As we enter the months of November and December, the opportunities to create and give gifts abound. Preschool and early-grade children are at the ideal age to become cooperative members in the gifting process — they are becoming more aware that the joy of giving a gift can be reciprocal. They are also ready to get involved in purposeful acts of kindness and charity. They learn from your example of helping and giving. When you help a family friend or neighbor, explain what you are doing and why. When you give a donation of clothing or food to an organization, explain who needs it and how it might be used. You can also share how it feels to give to others who need help.
While it might not be a great time of the year to make lemonade, the story of Alex and the Amazing Lemonade Stand by Liz Scott is sure to inspire. Alex was only 4 years old when she started her lemonade stand to raise money for cancer research. Perhaps your child might be inspired to create a winter herbal tea or hot chocolate stand instead!
To celebrate family, friends, and teachers, turn your kitchen into a gift-making laboratory for creating simple presents that combine fun, food, and learning. These cooking kits contain ingredients, recipes, utensils, and children’s literature. To make one, start with a great children’s book; there are many that relate to food. Read the book together and then ask your child what he thinks should go in the gift. You will be asking him to use important reading comprehension, creative thinking, and problem-solving skills. Below are some ideas to get you started.
Hands and Feet Cookie-Baking Kit
Use adorable hand and feet cookie cutters as a starting place for this kit. They will work with your favorite rolled cookie-dough recipe.
- The Book: My Two Hands My Two Feet by Rick Walton.
- The Contents: The book, homemade cookies, hands and feet cookie cutter sets ($4.95 each from surlatable.com), tubes of colored icing, colored sugars, a set of measuring spoons, pastry bag, socks, and gloves. Your child might like to make a painted handprint card to go in the basket. Just for fun, take a photo of your child making the cookies to include. There is nothing like a photo to bring smiles to recipient.
- The Container: Create a foot by attaching 5 little "toe" baskets to a larger "foot" basket with floral wire. Use a slightly larger-sized basket for the big toe.
- The Learning: Your child is at an age when he is developing a stronger sense of his body. Share the book and talk about all the different things he can do with his hands and/or his feet. You will be building creative-thinking and body-awareness skills. Icing cookies is a great way to develop small muscle skills. These are the same skills your child uses to draw and write. Show him how to hold the tube of icing in his fist, or like a crayon, and make a few practice designs on a clean plate. He can always eat them later! Encourage your child to decorate the hand and feet cookies in a variety of ways. Older children may even like to write their names on the cookies.
Books by Laura Numeroff are excellent for inspiring food gifts — she’s written about cookies, muffins, and pancakes!
- The Book: If You Give Moose A Muffin, by Laura Numeroff.
- The Contents: The book, a batch of homemade muffins, flour sifter, measuring cups, muffin mix, cupcake tin papers, wooden spoon, and a chef’s hat. Try cutting antlers out of construction paper and gluing them onto the hat to enhance the moose theme!
- The Container: Package everything inside a pretty mixing bowl and wrap it with colored cellophane and a ribbon.
- The Learning: When your bake muffins together, you are reinforcing math measurement skills, science experimentation, and language acquisition. Putting the kit together encourages creative thinking.
Edible Mud Pie Kit
How about making mud pies in the winter? You can do it with this kit. Type or write out the recipe (below) and invite your child to decorate it with his own drawings. Your child will understand this gift best it you make the mud pie cake recipe together once. That way he has the fun of seeing how the bottom of the cake gets all gooey — just like a mud puddle!
- The Book: Brothers Are for Making Mud Pies, by Harriet Ziefert.
- The Contents: Recipe, 2 plastic bags of “edible dirt,” 1 plastic bag of gummy worms, whisk, and spatula.
- The Container: A colorful new sand bucket.
- The Learning: When making edible mud pies, your child will notice how dry ingredients change when water is added — a science experiment with liquids and solids! Explore his understanding of nature by asking him what might live near a mud puddle (worms and frogs, of course)!
- What to do:
- Label 2 large sealable plastic bags Edible Dirt 1 and Edible Dirt 2.
- Mix together 1/4 cup cocoa powder, 1 cup flour, 2/3 cup white sugar, 2 tsp. baking powder, and 1/4 tsp. salt. Add to bag labeled Edible Dirt 1.
- Mix together 1/3 cup dark brown sugar (packed) and 2 tbsp. cocoa powder. Add to bag labeled Edible Dirt 2.
Recipe for Mud Pie Cake
- 1 bag Edible Dirt 1
- 1/2 cup skim milk
- 2 tbsp. butter (melted)
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1 bag Edible Dirt 2
- 1 1/3 cups hot (but not boiling) water
- Gummy worms
What to do:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Grease an 8" x 8" pan with nonstick cooking spray.
- Whisk together the milk, melted butter and vanilla together until smooth.
- Add the Edible Dirt 1 mixture and beat with electric mixer.
- With a spatula, empty batter into the baking pan and sprinkle the top with the Edible Dirt 2 mixture.
- Pour hot water over the batter; it will sink into the dry ingredients.
- Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. The top should look firm and cake-like.
- Cool for 10 minutes before serving in bowls with gummy worm garnish!