Tips for Baking with Toddlers

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I invited Louise from Building Blocks and Acorns to share with us today. I’ve been busy writing a new book, which is finished so I can get back to writing here tomorrow, but in the meantime, I know you’re going to enjoy hearing about the fun and learning that can be had baking with your little ones!

Head Shot watermarkedHi! I’m Louise and I write over at Building Blocks and Acorns, where I share the activities I do with my two year old son (lovingly known as ‘Darth,’ thanks to my husband’s love of all things Star Wars,) on my days off as a Primary teacher and Nursery worker. Often, the activities we do have a nature or sensory focus. Baking is one of the best ways of developing your little one’s skills, whilst having lots of sensory fun!

 

 

baking with toddlers mainWe often do baking together, so I’ve learnt a few things along the way about how to make baking with a toddler a success. You don’t have to be a great baker at all – it’s the process and the bonding experience that is important. Which leads me nicely onto tip number 1:

Don’t bake for other people (at first, anyway!)
Make sure that you don’t rope your toddler into helping to make that birthday cake or other important treat! See it as an activity to do together and don’t worry if the biscuits burn or the buns don’t rise!

Choose your timing
If you know that your little one will be needing their nap soon, or that your friend is coming to visit in an hour… don’t bake! It should be an enjoyable experience and you will need time to clean you, your toddler and your kitchen up afterwards. Also, your toddler may be less inclined to follow your instructions or be willing to help if they are tired.

Get your toddler (or your ingredients) at child-height.
Choose a space that is clean and free from distractions, but also that is accessible for your little one. They need to be able to see and help out.
ingredientsBe Prepared!
Make sure that you have all of the ingredients you need and a recipe ready, so that when the time is right, you can get baking. It helps to try and measure out the ingredients beforehand, if you have a younger toddler who may wish to keep piling the sugar or flour in! Remember things like greasing or lining any tins you might need and pre-heating your oven, too!

Let them explore their senses
Take the time to smell the ingredients. Whilst we were making ginger biscuits, we stopped to smell the different spices and dark sugar that was going into the mix.
scents and spoonsGet stuck in!
If your child is wiling to (and they have clean hands,) let them handle the mixture. This adds to their sensory experience and helps to associate it with a positive experience. If they’re a little more reluctant, that’s okay – let them see you touching the mixture and they may wish to join in. If there’s still lumps in your mixture afterwards, pop it into a food mixer and let them turn it on – lump free, but they’ve still had a go with their hands!
hands in flourLet them take sensible risks…
I’m not suggesting you let your toddler use the oven or put anything in a pan, but even though there’s a good chance that egg might break… let them have a go at cracking it! Help and support them, using language they will understand “gently, like this…” “now your turn…” If it’s safe and you have a backup in case it does go wrong, let them go for it! Just remember to not make a big fuss if that egg does break. Clean it up and use that language that they will understand, again. “oh dear! Let’s be very gentle with this egg. Two little taps…” etc.
breaking eggsLet them play…
Although ‘Darth’ was desperate to use the cutters, he also really wanted to feel the rolled-out dough and press his fingers into it! His hands were clean, so I let him explore for a couple of minutes before bringing his focus back to making biscuits. Giving him that time to explore meant that he was using his senses, but also had a ‘break’ from having to concentrate. It can be a lot for some toddlers, especially younger ones, to focus their attention for the whole process. Let them have a go at playing with the ingredients a little before each new step.
let them playDevelop language and counting skills
Baking is a great way of developing language skills for your little one. When using a rolling pin, you can say ‘forwards, backwards, forwards etc.’ so that they understand the difference between the two. Give a running commentary on everything that you or your child is doing on the task, so that they pick up the new language. Emphasis the important words. “Mummy is stirring the flour… stirring.” When you’re putting the biscuits on the baking tray, or the cupcake mixture into the cases, that’s a great opportunity to get counting, too!
biscuits ready to cookDon’t worry about the finished product
So those biscuits burnt, or the cupcakes didn’t rise? Don’t worry! Have a ‘little something’ on hand as an edible alternative to the sweet treat your little one was expecting, to make it easier for them to understand. “Oh dear, those biscuits have burnt because they were in the oven for too long. Never mind, you can have this instead…” (It’s easy to get distracted with a little one!) If whatever you’ve baked has turned out well, then great! Enjoy! But don’t worry if it hasn’t. You’ve had a great bonding experience and your toddler has developed new and existing skills. Now… time to wash up!
finished biscuitsYou can follow Building Blocks and Acorns on Facebook and visit them at www.buildingblocksandacorns.com

5 More Chicken Dump Recipes

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Making freezer meals is always a productive use of my time, but it’s when I make chicken dump recipes that I feel the most accomplished because I am able to make so many meals in such a short period of time. I call them dump recipes because I dump all the ingredients into the bags, seal them up, freeze them, and then on the day I want to cook them, I take them out, thaw them, and then dump them into a baking dish or crock pot. They couldn’t be simpler.

