Busy Kids Are Happy Kids



Little Tables

When our youngest granddaughter has another sleepover at our house soon (to have some time out from her two lovely big sisters) I know she will love making these fluffy American pancakes.

The recipe comes from a gem of a little cookbook called LittleTables by Vanessa Lewis, full of breakfast recipes from countries all over the world. As she learns to cook more of them she’ll also build her cultural understanding of how different cultures celebrate breakfast.

There are lots recipes to tempt her like Cheat’s Mini Butter Croissants from France, Portuguese custard tarts, individual frittatas from Italy and Jamaican coconut bread.

The photographs are gorgeous. Vanessa asked three and four year olds to dress up in costumes which matched the different breakfasts.

She says that it was challenging for them to pose in unfamiliar clothing, not being allowed to eat the food in front of them or to play with the toys on the table. But as soon as the photoshoot was over they were allowed to tuck in. All thoroughly enjoyed their breakfast, looked at their Mums and Dads, and asked if they could make it at home.

To go with each recipe Vanessa created imaginative table settings using all kinds of cute and quirky objects and toys that she gathered to represent each country. Your grandchildren might well like to create their own version. It would all add to the fun.

pancakesUnited States of America –
American Pancakes

Supplied by Beatnik Publishing, photography by Vanessa Lewis

The first pancakes were called Alita Dolcia (“another sweet” in Latin) and were made by Romans in the first century AD. In the U.S.A., Southerners eat the most pancakes, accounting for a third of the country’s pancake consumption.

Makes 12 – 16 small pancakes


1 Tbsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

1 tsp white sugar

225g (8oz) flour

2 large eggs, beaten

2 Tbsp butter, melted and cooled

300ml milk

butter and oil for frying

To Serve

fresh blueberries or bananas

maple or golden syrup

whipped cream or thick

Greek-style yoghurt


The easiest way to make these is to put all the ingredients into a blender and blitz. But if you do mix up the batter by hand in a bowl, make a well in the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar then beat in the eggs, melted butter and milk, and transfer to a jug: it’s much easier to pour the batter into the pan than to spoon it.

Heat a smooth griddle or pan on the stove.

Use about ¼ cup batter for each pancake. When you cook the pancakes, all you need to remember is that when the upper side of the pancake is blistering and bubbling, it’s time to cook the second side. The second side only needs about 1 minute, if that.

Title: Little Tables (Anytime Breakfasts from around the World) Author: Vanessa Lewis RRP: $40 Publisher: Beatnik Publishing

see-play-doSee Play Do: A Kid’s handbook of Everyday Creative Fun

You can still find loads of activity books like the ones we bought for our kids when they were small: dot to dot, spot the difference, mazes, sticker books and colouring in books. But let’s face it most of them are just time fillers.

Better to find ones that will not only keep them happily occupied for a while but also help them to learn some new skills and boost their creativity.

See Play Do is a great example of a New Zealand activity book written for 3-9 year olds that will make them look at their everyday world in a different way and hopefully spark their imagination. The activities are fun to do and you’ll want to join in.

Here’s a taste of some:

  • Making space play dough by adding enough black food colouring to make a dense black colour and then adding glitter. They can make a whole solar system out of this or create a starry sky
  • Singing along to a funny song about a volcano starting to rumble (they can tune in to sleeplaydo.com to listen to it and then make up their own tune.
  • Doing a science experiment with food colouring, washing- up liquid golden syrup and oil to make layers of liquid in a glass and learning the science behind this
  • Making a healthy green smoothie with green fruit and vegetables with coconut water and a little coconut oil

An added bonus is that there are little interviews at the back of the book with all the creative people (an illustrator, musician, scientist fashion and food photographer, landscape designer, cartoonist and food writer) who contributed to this book. They share who they live with, their favourite food, what their job is, what’s fun about it and what part of the book shows their work.

What a great way to give creative kids ideas of the kind of jobs they might like to do when they grow up.

Title:See Play Do Author: Louise Cuckow RRP: Paperback &24.99 Hardback $34.99.Publisher: Beatnik Publishing

munch-lunchboxMunch Lunchbox

Two busy Mums created this cookbook full of tasty, easy and inexpensive recipes to fill lunch boxes for pre-schoolers to teenagers. Their own children who are their best critics tried and tested them.

This cookbook was not written especially for children with food intolerances or allergies but those recipes that do contain dairy/nuts/eggs or are gluten free are clearly marked.

Busy Mums will especially love the quick lunchbox fixes (easy and nutritious options that don’t involve cooking or following a recipe) and a whole raft of good ideas for fillings for sandwiches, wraps, pita pockets and bagels.

Re-usable lunch and beeswax wraps are one way to reduce packaging. Great-great-grannies used to use them for their families but they have become less popular since the introduction of plastic wraps. Time to turn the clock back, be eco-friendly and start using them again!

We’ve already tried a few of the recipes .The Anzac biscuits (to which I added my own twist by using coconut sugar instead of sugar) were moorish and so easy to make .That old favourite, Weetbix slice, is drizzled with melted chocolate which is healthier than thick icing. The muesli chocolate crackles are fun, made with dark chocolate, coconut cream, crunchy nut-free muesli and desiccated coconut. There are plenty of yummy savoury recipes too like ham and pineapple pizza wheels and zucchini mini quiches.

Our youngest granddaughter’s favourite dinner, macaroni cheese, is there. She insists that any leftovers will taste great cold in her lunch box so no need for a Munch Thermo jar.

One of the easiest recipes is a for a date and chia raw muesli bar that can be whipped up in an instant and needs no baking. We thought they tasted even better when frozen.

Their recipe for black-bean brownies made with a can of no-salt black beans sounds intriguing but we haven’t been game to try them as yet.

“A wonderful texture, a little bit fudgy, yet still firm (and also gluten –free) Your kids will love them-and they’ll never know they are eating beans!” promise the authors.

Next time our granddaughters ask ‘What’s for lunch?’ I will be very happy to hand Munch Lunchbox over to them. I have every confidence   that the recipes will work and that they’ll enjoy both making and eating them.

And if it’s another wet weekend when there are a lot of hours to fill I would show them the photographs of Munch’s top ten lunchboxes, hand out paper and felt tipped pens and challenge them to design their own lunchbox using recipes from this book. Then they could make it for lunch. That should keep them busy and happy for quite some time and away from their electronic devices!

Title: Munch Lunchbox Authors: Anna Bordignon and Michelle Kitney RRP $34.99 Publisher: Bateman

By Lyn Potter. Read more here.