Fun Food Stuff

Another fun one!  We love to cook and bake around here!

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When you stumble into homeschooling {as opposed to it being something you’ve always planned for your children}, you have to work with what you’ve got.  When we started homeschooling, I had cooking and baking.  No awesome artistic abilities, no creative capabilities, no curriculum-building talent.  So, cooking and baking have been used as an oh crap filler, an addition to a lesson, a kick-off-the-school-year activity, or a just-for-fun-we-really-want-to-eat-this activity.  Following are a few of our favorite fun food projects and recipes.

1.  Bake something and decorate it

Whether it’s a cake you bake from scratch, a dozen cupcakes made from a box mix, or sugar cookies baked from a roll of store bought dough, kids love to decorate them.  You can use store bought frosting, buttercream frosting, or royal icing {this one hardens, but many kids still like to eat it…}.  If you don’t have any pastry bags and tips on hand, just put the frosting into a sandwich baggy and cut of a corner, creating an instantaneous piping bag.  This is a great opportunity to teach things like colors, kitchen safety, and math.

2.  Participate in a fair baking contest

This has become a yearly tradition for Babydoll and me.  We enjoy perusing the county fair exhibition books, looking for the various categories we’d like to enter something in. Generally, the children’s categories are judges on appearance and/or taste, and are divided into appropriate age groups.  Even if your child doesn’t win, they usually still get an participation ribbon.  Many fairs even give free admittance to exhibitors. This is our special time together, and involves learning how to budget your time, create or follow a recipe, write legibly, and speak publicly.

3.  Make homemade donuts

Donuts are surprisingly easy to make {don’t worry, you don’t need a deep fryer}, and they’re wicked delicious.  We make donuts to kick off the school year, attempting to make some shaped like the grade Babydoll is entering.  This is a great photo op to document the beginning of each school year. Our favorite recipe is this one by Paula Deen.

4.  Create your own rock candy

We did this during a science unit on rocks.  It’s super easy and Babydoll loved checking her crystals each day.  Babydoll has always been fascinated with rocks anyway, so seeing how they were formed was a treat.  Eating the candy afterward isn’t half bad either.  Here’s a great lesson plan designed around this experiment.

5.  Make your own pizza

Lots of families do this, but you can easily take this a step further.  Use this as an opportunity to teach your child about diameter, meal planning {let them make the list, find the items in the store, and comparison shop}, dough making, how yeast works, there are so many possibilities.  I give Babydoll her own dough, pan, and toppings and let her go to town.  There’s something about making their own food that makes kids feel special.

6.  Read a cookbook together

Sure, some cookbooks are simply filled with recipes and nothing more.  Some of the best cookbooks are filled with stories and personal anecdotes to go along with the recipe.  This makes the cookbook much more interesting, and worth sitting down to read.  In addition to practicing their reading skills, kids can also decide which recipes they’d like to make and what ingredients need to be purchased to make them. Babydoll’s current favorite is Cooking Rocks! Rachael Ray 30-Minute Meals for Kids.

7.  Plan special meals

Babydoll loves it when we do theme meals.  Whether it’s for a family celebration or just for fun, creating a meal based on a specific theme lends itself to all sorts of learning.  Kids can come up with a theme, research recipes and decor, choose an appropriate date and time for the meal, help shop for necessary items, and help make decorations and prepare the food. Our personal favorite is spring brunch, complete with awesome folded cloth napkins, printed menu, and Winnie the Pooh spring china.

8.  Make ice cream

This is a fun summertime treat to make.  Whether you have an old fashioned ice cream machine, a frozen yogurt and topping dispenser, or an inexpensive model from a craft store, making ice cream can be so fun!  Help your children research and try different recipes, learning how the ingredients work together to create the frozen treat.

9.  Visit the farmers’ market

Farmers’ markets are wondrous places!  If you’re fortunate enough to live in a place that has a year-round market, you’re set.  You can teach your children about seasonal cooking, using the produce that is in season to create delicious and fresh meals.  If you’ve only got access to a summer farmers’ market, you can still fill your warm months by visiting the market each week and teaching your children about seasonal produce, growing seasons, the process of seed to plate, how to pick ripe produce, and engage in the fun activity of creating a meal from market purchases.  Some markets even have fish, poultry, meat, fresh baked goods, and homemade snack foods.  Search for CSAs, farmers’ markets, farms, and other food establishments in your area on this site.

10. Cook something from another country

When Babydoll attended a Montessori school in WA, one of her end-of-year assignments was to partner with someone and create a presentation on a certain country.  Babydoll and her partner were assigned Nigeria, and they had to research all sorts of things, one of them being food.  They didn’t have to prepare a dish from that country, but were encouraged to do so.  We had so much fun learning about the local ingredients, what people in that country traditionally ate, and what foods were viewed as snacks, special foods, market food, etc. We ended up making a dish called chin chin that is so delicious!  It was a great experience.

Food is a part of every culture, and is a common way for people to connect.  While cooking doesn’t have to occupy every homeschool day, it truly is worthwhile to work it in at regular intervals. Children will greatly benefit from the experiences, and it will likely draw the family together and create lasting memories and family traditions.

What about you?  Do you have any fun food activities you do with your kids?

Photo Credits – Fair, Brunch, Ice Cream, Farmers’ Market