More Chicken Dump Recipes - 10 more meals in an hour!

The last time I found myself with some spare time on my hands (with 7 kids, believe me, I rarely have extra time!), I decided to assemble twenty chicken dump meals. I put together 10 in the morning and 10 in the afternoon by doubling five recipes each time. In my morning session, I made Chicken Hurry, Caribbean Chicken, Lemon and Garlic Chicken, Sticky Chicken, and Cantonese Chicken.

5 Chicken Dump Recipes Later that afternoon, I got ready to make the next ten meals by getting everything that I needed out. The key to successful chicken dump meals is having all your ingredients out before you start assembling. This saves time and frustration!

You can also purchase Chicken Dump Recipes which includes 25 recipes, printable grocery lists and printable labels.

Before I get into the recipes and instructions, I thought I would address a concern that came up when I published the first set of chicken dump recipes. Because of the popularity of the recipes (more than 2 million people read that article in its first month!), there was a lot of discussion about them on social media and the biggest issue seemed to be with some of the recipes having sugar in them. When you read the recipes below, you will find that this second set also has some recipes that have ingredients that have sugar. I can’t help but laugh when I think of how people will react to one of these recipes calling for maple syrup! Here is my response to all the concern about the sugar included in some of the recipes:

It’s true that if you are on a sugar-free diet, these may not be the recipes for you. I want to make a difference for busy families, busy moms, busy women. I want to see people eating as a family around the kitchen table instead of eating on the run or eating fast food in a vehicle. When paired with a salad or vegetables as a side dish, these recipes (even the ones that contain sugar) are going to be healthier than eating fast food. The moms who are cooking frozen pizzas or chicken nuggets and fries because it’s all that they have time for are the ones I am reaching out to with these recipes. By taking an hour on a Sunday afternoon or in an evening after the kids have gone to bed to prepare these meals, you can have healthier (note that I did not say the healthiest!) meals that your whole family can enjoy. The bulk of the work will be done already so that you can relax at the end of the day and actually have time to talk while you eat dinner together.

And since I’m still a recovering people-pleaser, I am working on trying out healthier dump-style recipes. I will be publishing ground beef dump recipes and healthier dump recipes in the coming months so watch for those! More Chicken Dump Recipes

Steps to making Chicken Dump Meals:

  1. Get out all ingredients.
  2. Label resealable freezer bags (you can use a permanent marker or print labels to stick on) with the name and cooking instructions.
  3.  Prop the bottom of the bags and fold over the top so that they will stay open.
  4. Add chicken into each bag. You can use boneless, skinless thighs or breasts.
  5. Once the chicken is in all of the bags, dump the ingredients for the recipe into the bag.
  6. When all the ingredients are in each bag, remove the excess air, seal the bags, lay flat, and freeze.

Teriyaki Chicken

3-5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or 8-10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/3 cup honey, melted
3 tbsp. soya sauce**
1 tsp. fresh ginger, grated
1-2 garlic cloves, minced

Cooking instructions:

Thaw. Bake at 350° for an hour or in the crock pot on low for 4-6 hours. **if you are making these gluten free, be sure to use gluten free soya sauce.

Lemon Mustard Chicken

3-5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or 8-10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. lemon pepper
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

Cooking instructions:

Thaw. Bake at 350° for an hour, covered, uncover last ten minutes or in the crock pot on low for 4-6 hours.

French Canadian Chicken

3-5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or 8-10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/2 cup maple syrup
3 Tbsp. cider vinegar
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbsp. soya sauce**
3 tsp. fresh grated ginger
1 tsp. pepper

Cooking instructions:

Thaw. Bake in the crock pot on low for 4-6 hours or bake at 350° for an hour, covered, uncovering for the last 15 minutes. **if you are making these gluten free, be sure to use gluten free soya sauce.

Pepper Lime Chicken

3-5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or 8-10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup lime juice
1 tsp. lime zest
1 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. olive oil

Cooking instructions:

Thaw. Bake at 350° for an hour, covered or in the crock pot on low for 4-6 hours.

Cindy’s Chicken

3-5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or 8-10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
one bottle of Russian salad dressing (don’t use Creamy Russian dressing. If you can’t find this, you can substitute with Catalina dressing)
1 1/4 cups Apricot jam
3 Tbsp. dry onion soup mix*

*I use an MSG-free, gluten-free dry onion soup mix.

Cooking instructions:

Thaw. Bake at 350° for an hour, covered or in the crock pot on low for 4-6 hours.

