Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Olympics food and no-cook cooking activities for little ones

This summer a lot of our Brownie activities have been Olympics led - my unit are so excited about the Olympics badge (as am I, I can't wait to get it on my blanket, badge nerd that I am - isn't it pretty?)

Girlguiding UK's On Your Marks resource isn't just about sport, but also culture so some of the activities the girls chose to do in our pow wow were about food. I wasn't surprised! The activities they chose are ones that we know they love, but as the summer holidays are nearly upon us, I thought I'd add here in case anyone wants a healthy foodie afternoon that's an alternative to cake decorating and biscuit baking - which I admit would be my preferences but with our focus on healthy activity (as well as sport) introducing some more fruit can be a good thing.

One of the things our Brownies love to make is fruit kebabs. Now as with aforementioned new Guide and nuts, we have a Brownie who's allergic to kiwi and strawberries. Please be sure if you're a Leader to check your Join us forms or Go! to check before doing with your unit. If you're doing this at home, well I guess you know.

We choose lots of brightly coloured fruit - including different ones that the girls haven't seen before - typical choices are:

  • Kiwi
  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Pineapple
  • Apple
  • Pear
  • Orange/ satsuma (our girls prefer smaller fruit as it's more manageable for little fingers)
  • Starfruit
  • Grapes
  • Mango
Now having said that the girls won't have seen these before, it seems that few or even none of these are particularly different to your average 7 year old in North London - I think I would have fainted on sight of a mango at 7 in East London (but that was 26 years ago). Lots of units make fruit kebabs but we try and tie it in not just to healthy eating, but also to learning knife skills. When we go on Brownie holiday the girls take on the role of 'Cooks' with their six - in this role they help to peel and chop up potatoes, carrots (we whizz the onions in the food processor to prevent random breakouts of swimming goggles) fruit for puddings and elevenses and anything else that the girls have chosen as part of their menu.

In our weekly meetings we don't have time for all of that, but we do have a stash of coloured plastic chopping boards (which can be dishwashed) and what I would call paring knives. They're neither dangerously sharp nor dangerously blunt, and the boards have enough friction(?) that things aren't slipping around. We also put the boards on old teatowels that we routinely collect from time to time. We work with what I would call the 'bridge' technique of cutting. The girls hold the knife in their right hand (if right handed) and make a bridge with their left, holding the fruit in place, we then encourage them to chop the fruit into bite size peices. There's no expectation that the fruit will be chopped up evenly, there's no sense of their being a standard to meet. As in our promise each girl does "her best". Each type of fruit goes into it's own plastic (or disposable) bowl, and each girl has a kebab or cocktail stick.

For our Olympics challenge, the Brownies had to try and get a peice of fruit of each colour of the rings on their stick, with a second challenge that if there was a type of fruit you hadn't tried before then to add that one (even if it meant you had an extra ring). This all linked in to the Olympic value of Excellence.

excellence – how to give the best of oneself, on the field of play or in life; taking part; and progressing according to one’s own objectives

Now I'm no Mummy blogger but it's worth noting how rarely we have leftovers on Brownie holiday as the girls are proud to eat what they've made. This activity was the same, everyone tried everything - and the chatter on leaving was about their newly learned abilities to chop fruit. And I really do mean made - there's no sense of token 'helping' in the kitchen. It's also always a surprise that if we haven't started our holiday prep with a session on knife skills, the amount of girls who 'aren't allowed' to help out in the kitchen.

A couple of other thoughts I wanted to include about children and fruit that I've noticed over the years - should I qualify this by explaining that I've been Guiding in a leader role since the age of 14? I'm sometimes hyper aware that I'm not a Mum and I don't want anyone thinking I'm trying to teach them to suck eggs, or that I'm speaking out of turn.
  • Children (and by that I mean those between 7 and 14) who won't eat a whole piece of fruit, will do so if it's chopped up. I frequently core and quarter apples and love that girls who nibble a whole apple for a long time and ask if they can leave it, will eat 6 peices of chopped up apple.
  • I've already mentioned satsumas, easier to peel for little fingers, sweet to eat, less pips and again as they're little - lots of our girls will eat 2
  • If we can't get smaller ones, half a banana is sometimes enough
  • Now I can't take credit for this one, but our Division Commissioner has been known to scoot around the local Greek supermarkets and get a watermelon cheaply that we can then hack into peices for elevenses - the girls devour this in the same way they do marshmallows!
  • If seedless grapes are on special I chop them up into small bunches
  • Chopped up fruit is dressed(?) sprinkled(?) with lemon juice. This was a Hugh F-W tip that I shamelessly adopted a year or two back. In the same way my two units go crackers for Tanfasticks, they love fruit with lemon juice on it.
On holiday we always always have bowls of fruit and jugs of squash and water that the girls are encouraged to help them to at any point. They don't have to ask, all they have to do is wash their mug up themselves. We use a cleverly titled 'mug bin' on camp - yes literally, but it's never been used for rubbish, full of beakers, mugs with handles that the girls can help themselves to so there's no having to find your plate bag if you're gasping thirsty.

To keep the fruit and squash cool, another tip - old, clean net curtains. Yes, really. Dampen it down in cold water, and cover the fruit bowls and juice jugs, then dip one end in a washing up bowl of cold water. Voila! Camp fridge

And also we're not perfect - threesies (yes, it's a word) are always a biscuit or little cake. On Guide camp the girls bring their own, home-made ones - extra snaps this year to Mia and Anoushka who made stunning cupcakes and chocolate cake respectively - and we all have that with our drink and break in the afternoon.

Just a quick note: I'm away from home this week and without pictures, but wanted to get this up before the end of term.  All pictures used are from Google images.

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