli, sweet potato (pre cooked) and ricotta
-Napoletana (plain cheese)
-bolognaise (bolognaise sauce instead of plain tomato)
-veggie delight (any veggies you like)
A little about Patricia
Patricia is a stay at home mum of one very entertaining and active two year old son James. Before becoming a mum she worked in the childcare industry as a preschool teacher for fifteen years and is currently completing her bachelor of teaching degree.
It's Gourmet Baby is a free food blog and Instagram page that Patricia created after becoming a mum. It's authentic, down to earth and real. She shares her fast, quick and easy recipes and time saving tips with her followers to help them save time in the kitchen and make cooking fun again.
She has many recipes that will fast become your families favourites as well as many recipes that are perfect for young chefs! You can follow Patricia on Instagram at @its_gourmet_baby and subscribe to her free blog for the latest recipes straight from her kitchen at https://itsgourmetbaby.wordpress.com/