Healthy Hazelnut Chocolate Dip

Here’s a recipe for a yummy healthy dip that will fill up little tummies without using any  processed sugars or nasty additives. It has a thick, mealy texture (a bit like hummus, but chocolatey and sweet!), and it pairs beautifully with the crisp New Zealand apples that are just coming into season. Of course, being a Little Well Beings recipe you can trust it to pack a good nutritional punch.

Hazelnuts – What are the benefits?

A little powerhouse of a nut, hazelnuts are high in magnesium for strengthening the nervous system, high in fibre for helping with digestion and high in vitamin b’s for all over feel good goodness. They also have a lot of protein for muscle building, potassium for recovery after a long day of running around and a truckload of good fats for brain development. If you’re a pregnant Mama this recipe is good for you too as hazelnuts are also high in folate. Give it a try!

 

Ingredients

1 cup raw hazelnuts, soaked in water over night

2 Tbl raw cacao

1 Tbl coconut oil, warmed to liquify

4 Tbl coconut nectar, honey or maple syrup

8 dried dates

1-2 Tbl milk of choice for thinning dip to desired consistency

 

Method

1: Soak hazelnuts in cold water, preferably over night in a covered container in the fridge.

2: Drain and rinse, then blitz in a high speed blender until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. If you have an awesome blender like a KitchenAid you may be able to get it to the next stage, which is a fine paste. If not, do what I did and transfer the crumby mixture to a bowl and finish it off with a stick blender. It makes more dishes but its worth it I promise!

3: Cover dates with just boiled water and leave to soften for ten minutes. Drain. Puree with a stick blender (note: pureed dates are the consistency of sticky caramel, they are a lovely natural sweetener that kids really enjoy, way healthier than brown sugar! I recommend  keeping a jar in the fridge, they last about a week).

4. Add cacao, warmed coconut oil, sweetener of choice and pureed dates. Blend again until well mixed. If the mixture is too thick to be ‘dip-able’, thin it by gradually adding milk of your choice. I ended up using about 1 tablespoon of almond milk.

5: Serve with cold, crisp apple slices for a perfect Autumn afternoon tea!

 

Enjoy!

Love Emma

 

 

The Magic Calm Down Bowl

We are right in the middle of a long, hot Kiwi Summer here so I thought what better time than now to share with you my Calm Down Water Bowl? This is a simple but really effective idea that I developed when my kids were little and I was looking for ways to get them to calm down before bed. Although it is essentially ‘water play’ the idea is that it is a slow, meditative and calm activity. Flowers are floated one at a time on coloured water to make a pretty ‘calm down potion’.

This technique fits in with what today we have branded as ‘mindfulness’;  the act of focusing your awareness on the present moment while calmly acknowledging and accepting all the feelings and sensations in your body. I believe that teaching children simple mindfulness techniques can help set them up for healthy ways of managing stress and overstimulation in their daily lives. More and more schools are now including mindfulness and yoga programmes as part of their curriculum in a bid to help our kids get a great start to life in this crazy world. I am currently developing workshops around this theme so watch this space….

 

 

Ingredients:

One large mixing bowl

Water (cool or warm depending on the weather!)

A ‘gathering’ basket or bowl/s

A wooden spoon

Any extra natural ingredients for floating and mixing e.g.: spices from the kitchen! (we like peppercorns…). Essential oils for relaxation are great too (e.g; lavender).

Optional: a magic wand!

  1. Set out the bowl filled about 2/3 with water in a quiet spot outside. Add some natural food colouring (sometimes we use leftover painting water). Somewhere near or on a patch of grass is ideal.
  2. With your child explain that they are going to choose things from the garden to float in the Calm Down Bowl. Our rules are anything from the lawn is free for them to choose (clover, daisies, dandelions…) and anything from trees and bushes they have to check with me first (this saves the garden from being completely pillaged!). I usually encourage them to find a rose that is browning or a fallen Camelia to teach them to respect the plants life cycle. Each plant is picked carefully and calmly and placed in the gathering basket. About 8-10 is a good number but more is fine.
  3. Bring your gatherings back to the bowl of water and as they show you each plant ask your child ‘Tell me what you like most about this plant that you’ve chosen?’, or a similar question to get them to consider their feelings. This sets the tone for mindfulness and introspection. You can even ask them to smell the plant ‘Does it smell sweet?’ or talk about the different colours on its leaves or petals.
  4. Float the plant in the water and watch where it goes. When the water is still again repeat with the next plant or flower until they are all in the bowl.
  5. Give your child the wooden spoon and ask then to stir the water gently in a circular motion. Then explain ‘all the plants and flowers are the whirling, busy parts of our day. Lets watch how busy we were’. Keep stirring and talk about the different things they did that day. When you’ve finished talking, put the spoon down and take some deep breaths with your child. Then say something like ‘let’s watch our busy day coming to a calm end, all the busyness is slowing down and we are leaving it all behind. Tomorrow is a new day’. Wave that magic wand ceremoniously! When the plants are totally still take a final deep breath and have a big stretch up to the sky with your arms.
  6. Finally, we return the plants to the garden by pouring them into a chosen spot.

