The start of the summer holidays can feel like a lovely time: exams are over, the kids are getting a well-deserved break, there’s no more school runs or homework battles for the next six weeks, and everybody’s happy. That’s until approximately 25 minutes in, when they’re already bored and having the first of what will no doubt be umpteen arguments. Sigh.
It can be expensive and exhausting to keep kids entertained for such a long time, especially when you’ve used up your grand zoo/aquarium/beach/park/museum ideas by day five, and you’ve still got all the usual day-to-day responsibilities like stopping the house from looking like a pig sty and cooking that one recipe everyone actually likes for dinner.
Wouldn’t it be great if the kids could channel some of that endless energy into helping you out and picking up some new skills at the same time? Yes, indeed it would.
Well, allow us to suggest six cooking projects (that’s one per week) for you to tackle together over the course of the summer holidays. By the time they go back to school, they may as well be enrolling in Le Cordon Bleu instead of St Wilfred’s. Well, maybe not quite, but it’ll certainly be a start.
1. Make colourful but healthy smoothies
Getting fruit into kids can be one of life’s greatest challenges. For fussy eaters though, it usually helps if they’ve had a hand in making whatever they’re being made to eat, as then they can see exactly what’s in it and feel a little more control.
It can be the texture that puts them off, and sometimes it’s the taste, so blending fruit up into a smooth consistency and combining different flavours together can be a great way around this.
This recipe from Mum in the Madhouse suggests using kiwi fruit with blueberries, peaches, strawberries and blackberries. Simply pop all the ingredients in your Tefal blender along with some water or fruit juice and whizz everything up. Kids will love seeing the fruit change colour (this recipe should go a lovely shade of pink) and they’ll soon forget there was anything green in there in the first place.
2. Master a basic recipe
Teaching kids to cook provides them with skills for life, so spending a little time mastering a basic recipe like a tomato sauce that could be stirred through pasta, used for the base of a curry or one day used in slightly more complex recipes like a lasagne should serve them well for a long time to come.
Supervise any chopping, but make sure they aren’t scared to try it for themselves, and let them know they don’t have to follow recipes right down to the letter and that it’s okay to substitute herbs or leave things cooking for a little longer than suggested if they’re unsure.
The Little Plantation’s recipe for this vegan tomato pasta sauce would be a good place to start. It includes tomatoes, onions, garlic and carrots, so it’s a great opportunity for kids to learn how to chop different veggies.
3. 'Bake' a cake in the fridge
By week three, your little ones may be feeling more confident in the kitchen, so it’s time to let them make a recipe all by themselves. With a no-bake cake, there’s no need to worry about knives, the hob or the oven, making it the perfect thing to start with.
Something like a tiffin or rocky road would be ideal, like this rocky road from Crumbs and Corkscrews, which just needs them to mix together Maltesers, broken cookies and mini marshmallows with golden syrup and melted chocolate and butter – these can be melted in the microwave, making it extra safe.
Then all they need to do is pour it into a tin and leave it in the fridge. Let them be creative and add in any half-open packets of sweets or biscuits that are lying around – it’s a great way to get rid of them for good!
4. Learn how to make healthier kids' favourites
As much as you try to get the kids to try new foods and broaden their palates, chances are, nine times out of ten, they’ll ask for chicken nuggets or fish fingers for tea, which aren’t exactly the most nutritious meals.
But with a little help from your Tefal ActiFry Genius, you can quite easily make a much healthier version of these kiddie favourites. Simply take your chicken or fish, dip it in a beaten egg and then roll it into breadcrumbs – flavour them with a few herbs if you like. Kids’ll love getting stuck in and getting messy with this part.
Then, pop them in your ActiFry with a little oil, and you’ll soon have your ‘healthy’ nuggets or fish fingers. Supervise your budding Nigella or Jamie Oliver in peeling and slicing some potatoes to go in the ActiFry too for accompanying healthy chips.
5. Man a pizza counter
Your kids might be getting a little too old for a game of shop, but no one is ever too old for a game of ‘pizza counter’ – fact.
Teaching your kids how to make dough – which you can do with a little help from this recipe from Tales From the Kitchen Shed – is another extremely valuable life skill to equip them with. Once they can make pizza, they can make bread, and then they’ll basically be Paul Hollywood.
Put out bowls full of tomato sauce (that one they mastered in week two would work great as pizza sauce too – just sayin’), grated cheese and a mix of chopped veg and things like ham and pepperoni. Let them take total charge of making their own pizza, and if they want to have one with just sweetcorn on or with nothing but tomato sauce, let them – that’s how creativity flourishes.
6. Bake a rainbow!
Yes, it’s important to teach kids how to cook healthily, but it’s also fine to teach them how to make fun and indulgent treats too – just as long as they understand these should only be occasional. And what could be a better way to round off the summer holidays than with the ultimate showstopping multi-coloured rainbow cake?
This step-by-step recipe from Kerry Cooks is a great one to try, guiding you through every stage of the process. The finished result will look truly amazing, just make sure you’re supervising where food colouring is being used if you aren’t planning on given your kitchen a makeover anytime soon. Old clothes AND an apron absolutely 100 per cent compulsory.