Make a gingerbread person of a loved one
A lot of us are missing people we cannot see at the moment. In this activity you can make a connection through creating a ginger bread person of the loved one.
Whilst decorating the biscuits, it might be an opportunity to really hear from the child how they are feeling during these uncertain times.
Deciding what their person is going to wear and how they have their hair, may help them feel closer to the person they miss.
Why not take a photo of the finished biscuit and send a photo to the loved one.
You can buy family cutters online so you can make a ginger bread person of all ages.
Blindfold tasting challenge
This can be a really fun activity to do together - children love the exhilaration of the surprise and risk of this sensory game.
With your child's agreement, prepare a range of different foods and blindfold the children with any piece of long material they can find. And then feed one spoonful of food at a time.
Without their sense of sight, what can they identify? What can they taste?
You could pick food that falls into each one of the 5 tastes - sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami (savoury)
You could even use a range of interesting or disgusting textures and see if they can identify the food. For example yoghurt, a rice cake or lumpy peanut butter.
Dress a Table
In France, instead of saying lay the table, they say dress the table.
What would it be like to transform an everyday meal into an out of the ordinary meal just through how you dress the table?
If you don’t have a dining table, you can use a tray or any flat surface.
Perhaps try decorating your table with found objects, seasonal flowers, leaves, feathers, old toys and even old clothes.
Do take a look at our gallery animation where we have used a bedsheet for a tablecloth, (clean) socks for napkins and a pillowcase for a table mat!
This is a very old game that was typically played around Halloween when apples were harvested but its a fun game to be played all year round.
This game requires energetic focus and bodily co-ordination so it can be particularly useful at this time for children who are physically frustrated from being indoors.
Fill a deep bowl or bucket with water and try to get the apple out with just your teeth.
Why not experiment with other floating fruit or veg?
This comes with a warning of course - the combination of excited children and water can mean spillage! Make sure its played on a surface you don't mind getting wet.
Cook with Stinging Nettles
Next time you go to your local park, why not take a pair of gloves (washing up gloves will do) and a pair of scissors and pick a handful of nettles!
We'd suggest picking leaves from the tops of the taller plants so they are free from where dogs have roamed and will ensure the leaves will be the youngest and softest.
When you get home, dunk in a big pan of boiling water to make them sting-free.
Rinse clean and drain and then they are good to cook with.
There are many recipes out there to play with including Nettle Pesto, Nettle Tea and Potato and Nettle Curry.
Mindfulness with a sultana
A simple exercise that may bring some calm and quiet to the mind and body simply by focusing on the sensory and digestive process of eating a sultana.
We use this activity regularly in our teenage groups but its great for all ages.
You could try setting a calm environment before you start by dimming the lights and encourage the children to sit in a comfy chair or even at the table if spaced apart.
Then hand out one sultana or any small piece of dried fruit and then guide them through the meditation with the 'Mindfulness Script'. See below
Eat Around the World
For families with older children who are able to cook together, here's an activity to add further structure and discovery.
Write out the alphabet and try to assign a country to each letter. See if you can identify and maybe cook a dish from each country.
A: America - Burgers
B: Bangladesh - Curry
C: China - Stir Fry
Some letters will be more challenging and if you don’t have or can't get hold of the ingredients for a particular recipe, don’t worry and move on.
See how many letters you can do over Lockdown.
Perhaps you could learn something about the country whilst researching your dish.
Heres one for J:
Jamaica - A pineapple upside-down cake.
You can read the recipe in our Community Cooking Recipe Book.
With all the beautiful flowers growing in the parks at the moment, perhaps experiment with flower arranging!
There’s an abundance of buttercups, dandelions and daisies which are all safe to pick and can bring your meal place to life!
Maybe you could make a mandala around your plate with the more fragile flowers like daisies and buttercups.
With more robust flowers like dandelion and cow parsley, you could have a go with some flower arranging in a range of vessels like jam jars, jugs and glasses.
You could incorporate this activity into our ‘Dress a Table’ activity
Make your own cordial
Why not incorporate picking (and sniffing) some elderflowers into your park strolls and make some homemade Elderflower Cordial with simply sugar (lots of !!), lemons and citric acid.