calm down bowl 1

 

And that is it! Happy, calm kids ready for sweet dreams.

If you do try this at home I would LOVE your feedback, please drop me a quick message or email or even take some photos to send me. Lets help our littlies get a healthy, calm start to life 🙂

Now go enjoy that sun!

 

Love Emma

Five Tips For Raising Adventurous Eaters

Yummy green soup that’s full of good stuff for growing bodies. Will they eat it?… only if they want to, and probably not if they know that you want them to! This soup is so healthy, simple and delicious that it deserves a regular place on your table, but getting kids to try new foods can be really challenging. And let’s face it, green foods quite often get small mouths clamped shut at them without a fair trial! I can’t help feel a bit sorry for the green vege family, they suffer a great deal of rejection.

Usually when I develop a Little Well Beings recipe I list all the super powers of the ingredients for you so you can feel empowered and virtuous about the food you’re feeding your wee ones. But this soup is green. So you know it must be awesome. And I figured a list of tips on how to get your kids to TRY this super-food soup would be way more beneficial. So here is my best advice, tried and true, from raising a big blended family of five kids (several of whom were excruciatingly picky!).

 

Five Tips For Raising Adventurous Eaters

1. Get your kids involved in the preparation and cooking of meals. This is my number one tip above all others. I’ve found that a naturally suspicious child will usually try new foods if they are standing at the kitchen bench with a mixing bowl ‘helping’ you. Even better, get them involved in growing veges that you’d like them to try. If you can grow some fresh herbs on your windowsill and plant a few greens in the garden, they are often so proud that they helped grow and pick and wash and chop them that they’ll take a bite or two happily.

2. Only keep foods in the house that you want them to eat. If this means your kids exist mostly on organic rice crackers, bananas and frozen peas then they’re a giant step ahead of the kids who exist mostly on chicken nuggets and curly fries. Get in high quality nutrients where you can (smoothies are great) and add a good quality multivitamin supplement to their diet. A good supplement will cover any nutritional deficiencies and will often improve their appetite. I’ve sourced some great ones for you here.

3. Pair new foods with something familiar to make it seem less foreign. With our Broccoli Soup recipe I gave Miss Mila some homemade just-out-of-the-oven focaccia bread. It was practically begging to be dunked into something. A dunk can be less threatening than a fork or a spoonful. She dunked it and liked it (WIN!). If I had given her only a spoon I doubt very much that she would’ve taken a mouthful.

4. Model healthy eating. Share healthy food off your plate with them. Talk to them about how delicious the food is that you’re eating and what nutrients are in it that will help them be healthy. Kids love trivia. I once overheard my seven year old telling her friend that she should eat brazil nuts so she can get more selenium. Her friend asked ‘why?’ and my daughter said ‘coz theres not enough in the dirt of course.’ Smartypants. They just love knowing stuff.

5. Eat with them. Not just to supervise them but to enjoy them. It might be the only window of the day that you can really sit and share about your day and connect for a time as a family. Even if you have the ‘adult’ meal later when the kids are in bed, spending some happy time at the table with them will encourage them to eat. We still sit together with the teenagers every night for dinner, and with their girlfriends and boyfriends and friends and any extra family I can find myself cooking for about 12 people any night of the week! I love it, it’s my favourite time of the day.

 

So without further ado, here is our gloriously green and not scary at all broccoli soup recipe, I hope you and your kids enjoy it as much as we do.

