We’re having a pizza party

I like to get R involved with cooking and baking (mostly in the hope that one day she’ll spontaneously make me a cup of tea and a roast dinner). Getting her to help with making her own dinner has some obvious advantages – it’s a great way to use that awkward bit of time before tea where she can get a bit cranky; she seems more willing to try things if she’s been involved in the preparation; and of course, dinner is made at the end of it.

The biggest success to date – as far as savoury food goes – is making pizza. Every so often I make a big batch of pizza dough and tomato sauce and then freeze it in individual portions (recipe below). When we need an activity and food for later I take it out of the freezer in the morning and then we make it in the early evening. I roll out the dough really thinly and put it on an oiled baking tray (I tend to do that bit before she gets involved as she gets a bit bored by the rolling out). I prepare the toppings – the tomato sauce in a bowl with a spoon, a pile of grated cheese, and some vegetables. Our most recent effort was sliced mushrooms and a handful of (defrosted) frozen sweetcorn, but slices of pepper work well, as do sliced cherry tomatoes, a bit of defrosted frozen spinach, broccoli, leek, olives – well, you’ve had pizza, you can work it out. Of course, you can put meat on too.

R then smooshes the tomato sauce all over the base, puts the cheese on, and arranges the toppings. I’ve found this is also a good way to get her to try different raw veg before we cook the pizza too – she’s attempted vegetables that she would just chuck at me if I served them to her as part of a meal. She then likes to tell me what all the vegetables are when she’s eating the pizza.

Adding the vegetables

Adding the vegetables

Pizza Recipe – this will make a big pizza for two adults and a baby. What I usually do, though, is divide the dough up into eight pieces, wrap them in cling film and freeze them. I divide the sauce up into eight individual portions (I use little freezer bags) too.

For the dough:
3tbsp olive oil, plus extra for greasing
225g (8oz) self-rasing flour (or use plain flour with 2-3 tsp baking powder) plus extra for dusting
pinch of salt (optional)
90-100ml (3-3 ½ fl oz) warm water
toppings (cheese, veg etc)

For the sauce:
oil for frying
1 garlic clove, finely chopped or crushed
400ml (14fl oz) passata
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 tsp dried oregano
pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Lightly grease a pizza tray or baking sheet. Put the flour into a bowl with the salt (if you’re using it) and make a well in the centre. Pour in the oil and most of the water. Mix until you have an elastic but not sticky dough, adding more water as necessary.

Transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead until it is an even colour and feels uniformly elastic. Roll out the dough, shaping it into a round or oblong to fit your tray.
To make the sauce, heat the oil in a saucepan and fry the garlic for a minute or so. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer uncovered, so that the liquid reduces, for about 10 minutes, until the sauce is thick enough to cling to a pizza dough base.
Preheat the oven to 220ºC/425ºF/Gas Mark 7. Spread a layer of tomato sauce over the base, sprinkle with grated cheese and add any additional toppings, including a final layer of cheese, if you like.
Put the pizza in the oven and bake for 10-20 minutes, until the topping is bubbling in the middle.


Foaming at the window

One of R’s favourite activities is a really simple one. Our living room has patio doors in it leading out into the garden. I got some foam shapes – I bought these ones from Hobbycraft, but you could easily get some foam sheets and cut your own shapes out – and gave her a little tub of water and a paintbrush. I had to show her a couple of times how it worked – she couldn’t quite understand initially that she had to put the foam shapes onto the wet bits of window that she had already painted – but she got the hang of it quickly and it keeps her busy for ages.



I think this is a particularly good wet weather activity – R seems to really enjoy seeing the rain drip down on the other side of the window as the water runs down on her side too.

We want to be Eric Carle

The point of this blog is that I will try and give you some ideas for things to do with your small children when you have totally run out of idea for things to do with your small children. I had lots of moments when R was very tiny when I’d bounced her on my knee, sang all the nursery rhymes I could think of, blown some bubbles etc, and I just thought…now what? Now she’s a bit older (she’s two) it’s a bit easier but sometimes it’s hard to think of fun things to do that don’t just involve sticking her in front of a Peppa Pig DVD with a packet of chocolate buttons.

Fortunately for me, there are some amazing online resources for ideas. If you haven’t checked out The Imagination Tree, then all I can say is – do it. There are some great activities for kids of all ages. I particularly liked the Eric Carle Tissue Paper Prints – The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a big favourite here, R’s room has a Hungry Caterpillar theme and she loves the story – so I was really keen to do this with her.

When we tried this, R was about 19 months old. Obviously I had to give quite a lot of help but she seemed to really enjoy making the patterns. The tissue paper ripped quite a bit, so I can recommend trying to get hold of the thickest kind you can, but plenty didn’t rip so we still managed a decent effort.

Eric Carle

Our Eric Carle-inspired collage