Category Archives: Measuring

If you DON’T like traditional shape cookies, try these!

I never posted about our Christmas cookie baking, but we sure did A LOT of it.  I think baking is one of those activities where they can learn a lot (if we slow down enough to let them) and where they see a great reward for their efforts. 

Of course it’s easier, cleaner and faster to mix up the cookie dough on your own, but I’ve found that the majority of learning comes from allowing J to help mix the dough.  He “reads” the recipe, gathers the ingredients and then measures them, allowing him to practice tons of skills. 

We of course made the traditional sugar cookies where we rolled the dough out, J cut them into fun shapes and then decorated to his hearts content.  This is NOT my favorite type of baking!  J loved it, but it’s honestly quite stressful to me.  I try to stay calm, but I’d just rather not deal with the rolling and the cutting.  I think J would have as much fun with playdough and mom wouldn’t have the mess afterwards. (And I don’t even like the taste of this these cookies either!)

We honestly might stick to playdough in the future. BUT all cookie baking is not lost.  We did have lots of fun baking other types of cookies (or I should say we BOTH had fun with other cookies).

My favorite type of cookies to make with J this year were those with a “surprise” inside.  Once I realized how perfect these were for J’s age and ability level, this is mostly what we made to give away to neighbors and teachers. 

I scooped the dough onto the baking sheet and J pressed each ball with the back of a teaspoon, creating a small hole.  He could then “bury” a surprise inside each cookie and I helped him cover it up with the dough.  This was right at his ability level and he loved it.  We buried Rolos, Reeces Pieces, Reeces PB Cups, Chocolate Kisses, and M&Ms (not all in the same cookie!).  I also let him sprinkle crushed toffee and confectionary sugar on top of some which he liked. 

And the good news is they taste great afterwards.  You can hide them in basically any type of cookie dough and it will taste good. 

Age attempted: J first helped with Christmas baking when he was 20 months; this year at 32 months he could do A LOT more

So here are some of the recipes we tried for Christmas:

Million Dollar Caramel Cookies (These were by far my favorite!)

Snowball Surprises

PB Surprise Cookies (basically chocolate chip cookie dough but hide PB cup, M&Ms, Rolos, whatever candy you want inside)

Molten Lava Cookies

**I hope these are the same recipes I used; I just did a online search for the names of each, but the pictures looked very similar in all cases… that should count for something right!**

My First Recipe Cards

I thought I’d share something that I’m giving my 4 year old nephew for his birthday busy box.  He loves to cook, so I thought we’d start helping him work through simple (VERY simple) recipes on his own.  Many of the recipes involve no actual cooking, focusing on just the basic skills of working in a kitchen (ingredients, measurements, and following steps). They are recipes that preschoolers would enjoy eating as much as they enjoy “cooking”.  I included pictures to go along with most steps to help a non-reader out.

I’m going to try to do one of the easier ones with J pretty soon. I already have some modifications in mind to make it even easier for younger ones, but I do think these will work well in their current state.

Here’s the entire set of cards. My First Recipe Cards

To prepare them, I printed them on cardstock.  I then cut along the horizontal line and folded along the vertical one to create a front and back for each card.  I then hole punched along the left side of the cards (the open side) and used two small binder rings to combine the cards together. 

Add some measuring spoons, cups, mixing spoons, a hat and apron and laminate these great toddler/preschool food charts  as a placemat and you have an easy gift for birthday or Christmas.  If their interest continues, you could easily add a few recipes to their collection each year. 

If you try it out, I’d love to hear how it goes!

My Little Chef: Baked Apples with Cranberries

I found this recipe in the mail from my grocery store and knew it was something J could do with me.  I had all the ingredients, so we could do it right away!

Baked Apples with Cranberries

1. Preheat oven to 375*F.  Core the apples, leaving the bottom closed (creating a small bowl in the apple).  Peel the top half of the apple. 

2.  Fill the apple with dried cranberries (I used frozen and it was fine). 

3.  Top with a spoon of brown sugar, 1/2 tsp of butter and sprinkle with cinammon. 

4.  Bake for 35-45 minutes (until the apples are soft). 

J helped with steps 2 and 3 and then of course helped with eating. This was a simple cooking project for him. You can make just one or a dozen.   I really decided to do this last minute because I had all the ingredients, no planning required. 

 stuffed-apple I forgot to take end result pictures of my own, this is from Nicola’s Blog ( http://nicolakeegan.wordpress.com/2008/11/08/apples-apples-more-apples/ )

This would be a good recipe for any age toddler, even the youngest could manage this.  Preschoolers could accomplish it mostly on their own.  You could create a picture list for them to follow on their own.  All ingredients are safe for taste sampling if they get distracted while “cooking” and if they were to add more than the actual recipe called for, no harm done! Use a spoon or tongs for adding the cranberries and you’ve included some fine motor skill practice!

It’s also a great activity for autumn after picking your own apples!

Age Attempted: 30 months

Snow Cream

Winter continues.  I think all parents get a little tired of being stuck inside right around this time of year.   The good thing is I’m getting to try out lots of activities with J.  With the unusual winter we’re having, many of those activities involve snow.  I brought out the snowbox again today and J played for a full hour.  

This afternoon we tried snowcream for the first time.  Yes I had never tasted it either, being a true southerner.   Honestly, I had never heard about it until this year!!  So I googled it to find a recipe and J and I mixed up a batch together.  J helps me cook or bake each Friday; this was by far the easiest thing we’ve made together.  He helped me pour the sugar, vanilla, and milk into the snow.  Using specific directions like “fill the cup with sugar” or “empty the cup” is always good reinforcement.  Of course he also helped stir until it looked just right!   He loved it…. eating it that is.  I mean really loved it.  I think he would’ve eaten the entire half gallon had I not stopped him. 

Here’s the recipe:

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 gallon snow
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups milk

You'll need these ingredients.... plus snow!

DIRECTIONS:  Collect snow as it falls inside a bowl.  Add sugar and vanilla to taste and then add milk until you see the right consistency.

The recipe is from allrecipes.com http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Snow-Ice-Cream-II/Detail.aspx

**I made only about half a gallon and think I added too much sugar (half a cup). It was VERY sweet!  I’m sure that’s one reason why J loved it so much!  Next time I will start with less sugar and work up. 

22 months

Age Attempted: 22 months

Try Again?  I’m sure this will become a special snack each time it snows!  As he gets older he can measure out the ingredients and eventually read the recipe too.