 

Creamy Broccoli Soup

Serves 3-4

2 large agria potatoes
1 head broccoli
1 litre organic vegetable or chicken stock salt reduced
2 cloves garlic
1 cup milk of your choice
1 tablespoon blue cheese or Parmesan
2 Tablepoons cream or greek yoghurt

1: Peel and chop the potatoes into small cubes

2: Pour the stock into a large saucepan and add the potatoes. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat, keep the lid on and simmer gently until the potatoes are very soft (about 20-25 minutes).

3: Add the chopped broccoli and milk and continue to simmer gently for another 3 minutes or until the broccoli can be pierced easily with a fork. Do not over cook! Remove from the heat while the broccoli is still bright green, this helps preserve nutrients.

4: Add the cheese and cream or yoghurt. Blitz in a high speed blender until very smooth. Reheat gently if necessary.

5. Serve with something toasty and dunkable 🙂

PS: I cant help myself. I have to list some nutrients. This soup is full of potassium, vitamins a,k and c. It is immune building, anti inflammatory and packs a good carbohydrate punch for growing bodies. Get it into them!

 

 

Enjoy!

Love Emma

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Magical Flower Mandala Art

Kids LOVE flowers. After “Mummy’ ‘Daddy’ and ‘No!’, ‘flower’ was definitely high on the list of first words that my babies said. The way they said it sounded more like ‘wower’ though, which in itself is toe-curlingly cute don’t you think?! I digress….

My kids are BIG now and they still love flowers. So much so that my nearly 17 year old came with me to ‘help’ with my very first kid’s Flower Mandala Art Class last week. By the end of the session she had woven flowers into her hair and was as blissed out as the kids were!

Mandalas are one of the oldest art forms known to humanity. Loosely translated, ‘mandala’ means ‘sacred circle’ in Sanskrit. Us humans like to find meaning and symbolism in the world that we Iive in. The circle has come to represent wholeness, continuity, connection, unity, harmony and the cycle of life. Having no corners, hard edges or angles, the circle is something that kids will draw naturally to relax and is often the first shape they attempt to make on paper.

Inspired by some beautiful flower mandalas that I stumbled across on Instagram (find us on Instagram here by the way: https://instagram.com/little_well_beings/), I set out trialling a kid’s art class making and then sketching flower mandalas. I never dreamt it would be as successful as it was, and as a result I have to encourage you to try this at home with your kiddies. The children in my class are aged 5-8 years but you may be able to do this with even younger children if it is kept simple. You could leave out the drawing component completely and just make flower mandalas if that suits you best, they will still love it.

The results were stunningly beautiful, both in the creative process and finished sketches, but even more so within the children themselves. They were absolutely absorbed in the activity of arranging petals and leaves, I have never taught such a quiet class! And let me put this is perspective for you, there is a child in my class who I regularly have to remind that we don’t lick the walls. Bless him.

The activity itself is a simple process and I will lay the steps out for you here:

  1. Gather a selection of flowers, leaves, stones and ferns from your garden. They don’t have to be perfect, we used a lot of flowers that had already fallen from a camellia bush.
  2. Take two large pieces of square paper, a pencil and a pair of scissors. The paper must be square or you will likely end up with an egg shaped mandala rather than a circle. And I don’t know the sanskrit word for egg.
  3. Select one large flower to be the ‘centre’.
  4. Sketch the flower in the centre of one of your pages, as true to scale as possible or smaller (not too big or there won’t be enough room for the rest of the mandala pattern). 
  5. Put the piece of paper with the flower drawing on it to the side.
  6. Put a crystal or rock in the centre of the second piece of paper as the centre point. We used uncut crystals of quartz, calcite, amethyst and other beauties. Did I mention kids love crystals as well as flowers?! I’ve had to promise the kids I will bring them back to class next week even though we aren’t using them!
  7. Gently pull apart the flower so that you have a pile of petals, stamens and leaves. Trim long pieces of fern into smaller pieces using the scissors.
  8. Form a circle of petals around the central stone.
  9. From here create ever expanding circles until the mandala reaches the outer edges of the page.
  10. Admire your beautiful flower mandala! Take some photos of it to keep as a momento.
  11. Now take the first piece of paper with the flower sketch in the middle that you did earlier and carefully sketch your mandala pattern onto this paper. 
  12. Add colour if you like with coloured pencils or watercolour paints.
  13. Return the mandala to the garden. The children found this a little bit sad but each of them said ‘thank you’ to the flowers as they gave them back to the ground. williaFrom here they reached a dizzying level of happiness, so I recommend a run around outside if possible to burn of some excess energy! To bring their energy back down you could have them rest their hands in a tub of warm water or run a relaxing bath.