Click here for a recipe:
Perhaps play around with your cordial by adding other fruits and herbs to your glass to make a mocktail, e.g, mint and cucumber, pomegranate and raspberries.
You could give your invented drink a unique name and even make a label together!
Have a teddy bears picnic
Why have your morning snack alone, when you could be joined by your favourite teddy bears, toys or dolls.
Children may need a prompt to set up a game like this and then you can be led by them and see what characters their toys become and what adventures they take you on.
You could ask curious questions such as who is at their party and who else they may like to join. Their answers may be an insight into their inner world and who they are missing.
If you have a garden, they could take their teddy bears picnic outside. Or even take the picnic under the table or inside an indoor den!
An activity to engage and wow all ages simply through dying your food pink!
If you blend a cooked beetroot with a bit of oil or water you'll have a natural food dye.
You can try adding it to cooked pasta, rice or even mashed potato.
You can also buy beetroot powder which has a deliciously sweet and nutty flavour that you can add to your morning porridge or yoghurt. Watch the children's delight in stirring it in to their bowl and seeing it change colour before their eyes.
You can also use beetroot powder for a natural play dough dye.
See 'Natural Play Dough'
Salad Face Plates
An activity to keep the keen budding cooks engaged either as a stand alone activity or as an accompaniment to their dinner.
Lay out a variety of vegetables and invite them to cut shapes to make a face!
A few tips to help them along the way:
When cutting tomatoes, make sure you use a serrated knife.
With the softer ingredients like herbs and spring onions, try using scissors.
Cucumbers are very versatile and satisfying for making shapes with; circles for eyes, triangles for noses and you can grate and peel them as well.
For older children why not wash the salad faces with a simple homemade vinaigrette.
Experimenting with play dough is an activity which can be engaging and fun for all ages, not just toddlers.
It’s really the first entry into bread making; flour, water and salt with the addition of cream of tartare or lemon and food colouring.
If you want to keep it natural, use beetroot powder or turmeric for colour.
Leave plenty of time for the kneading and they could play being a baker! Or for the more energetic children, invite them to release any tension into the dough, like a homemade stress ball!
Once the playdough is made there are endless cooking-related activities which could follow.
Perhaps make pretend cakes in muffin cases or roll into sausage shapes and practise knife chopping skills. See what the children come up with!
This could become food for the 'Teddy Bears Picnic'
Dance and Cook
Turn on your favourite music before you cook and invite the children to dance whilst you cook and/or lay the table.
A foolproof way to engage all ages (sometimes instantly! ).
We recommend trying this for breakfast and incorporating it in your morning routine.
Start a family cooking playlist, adjusting the mood depending on the time of the day or energy of the children.
Children love to pretend to run a restaurant. Why not turn this into a game.
Endless variations of this activity including getting the children to be the waiters and serving their food themselves.
Or, switch roles and you serve them as a waiter, taking food orders from a note pad and pouring water into their glasses with a tea towel over your arm.
If you’re feeling really adventurous, you could get the whole family to wear their best clothes to visit the restaurant.
And you could incorporate this into 'Dress A Table and invite them to think up their own menu.
Experiment with all the different ways you can fold a napkin from simple triangles and rectangles to bow ties for your fork for the younger ones.
For older children and teenagers, try the classic 3d restaurant fan or swan!
There are plenty of YouTube tutorials to guide you through the process.
You could incorporate this activity into 'Dress a table'
A touch equivalent to the blindfold taste test is the Yuk Box.
You could cut out a hole in a cardboard box big enough to fit a wrist and a bit of an arm and then place a variety of food textures inside.
Perhaps a sprouting potato or a bowl of baked beans...
Then, cover the box with a tea towel and see if the children can guess what each food is just through the way it feels. You could ask them to describe textures and sensations.
Have bowl of water, soap and a a tea towel on hand!
Sounds in the Kitchen
Whilst you're cooking why not give your child your phone and get them to record all the different sounds that happen in the kitchen.
Alternatively (or additionaly), you could set up a bandstand station and get out pots, pans, graters and wooden spoons and they could experiment with making their own sounds.
Another great releasing activity for a rainy day when you cant get outside.