Getting the kids into the kitchen over the holidays can be such a lovely bonding experience (if a bit of a clean-up nightmare). When we combine cooking with creativity and science it’s twice as much fun.
Let’s look at some inspiration for those rainy days when we all need an activity to give us a boost.
1. Baking bread
Making bread is such a lovely exercise and something you can do with children of all ages. Kneading the dough and then watching it rise is magical. You can mould it into rabbits or snakes, or bake it in mini flower pots from the garden centre.
2. Gingerbread men
Making these is a great activity for any time of the year. Kids love to decorate their own, and you could do a lolly-free version, using raisins, nuts and seeds. For a healthy version, check out this recipe.
Who doesn’t love a pancake for breakfast, lunch or dinner? You can make the traditional thick pancakes, or make crepes which can double as a savoury wrapping. Simple enough that kids can make on their own. Decorate and make faces or roll up over fillings. My boys love crepes stuffed with things like mushrooms, prawns and a cheesy sauce. Or, if you want to go super simple, then mix a mashed banana, two eggs and fry. Very sweet, and perfect for the little ones.
This always seemed ridiculously complicated to me, until I tried it and realised it’s actually really simple and you don’t need any fancy equipment! You must use short or medium grain rice to get the stickiness, but it doesn’t have to be ‘sushi rice’. In fact, I always use wholegrain rice and it works well. Cook it a little longer than usual, place on a sheet of nori on a tea towel, then roll around the filling of your choice. We use whatever we have on hand – carrot sticks, cucumber, cooked fish – but there’s no need to go traditional. Chicken, cheese or thinly sliced sausage all work well! Check out how simple it really is.
5. Ice cream
You can make ice cream really simply with a mixture of cream, milk and a little sugar, then shaking it in a bag (inside a larger bag filled with ice).
Or for a lovely sugar-free version, just use a frozen banana whizzed in the blender. Add flavours like vanilla, cacao, peanut butter or other fruits, should you wish. My boys love this!
6. Moon cycle cupcakes
This is great fun to do with the kids. Make chocolate cupcakes and decorate with icing to show the phases of the moon. You can use a vegetable-based chocolate cake (no one will be able to tell), and use cream cheese for the icing.
Ah, a return to the ’90s. Creating multi-coloured towers with food makes it interesting. You can balance the food with skill, or use an old can with the ends cut off and push the food down to create layers, before removing the support. This method is perfect for softer foods.
Or how about cakes? No, not the chocolate variety, but using fruit or veges. Build a petit-four with apple and banana, or roast veges. This is a great activity for older kids who love to be creative.
Making a simple pizza is fun and easy. You can make or buy a base, or use a flatbread. Add some tomato paste, oregano and mozzarella cheese and your toppings of choice. This is good for those more discerning kids as they can decorate the top with the ingredients they like. And, of course, there’s no reason why you can’t create animal faces or monsters.
Popping corn the old-fashioned way on the stove is always a crowd-pleaser. Give it a modern twist by adding some cool flavours: garlic and parmesan; lime and coconut; cumin; or, for the less adventurous, just salt. Popcorn is also perfect for making pictures. Get a large tray or sheet of coloured paper and arrange in shapes before eating!
10. Frozen treats
Yes, I know it’s mid-winter but how many kids will turn down a bowl of ice cream because of the temperature! Holidays are a good time to experiment. Use ice cube trays or silicon moulds to make funky shaped frozen desserts. One of the simplest is just yoghurt blended with fruit and a little sweetener, if you wish. Pour into moulds and add a popsicle stick. Or, go a little further and make yoghurt bark.
Judith Yeabsley is a mum of two boys who is passionate about healthy food for kids. She runs a food art website, theartofnutrition.com, focusing on presenting fruit and veges creatively. She also works to change the food environment in schools, community groups and lunchboxes. For information on this and great recipes, see theartofnutrition.co.nz.