Don’t forget to smell the flowers!

Love,

Emma

Whole Pear Gingerbread Loaf

 

Right now in New Zealand we are deep in the middle of winter school holidays. I secretly love the cold weather because we tuck up, cosy and warm and my teenagers are more inclined to give me long couch snuggles. But let’s face it, when it’s cold outside the kids are constantly hungry!

I always try to cook with seasonal produce wherever possible and at the moment pears are in abundance at the markets. They are equally delicious fresh or cooked, and when dressed up with gingery spices I always think of winter warmth. And snuggles!

When I developed this recipe I found it was a huge hit with kids, partly because of the novelty factor of how it looks when you cut it, but also because it has a lovely moist texture and not ‘too much spice!’. Settle in for an afternoon of baking and serve this warm for dessert, you won’t be disappointed. It is also lovely cold the next day, spread with butter. Even for breakfast. Just saying.

Nutritionally it checks all the boxes; it uses natural ingredients and is low G.I so won’t cause any blood sugar spikes (i.e, no bouncing off the walls after a piece of this before bed!). It is very low in gluten, easy on tummies, and packed full of vitamins and minerals that are calming and sustaining. This loaf is comfort food on its very best behaviour!

 

The Star Ingredients

Pears – Why?

Pears are in season in Autumn and Winter and have a heap of health benefits to help ward off colds. High in potassium, vitamin A, C and K, pears are great for immunity building and infection fighting. They are also high in fibre which is great for digestion and helps us to feel ‘full’.

 

Spelt Flour – Why?

Spelt is a grain that is in the wheat family, and has sometimes been described as wheat’s cousin. It has been cultivated for centuries, in both central Europe and the Middle East. It has a nutty, slightly sweet flavor, similar to that of whole wheat flour. It does contain some gluten, but a lot less than our standard wheat four, and many people who complain of feeling heavy after eating wheat can tolerate spelt really well. It is easily digested, which is great for kids who may be prone to nervous sore tummies or irritability.

 

Almond Meal – why? 

High in protein and low in sugars. That gives it two massive ticks from me. Almond meal is also an excellent source of vitamin E, vitamin B’s, and contains several key minerals for bone development including calcium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc.

 

Coconut Oil – why?

Coconut oil comes from the most nutrient dense part of the coconut. It is solid at room temperature like butter but doesn’t become unstable when heated or become rancid like many oils do. It is very high in lauric acid, which is found in abundance in human breast milk. It helps the body increase immunity and fight disease. Good fats are important for kids’ energy levels, muscles and brain development so it’s good to try and include some in every meal.

 

Coconut Nectar – why?

Coconut nectar is a syrup that comes from the blossoms of a coconut palm. It is very low glycemic (G.I of only 35), and a great source of minerals, amino acids, vitamin C, vitamin B’s, and has a nearly neutral pH. It is produced at a low heat meaning it maintains all the enzymes that would be killed off with heat processing. I highly recommend it on pancakes! Coconut nectar makes a good alternative to golden syrup or molasses, which would normally be included in a gingerbread recipe. As it is lighter in flavour however, I added some raw cacao powder to the ingredients to give more depth to the finished product.

 

Coconut Sugar – why?

I love coconut sugar! It has the same amount of calories as table sugar but is way better for our bodies. It is low in fructose and low g.i which means it won’t make blood sugar levels rise and then crash suddenly, and this makes it perfect for kids. It is a much less refined product than standard sugar, as it is simply made from the boiled and dehydrated sap of the coconut palm.

 

Vanilla – why?

Mostly because it makes baking taste and smell amazing! But also because vanilla is calming and may even have a mild soporific effect. This makes it ideal for use in a before bed treat. Nutritionally vanilla is also a good source of manganese, copper and vitamin B2.

 

Ingredients

For the poached pears:

3 whole, fresh pears
water to cover
1/4 cup coconut sugar
1 vanilla pod or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 strip orange or lemon peel
1 cinnamon stick (optional)

 

For the ginger bread:

1 3/4 cup white spelt flour
1/2 cup almond meal
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 Tablespoon raw cacao powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon mixed spice
3/4 cup coconut sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup coconut nectar (or honey or maple syrup).
1 cup almond milk (or other milk of your choice).
1 vanilla pod or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

Method

To poach the pears:

1. Peel the pears, leaving the stalks intact. Core the pears from underneath, using a paring knife. Slice a little off the bottom of each pear so they will sit flat in the saucepan.

