Oh dear, why do I do it to myself! If you’ve been reading my blog or following me on Twitter you’ll know that I quite like order and control and after about five minutes (I’m surprised I last that long) of mess and chaos the cloths and sweeping brushes come out and I’m cleaning up as little A runs around creating more wonderful dirt for me to pick up. Cooking with A is great fun and teaches her about the concept of cooking, preparing meals and making choices. And who doesn’t love homemade pizza! I have a few tips on keeping the mess and frustration at bay.
Admittedly, there is a slight sense of satisfaction in cleaning but the pleasure lasts as long as the place is clean which is about five glorious seconds. I really should take heed and just let the mess be but for some reason my head just won’t let me.
And so, I don’t learn. I come back for more punishment just to see the wonder in A’s eyes and the little smile on her face with something new … and usually messy.
This week I have popped the baking and cooking gloves on and B and I have been adament that A will get in on the act. On Friday, I was all set to make Krispie Buns and Rocky Road with A after her nap. I had the kitchen set up and ready for us to go. I’m very partial to a chocolate krispie bun so I was in my element looking forward to this.
To be fair, I’ve just eaten two glorious slices of Rocky Road as I write this, so all’s not lost. But the kitchen was a mess and I’m still finding splashes of chocolate in the nooks and crannies. In the end, we had great fun making the sweet treats but of course after dinner B and I run to fridge to take out a nice cool Krispie Bun and A asks for a cupcake … go figure!
Yesterday, we planned on making pizza for dinner. Wonderful, fresh home made pizza. Generally, making pizza dough from scratch is quick and also a fairly therapeutic activity – who doesnt love kneading dough? So, what is a relatively straightforward and easy process usually turns into a very different story when you throw a two year old into the mix!
It’s messy, it’s long as you have to wait for the dough to rise and it feels like you’re never going to eat. Try explaining the delay to a toddler who has seen you whip out a frozen pizza and scoff it twenty minutes later. What’s all the fuss about?
Well, apart from tasting way better than any other pizza, it’s a good way to get your little one involved in the cooking process. Deciding what to eat by choosing their own toppings they learn about the whole process of cooking a meal. And what toddler doesn’t like to help out or watch what’s going on. And with pizza there’s plenty to do and see.
I’m not one for adding recipes to my blog because I tend to change things up every time I make something. But there are plenty of pizza dough recipes out there for you to try. It’s as simple as water, yeast, flour and salt.
I do however have a few tips for you for when you are making pizza with a probably tired and possibly cranky toddler. Making pizza is fun so we really wanted A to be involved in this new experience. And hopefully it will become a tradition and by the time she’s 15 she’ll be the one making the dough for the whole family – hah!
1 – Be Prepared To Clean Up Three Times (at least)
Making pizza is a process. A two or three stage process depending on how you decide to cook your Italian cuisine. Personally, having a kitchen in tatters stresses me out but that’s not why I clean in between stages. To keep A focused on our task, we set up and prepped each stage so A knew exactly what we were doing. This meant cleaning and prepping in between. I was worth it. A was excited to come to the kitchen to see what we had planned for the next part of the process. She wasn’t happy to be involved in any of the cleaning however!
Step one – Make the dough
Step two – Roll the dough
Step three – Pepperoni!!
And besides that, when a two year old is cooking, flour gets everywhere. Pizza dough is sticky as it is messy and it too manages to travel and get everywhere.
2 – Create distraction
As it takes a while (1 to 2 hours) for pizza dough to rise, it’s best to prepare your little one that no they can not eat the raw dough straight away and that they must wait for the oven to do its magic. Toddlers have little to no patience so we gave A some delicate distractions while we waited. Today’s distraction was an obstacle course set up in the sitting room. In hindsight, we were exhausted already and could have done without the extra ball of energy running around the sofa. But it kept her mind off the rising pizza dough and the thought of it in her belly.
She also became tired (high octane obstacle course so it was!) and a little irritable. Thankfully a bit of down time with Thomas and the Magic Railroad between stages sorted that out. Thank you Mr Conductor.
3 – Give them Choices
The great thing about pizza is that you can add anything you want. I loaded mine with feta cheese which made B’s face crumple while his was a meat feast. With everything pre cut and sitting on the table for A’s eyes to delight upon, we gave her the choice of what toppings she’d like on her pizza. It is her stomach and taste buds after all.
A insisted on pepperoni, pepperoni and pepperoni. She was delighted with herself, slapping the round slabs on top of the tomato sauce which she spread herself. After a quick tidy up, I slyly added some veg while A wasn’t looking. A sprinkle of mozzarella by Papa Bear and it was in the oven they went. Another short wait for the finished product.
Cooking with A is great fun, despite the mess, the often uncoordinated and sometimes frustrating moments. It’s a great way to teach her about new food and, new textures. It gives her a level of control over her choices of food. She was much more interested in eating the pizza she made from scratch today. She saw where it came from and had a hand (literally) in putting it all together.
Do you enjoy cooking with your kids? Share your words of wisdom with me!