Notes:

  • Each recipe listed is to make one bag. To make 2 bags, you will need to double both the chicken and the other ingredients.
  • The recipes work best with 3-5 chicken breasts or 8-10 thighs per bag. If you are adding a lot more or a lot less chicken, you may need to adjust the recipes accordingly.
  • If you plan the meals so that they have some common ingredients, it saves even more money.
  • All these recipes can be made gluten free by following the notes indicated.
  • I heard from a reader who suggested using slow cooker liners. I had never heard of such a thing, but it sounds like a way to save even more time because it eliminates the cleanup of the crock pot.
  • Don’t forget to check out the first 5 Chicken Dump Recipes!

My Chicken Dump Recipes includes 25 recipes divided into 5 plans, each with its own printable list and printable labels. It will save you time and money!

To get more easy recipes and family ideas, sign up for our emails.

Valentine’s Learning Activities

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The other morning, I found myself scrambling a bit to come up with something for the kids to do because our regular homeschool routine had to be thrown out. My friend was coming over to give me a haircut (and colour my grey because I have a lot of grey hair these days!) and I didn’t think me homeschooling while getting my hair done was going to be very effective, so I decided instead to look for fun ideas for the kids on some of my favourite blogs.

Valentine's Learning Activities

I was able to find so many neat and educational Valentine’s activities that I thought I would share them with you. These Valentine-themed learning activities are great to incorporate into your homeschool or classroom.

Science

Valentine's Science Experiments

Love Potions from No Time for Flash Cards

Valentines Frozen Hearts Science Experiments from Little Bins for Little Hands

Valentine Candy Science from Inspiration Laboratories

Valentine Science Experiment from Our Modern Family

Valentines Explosions from Creekside Learning

Conversation Heart Candy Science Experiments from Coffee Cups and Crayons

Dancing Conversation Hearts from Playdough to Plato

Sensory

Valentine's Sensory Activities

Simple Valentine’s Sensory Bin from here on The Chaos and The Clutter

Valentine’s Sensory Station from here on The Chaos and The Clutter

Valentine’s Sensory Sink from My Nearest and Dearest

Valentine Goop Sensory Oobleck from Little Bins for Little Hands

Valentine’s Day Sensory Bin from Teaching Mama

Valentine Sensory Play from B-Inspired Mama

Valentine’s Sensory Jars from Blog Me Mom

Math

Valentine's Math Activities

Valentine’s Math Activity from No Time for Flash Cards

Candy Heart Math from Mom to 2 Lil Posh Divas

Math Games for Valentine’s Day from Kids Activities Blog

Measuring with Candy Hearts from Buggy and Buddy

Valentine’s Day Scrabble Math from And Next Comes L

Heart Addition from Playdough to Plato

Valentine Memory Game for Working on Numbers from A Mom with a Lesson Plan

Printables

Valentine's Printables

Free Valentine’s Math Printables from 3 Dinosaurs

Valentine Printable Pack from Gift of Curiosity

Preschool Do-a-Dot Printables from Crystal and Co.

Valentine Sudoku Printable from Gift of Curiosity

Free Cutting Practise Pack for Valentine’s from This Reading Mama

Valentine Spelling Game Word Bump from This Reading Mama

St. Valentine’s Day Word Search from Real Life at Home

If you’re looking for more Valentine-themed ideas, you may want to follow my Valentines board on Pinterest.

History Sensory Bin

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I find it easiest to create sensory bins that have some type of theme to them. If there is something that we are studying in homeschooling, a sensory bin along that theme can further reinforce what the kids are learning as well as providing an opportunity for sensory play.

Last week, the kids watched the classic musical “Annie Get Your Gun“. They adored it and are still singing “no, you can’t get a man with a gu-un”! Granola Girl was even singing it through the aisles in the grocery store the other day!

Since they were already so interested and asking lots of questions, I decided to expand their learning and teach them about the history of Annie Oakley, the woman the movie is based on and about that time in history. I happened to have a Wild West TOOB which had an Annie Oakley figurine in it (I hadn’t even noticed that when I bought it!) so I used that to create a sensory bin that would allow the kids to play and expand on the story they had watched in the movie.

History Sensory BinFor the base of the bin, I used dry white beans in one section, aquarium rocks that we had left over from a science experiment we had done the week before in another section and I finished it off with an area of moss. Then I added the Wild West TOOB figures and let the kids play.

I know that my sensory bin may not be completely historically accurate, but the point of it is to get the kids more interested in history and its characters by letting them explore. They loved that there was an Annie Oakley figure and had such fun reenacting scenes from the movie.

You can create a history sensory bin to go with any period in history (think Ancient Greece or Ancient Egypt) or that is centred on a specific historical figure (think inventors, artists, politicians or heroes).

For hundreds of other sensory bin ideas, you can also follow my Sensory Bins board on Pinterest.

Follow Sharla Kostelyk’s board Sensory Bins on Pinterest.

If you are looking for information on making sensory bins,you may be interested in my book. The Ultimate Guide to Sensory Bins