2. Place the pears in a small saucepan and just cover with water. Add the coconut sugar, peel, vanilla and cinnamon stick.

3. Bring to the boil then simmer very gently with the lid on for 20 minutes.

4. Remove the poached pears using a slotted spoon and leave on the bench to cool slightly.

 

 

HINT: poached pears are a lovely dessert in their own right, especially teamed with a scoop of healthy ice-cream (future recipe to come!).

 

 

To make the gingerbread:

1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees celsius.

2. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl until combined.

3. Heat the coconut oil gently to liquify (either microwave briefly or stand in a bowl of hot water).

4. In another bowl whisk the eggs together.

5. Add the coconut oil, coconut nectar, almond milk and vanilla. Whisk until light and creamy.

6. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, folding gently with a rubber spatula until just combined. Do not over mix.

7. Line a full size loaf tin with baking paper then pour in the gingerbread batter.

8. Pat the pears dry with a paper towel, then gently lay them sideways in a row in the batter. Try to leave a few cm space between them and alternate the side that each pear stalk rests on – see photo! The pears won’t be fully covered but the batter will rise around them as it cooks.

 

8. Bake for around 50 minutes, until a skewer inserted between two pears comes out clean.

 

Enjoy, with snuggles!

(ps: my three year old buddy Rowan says it’s delicious!)

Love Emma

 

Sunshine Sauce for Pasta

Have you ever considered an alternative to the traditional tomato pasta sauce? Sweet, creamy and bursting with betacarotene goodness, this tomato free pasta sauce will make hungry little people very happy. The main ingredient is roasted organic carrots which gives it it’s gorgeous sunny, orange colour. I’ve added garlic, cumin, turmeric and lemon zest and some activated walnuts for extra flavour and protein. The result is a delicious, smooth sauce that is non acidic and gentle on tummies. Plus it also packs a really good immunity punch to ward of winter colds. The big question is, will kids eat it?! Skip to the end of the blog to see Miss Oli (age 21/2) answer the question!

The Star Ingredients

Roasted Carrots – why?

The humble carrot is a vitamin superstar. Remember when our Grandmothers told us to eat our carrots so we would be able to see in the dark? To be honest I would’ve needed a lot of encouragement to eat my Grandma’s overboiled veges, but she wasn’t wrong about the eye thing. Carrots are full of betacarotene which the body coverts into vitamin A, which is essential for eye development. Vitamin A is also important for bone growth, the cells of hair, skin and nails and helps protect the body from infections. 

Carrots actually become much sweeter when cooked (especially roasted) and because betacarotene is fat soluble, cooking carrots in a little oil helps the body to utilise the nutrients better. A cooked carrot is an underestimated powerhouse of goodness!

Turmeric – why?

Turmeric is a root that has received a lot of positive press in health publications lately. It is not a new discovery however and has been used for centuries in Indian and Chinese medicine. Traditionally used for stomach and bowel problems, arthritis and fatigue, turmeric has powerful anti inflammatory properties. The bright yellow ground powder has a mild, spicy flavour (but without any heat) and can often be found in recipes for curries. I love it for its soothing qualities. 

Garlic – why?

It adds a lovely mellow flavour to the recipe and also has some great nutritional properties. Garlic has been used historically to ease gastric disorders and it aids in digestion. It also strengthens the immune system and helps fight chest infections, coughs and congestion. It is a perfect ingredient to add to your winter meals. 

Lemon Zest – why?  

My Grandma wasn’t so great at cooking carrots but she was definitely onto something with her jars of homemade lemon honey packed full of lemon zest ….what a blissful memory! Lemon peels contain about 5 to 10 times more vitamins than the lemon’s juice and are also an excellent source of fibre, potassium, magnesium, calcium, folate and betacarotene. Even a small amount of zest has a big amount of benefits for bodies.


Activated Walnuts
– why? And..er.. what are they?!

