The festive hiatus from work and school is a great time to try out some new activities with the kids and so, the next time the rain is hammering at the window, and the wind howling a gale, why not spend some time in the kitchen.
In fact, now is a great time to start planning that Yuletide get-together with family and friends – and getting in the kitchen with the kids to make some tasty treats. But, if you think you won’t have enough or more guests will appear than you think, why not take a look at frozen party bag fillers?
Getting the kids involved… 3 great tips to help Christmas cooking run smoothly!
It is far easier, quicker and probably tidier for you to rustle up some tasty morsels whilst everyone is out at school, work, after school activities, playing upstairs etc. but, where is the fun in that?! Cooking with children is a great way of getting them involved in planning and preparing for a party, as well as an opportunity to pass on some valuable skills, from measuring foodstuffs to the ‘science’ of baking and cooking.
How to get started…
Step 1: Plan the menu or recipe ideas
Kids can have the best of ideas, but if you were not thinking of building a three-storey ginger biscuit castle then you may need some ideas up your sleeve. Depending on your own skills and the age of the children, you may need a range of ideas from very simple to treats that are slightly more complex in the making.
For example, biscuit mix is far more forgiving when it comes to be handled excessively than pastry which, is over handled and stretched can actually shrink and recoil in the heat of the oven.
Find a good recipe for a basic biscuit dough and add flavouring as you like; remember, in most cases dry favouring works best and add this with to the dry ingredients. Ginger biscuits are great fun, especially cut in to different shapes. Chocolate is an all-time favourite and for older children with steadier hands, decorating the cooled biscuits adds a personal touch.
Mince pies are a favourite traditional treat at Christmas and everyone like the idea of dropping for a delicious tasty treat. There is no harm in shop-bought short crust or puff pastry for little hands to cut out with shape cutters the base and lid for the pies. Or, for older children mixing a pastry dough is a great, but achievable challenge.
Step 2: being prepared
Baking or cooking with children is an activity that can last longer than 10 minutes and so, for young children be prepared for the fact that their attention span may not last the full 3 hour baking or cooking marathon you have planned.
However, being prepared and systematic is a great help for keeping the task on track and children interested. Supplying fun aprons too is a great way of making the whole thing exciting and new!
Baking and cooking is a great way of bringing in real-life numeracy skills, as well as some other factors that children need to be aware of:
- Hygiene – incredibly important, more so if you are planning on serving these tasty treats to guests; encourage children to tie hair back and wash hands, explaining why we need to do these things
- Weighing and measuring – valuable real life numeracy skills is not only weighing and measuring a variety of ingredients, but also converting from imperial to metric and so forth. For young children, simply counting eggs or other items is a great way to practice counting skills!
Step 3: make it fun!
On one hand, you may be making tasty morsels for an upcoming party but don’t forget that the whole thing should be fun and about encouraging children to learn a new skill. There will be mess so be prepared to spend some time cleaning it up – although, you can even make this chore a fun task with children.
The key to making something fun is for it to be age appropriate. Beginners should be given easy recipes with quick, but delicious results whereas older children can perhaps manage more of a challenge. Don’t be frightened on trying something new, either!
- With younger children, why not get them to decorate the items such as biscuits or cakes you have pre-made. They will still have the same sense of achievement.
- Choosing a simple recipe and helping the older child to weight out the items etc. is a great way to challenge children, whether they are cooking or baking. There are loads of great ideas!