Welcome to the August Carnival of Natural Parenting: Creating With Kids
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how they make messes and masterpieces with children. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
I clearly remember from childhood that my Mum made almost everything from scratch with real ingredients. I was always involved in the kitchen from the time I could perch on a stool and stir and when I became a vegetarian at age 13 I started to cook many of my own meals. Throughout my life I have avoided many ‘convenience’ foods in favour of fresh, healthy and raw produce. These days as I spend my days at home with my two young children, we spend a LOT of time in the kitchen.
Our day starts with breakfast which is usually fresh herb tea, fruits and a meal which could be any combination of pancakes, plantains, breadfruit, tofu, oat porridge, toast with avocado/peanut butter/marmite, yesterdays leftovers and as many other ideas as I can think of on the fly. After the breakfast clean up, laundry and 1-2 hours of our home school activities, it’s time to head back into the kitchen and start preparing lunch. Sometimes the kids take a nap at this time but if not they will be right with me in the kitchen once again. Throughout the day I may also make juice, prepare snacks and, on treat days, make cakes or biscuits. In the evenings I prepare them another meal for supper. So with all this kitchen activity it’s a necessity to get the little ones involved to make the process easier for all of us!
Keeyah, who is now 3, will often grab her chair and stand up beside me ready to stir, mix and measure. Often when mixing ingredients for something like pancakes, she quickly abandons the spoon and gets in the bowl with her hands. Since I have
yet to make her a only made her one sensory tub (it’s on my to-do-list), she gets a tactile experience as she feels the flour run through her fingers, plays about with the raisins and pours new ingredients in to the mix. Usually I just make sure her hands are clean at the outset with strict instructions not to suck her thumb in between! She also peels leaves from the spinach, spoons out the passion fruit pulp, unpeels raw cacao beans and presses the buttons on the blender to make smoothies. Chopping and grating haven’t gone that well so far but we will continue to experiment. I find that she is usually a little keener to eat food she has played a part in making.
She also loves to wash up and will joyfully spend an hour at the sink playing in the water and washing various cups and bowls (even when they are already clean on the draining board). This activity usually results in her being soaked right through. Of course this is easily remedied by just changing her clothes but I recently made her an apron with a waterproof back to help make her more comfortable on the days she wants to spend a long time engaged in water play. The apron has a special meaning as I made it from a dress of her Great-Grandmother who has now passed on.
Amarii, now 22 months, is now at a stage where he is none-too-impressed at the fact that his sister is allowed to stand up and get in on the action while he is left down. To help ease his frustration I have recently started giving him a large batch of homemade playdough on a tray – sometimes he plays with it so happily I am amazed, other times the play session is short as he tries to smear it on walls, floors and in his hair! I am glad that the extra salty taste of the dough usually makes him spit it out after the obligatory experiment of putting it in his mouth. Sometimes even Keeyah climbs down to join the play dough fun. Last week they were contentedly chopping away, making balls and noodles for about ½ hour – TOGETHER. In my household that is a big deal and probably playdough will be on the kitchen menu a lot more often!
Because the kitchen is such a hub of activity each day I felt it was important for the children to have a lot of their own space. They have a large kitchen cupboard filled with various pots, pans, utensils, bowls (which they also climb in and play about inside). They have a beautiful wooden play oven which was handmade in Dominica and a few sets of pretend food toys. The first set of play foods we received was the Melissa & Doug Wooden Cutting Fruit Crate which has the fruits in pieces joined with Velcro to give children the opportunity to pretend they are cutting it. Recently my Mum sent us a set of fruits and vegetables made from cloth from IKEA. They are beautiful and have the advantage of being soft so they don’t hurt or damage things when thrown. We have been having a lot of fun with them as the kids cook up pretend meals for me.
I have also dadadadda…drum roll… started creating felt foods (at last).This is enormous fun and I could easily abandon all my household duties for a day just to sew! So far I’ve just made some slices of bread and tomato but I plan to continue in making foods that reflect what we eat and can be made in smaller parts so the kids can get busy pretending they are making recipes. (Making their own recipe book is on the to-do-list too)
Keeyah started a new game last week where she would ask me where each of her fruits and vegetables grew and I would tell her if they grew on the ground, below ground, in a tree or in a vine. She now tries to test her memory by telling me these facts and I love that she is gaining so much awareness of how and where her food grows at such a young age and we can have education and fun while creating plenty of good food to eat in our kitchen.
Footnotes on Felt food:
Bread was made using the instructions on Helping Little Hands with my own outline and regular stuffing.
Tomatoes were adapted from this very fine tutorial on One Inch World.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants: