Monday, March 28, 2011

Spring Break--What will I do with the kids?

For the next five days, except for those few hours maybe twice when I'll have them at a sitter so I can get at least a little of my actual job done, my children will be with me. All day. Every day. Spring break.

I know for some moms this is an awesome time, and they are all happy at the opportunity to spend Quality Time with their dear offspring. And my offspring are very dear, don't get me wrong. But I have a limited ability to deal with the sensory overload that comes with two many hours with my short roommates. And I like having time to read, and check my blogs, and think, during at least some of the time I'm spending not at work...

But I'm determined this week that we are not going to sit around and play Wii Lego Harry Potter all week. (Some, but not all week!) I want, every day, to do at least one thing that's new and fun and different. The internet, of course, is full of ideas for crafts and activities with kids (The Crafty Crow is a treasure trove all on its own). The thing is, I'm not all that artistic, and I'm a real slug about deliberately letting the house get all messy. It's messy enough without all that. And I know we live near a city with tons of good free or cheap activities and museums and stuff we could go to, but going to a museum in the middle of spring break is my idea of hell on earth--I can't deal with the crowds. I need my husband along, because he's the one least likely to go into sensory overload. It's still too cold for much in the way of outdoor stuff, so my preferential activity of outdoor gardening is kind of off the table. (Though the second it's warm enough, we'll be at the park having picnics.)

So I've decided I think we're going to have cooking and baking lessons this week. I'll gain ten pounds, but who cares, it'll be fun, and educational too! We started Sunday afternoon, and we made pretzels--I keep a container of Artisan bread dough in the fridge most of the time, and we made a batch out of some of that--I got the idea from Erin the Conscious Shopper, and it's awesome and easy . We'll probably do bagels at least once too. The kids are pretty good at the hands on stuff, and they have fun making things and then eating them, and if they are eaten, then I don't have a lot of extra paper and scrappy things around the house. (I know, I'm a total scrooge!). We'll do at least one bread-product per day, probably--from pretzels and bagels to muffins and stuff like that; that's easy. Then we can go shopping and pick out ingredients for other foods, whether it's out-of-season applesauce or cranberry-orange relish or homemade chocolate pudding or what-have-you.

I'm hoping we can even "make dinner together" one night, beginning to end--I bet my almost-six-year-old could scrape carrots and tear lettuce apart for salad, and my 8-and-a-half-year-old son could probably be trusted with a Real Knife (though not one of my killer Wusthofs) to make a fruit salad. We could even do homemade chicken tenders, something everyone will eat except me, and they can get all dredgy and messy while making them. And we can make some kind of bread to go on the side (what can I say, we're a carby bunch), and maybe homemade smoothies for dessert, or baked apples if we're feeling adventurous.. I think they'd enjoy it. My son will complain and ask if he can go play Wii, but he'll enjoy and be proud in spite of himself.

And I'd love to get them started on some of the chemistry of cooking--the way cornstarch thickens a sauce, the way measuring the right amounts of grain and mixing with water yields just the right amount of cooked product, the way just a little bit of arborio rice gives up its starch and turns milk into pudding. I might even get a thing of Knox gelatine and make our own Jell-o dessert out of real fruit juice. If we have time, I'd even love to make this delicious-looking Food In Jars orange jelly recipe, something to cool my ardor for the fresh bounty of spring until the plants actually start growing around here, and hopefully get the kids turned onto jelly. (We can't bring nut butter products to school, so anything I can put onto a sandwich is a good thing.) And TheMiddleBit's recipe for crunchy Cinnamon Garbanzo Beans has got to be tried. For me the magic of cooking has always been about how cooking or heating or mixing some ingredient with another suddenly turns them into something else entirely...and I'd love to give my kids some of that.

I found a site with age-appropriate cooking lessons for kids that looks like something I'd want to bookmark and hold onto. And here is another. I have a friend with two teenaged sons, and in her family at this point everyone is responsible for dinner one night a week--I totally want to be able to do that with my kids by the time they are in high school...anyone else tried this with your kids? Any helpful hints to offer?


Dea-chan said...

When my sister and I were in middle school my mom put herself back through school. So for most of middle school and high school, she was not around for dinner.

We made pasta, we made baked potatoes, we made soup (to this day my sister refuses to eat soup because of the amount we ate then), we ate at friends houses.

The first thing I learned to cook was a stir fry. I learned later that it's often tastier with a starch along!

I took my mom's copy of the Fannie Farmer cookbook as my bible and read it from cover to cover -- that is where I got most of my basic cooking skills.

That's what can be done with no outside instruction: I think that with inclusion and a little instruction ANYONE can be responsible for a meal starting around age 13 or so. I think your kids'll be fine. :-P

robbie @ going green mama said...

My kids have been cooking since they were about a year old. Seriously. Now what they've done has evolved from mixing no-egg cookie dough to (just now) using knives to chop produce, but I think anytime you can get the kids in the kitchen, the better!

With the bread dough (assuming you're doing the Artisian thing), you can always do calzones or pizzas. There's a lot of chemistry involved in yeast...

I'll post others tonight after work. Some of us, unfortunately, won't be getting our spring break off this year! :(
Our kids are 3 and 5 now, and we get them involved with a lot of things. Mixing dough, harvesting and cleaning produce, stirring dishes in prep mode...

You could always use some of your bread for make your own paninis/hot sandwiches. There are PLENTY of great cookbooks geared at young kids available at the library.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

If you have time to go to the library, you might look for these books by Mollie Katzen: Salad People and Pretend Soup. We love them.

Also another kid friendly project with the bread dough is pigs in a blanket.

Anonymous said...

Funny you should mention it, we've got pigs in blankets in the oven right now!

Manda said...

Getting involved in cooking early is fantastic! I have been baking and cooking by myself since I was about 12 or earlier, I feel as though I've been doing it forever. Although, definitely more baking for me while growing up, you never really need sharp knives and it's pretty hard to burn the house down.

But even if they aren't doing it themselves the best way to learn is just sitting in the kitchen watching and absorbing or helping along the way. I am constantly surprised what I know, and its always a great skill to know when things don't 'look' right.

Daisy said...

Cooking with kids is great! Mine started joining me in the kitchen, even if it was just stirring, by age 2.


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