As the yellow school bus dropped off the kids a couple of months back, realisation dawned on me that it was the weekend all over again! For mums like me who try to keep the kids away from screens and junk most of the times, weekends can get really challenging. There are tantrums and meltdowns because little Becky at school had her meal box stacked with crisps and cakes and mine had pasta in red sauce. To make the time more productive and less of a monotony for me as well as them, I plan a lot of activities well ahead of the weekend. I either plan to drive down to the nearest activity centre for games and fun or plan play dates with kids of the same age. Now that it is getting colder outside, I try and arrange for indoor entertainment. Among all other things, what my kids really enjoy is helping me bake healthy cookies and muffins and later stuffing their faces with them till they start feeling sick.
I have often been asked how to include kids in the kitchen. At the risk of jinxing it, I will dare to confess that my babies have been keen contributors to the kitchen from a very early age. Now that they are 4 and 6 respectively, they are active participants in almost all my sessions. There is no trick here; children love emulating adults and they will want to copy everything that they see. I have often heard this at get-togethers that I must be baking all the time because my children have more baking supplies as toys than what a regular person would, in the kitchen.
After the kids were done with their projects, I announced our activities. “We are baking cookies today and dinnertime has been postponed!” Their faces gleamed with happiness and they rushed to take out their aprons and cookie cutters from the drawers. As mentioned earlier, I prefer using whole-wheat flour and sugar substitutes in my baked goodies, and I always look for recipes that can be tweaked to make them kid-friendly.
I laid out the ingredients of the day: peanut butter, cocoa powder, brown sugar, chocolate chips, eggs, vanilla pods, whole wheat flour, cookie cutters, cling film, baking trays and cooking spray. After helping me to fetch these, my children asked me enthusiastically as to what cookies I planned to bake. “Peanut butter cookies and chocolate chip cookies”, I said out loud and they broke into a jig because both of them loved these flavours. While they read the labels on the bottles, I took out the star of the day; the Mickey Mouse Cookie-cutter by Baking-Equips.com that had arrived yesterday and I couldn’t wait to try it! Their joy knew no bounds and both of them wanted to try using the cutters even before the dough had been made. So we started off by mixing peanut butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla in a bowl. By turns, I made them use their fingers to lightly crumble the sugar and butter. It is very essential to use your hands while cooking and I have always exemplified the same in front of my impressionistic children. After the dough was rolled into balls, I flattened them and laid out four discs each for the two to cut into shapes using the brand new cutter.
Thankfully, to save us mothers from insanity, the manufacturer was kind enough to provide two cutters of different colors in the same pack. Jim took the classic logo design while Ryan took to the one that was shaped like Mickey’s head in profile. While they used their creativity to shape and sort the cookie dough, I quickly reviewed the cutters in my mind. Measuring at around 3”*2.5”, they were perfect for tiny little hands. They were made of food grade plastic and looked durable to me. In between shaping dough and drinking water from a jug, Ryan accidentally spilled some on himself and while he was away changing clothes, I joined Jim in his activity. While using the cutter, I was amazed at how clean the cuts were! There was no blurred line, no stickiness; they released easily and the shapes came out perfectly. The cutters were quite safe to handle by children, owing to the fact that they had no sharp edges and the material was non-toxic too. To add to all the fun, the cutters came in with a decorating book filled with kid-friendly recipes and design ideas! I could imagine hours of unlimited fun with these cutters.
For the next few weekends, we tried a number of things with the Mickey Mouse cutters. We used it for sandwiches, brownies, cakes and steamed rice cakes. Any kind of food can be transformed with them at hand and children enjoy every moment of using these. No prize for guessing what the theme for Jim’s 5th birthday would be. I plan to buy these cutters in bulk and encourage all the children attending the Mickey Mouse themed party to make their own cookies and egg sandwiches. They will remain engaged and let us mums enjoy a drink or two. For the mean time I will be popping down the new shop that has opened which seems to have a good selection of baking goodies. Its the first place on any high street I have so far discovered that actually stocks Sweet Elite tools – so should be interesting.
But remember holidays will soon be here again. Stock up on quirky sweet treats with these cutters. If you do not plan to bake, you could always roll out bread dough and hand it over to the kids along with the cutters and relax while they toil away on a lazy weekend. At the end of the day, you will have jars full of special treats made out of everyday items, and very happy kids as a bonus. Who says weekends are difficult? Try cooking with your kids around!