Let’s start with the walnut itself. High in Omega 3 fatty acids, protein and antioxidants walnuts are a super food for growing healthy brains and bodies. The ability of the body to utilise these nutrients however, is greatly increased by a simple process called ‘activating’. Activated nuts have been soaked in water and salt which begins the germination process of the seed. It breaks down the protective compounds inside the nut which can irritate tummies and makes them much easier to digest. Interestingly there are indigenous cultures, such as the Aborigines, who have been ‘activating’ nuts and seeds for hundreds of years. We’ve just been a little slower to catch on. Activated nuts can be found at most good health stores and you do pay a bit more for the privilege. If the cost is prohibitive by all means substitute for non activated walnuts, it’ll still be delicious and nutritious.

Sunshine Sauce for Pasta

Serves 2-3

Ingredients

3 large carrots (preferably organic)

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon turmeric

Pinch of sea salt (optional)

2 cloves garlic

1/2 lemon, zested (preferably organic)

10-15 activated walnuts

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (optional, leave out if you’re dairy free)

200ml milk of your choice

Olive Oil

Method

1. Preheat oven to 200*c

2. Peel carrots and cut into thirds, then into half again.

3. Line a small roasting pan with baking paper, put carrots into the pan in a single layer. 

4. Sprinkle over the chopped garlic cloves, cumin seeds, turmeric and salt.

5. Drizzle with olive oil and mix gently to combine.

6. Cover tightly with tin foil. Bake for 25-30 minutes and remove foil. Carrots should be cooked but firm.

7. Return to the oven uncovered and roast for another ten minutes until starting to brown. Carrots should now be tender when tested with a fork. Leave to cool on the bench.

8. Put slightly cooled carrots, parmesan cheese, milk and lemon zest in a high speed blender and blitz until smooth and creamy. 

9. Serve over hot pasta with extra parmesan and sprinkled with fresh parsley.

sunshine sauce10

And what did Miss Oli (age 2 1/2) think of her Sunshine Pasta lunch?

DELICIOUS!!!

Enjoy,

Love Emma

Diving Into Messy Play

I’ll be straight up with you. I’m not talking about a box of spilt Lego and a few scattered barbie dolls here. I am talking ‘hands in’ messy play. Hands in paint. Hands in mud. Hands in water and slime and gloop. Or for the sake of this particular blog, hands in finger paint. Stay with me…I promise you won’t have to sacrifice your carpet or your sanity!

Messy play is a subject that is dear to my heart. I have been a children’s art teacher for over 15 years now and I never see kids happier or more occupied as when they are exploring the tactile qualities of the materials they are creating with.

Research tells us that children need to explore their environment with all of their senses, hence the term ‘sensory play’ that has been coined by educators. The philosophy behind sensory play is that children are active learners – they learn best by using all of their senses. The more senses they have involved in an activity the richer the depth of their learning will be.

Here are some benefits of messy play that might just sway you towards trying our edible finger paint recipe with your kiddies. You can find the recipe at the end of this blog post.

Messy Play Can…..

  • Improve physical skills and coordination. Squishing, pinching, tipping, grabbing, pouring – all of these actions develop children’s hand eye coordination and neural pathways.
  • Help to develop their language skills. Children learn words like ‘slimy’ ‘foamy’ ‘sticky’ ‘squishy’ and can then apply them to the world they live in.
  • Help children develop their creative thinking. Messy sessions can be the catalyst for great story telling and imaginary play.
  • Help children relax and feel calm. Once they settle into a sensory activity you may be surprised at how calmly they play with the materials (Really!).
  • Help children learn about colour mixing, patterns and how different substances behave.
  • Be bonding for parents and children to play with together. Messy play is fun and reminds adults how to just ‘be’ without there needing to be a product at the end.
  • Help develop self expression and confidence. There is no right or wrong way to do messy play, it is all about exploring. This is great for kids who could do with a wee confidence boost.

If that’s not enough to convince you, you could always take the advice of a man who was known to be a bit of a genius. Albert Einstein said “Play is the highest form of research”.  I think Einstein would’ve approved of our edible finger paint.

 

Here are my three top tips for a ‘messy-without-the-stressy’ play session:

1. Have a bucket of warm water, cloths and old towels next to the activity but far enough away that they’re not tempted to incorporate the water into the play. Leaving children and messy play unattended to go and get clean up materials is risking a full scale disaster. Trust me, I learnt this the hard way!

2. Give play materials to the children in limited amounts. If you give them a bucket full of finger paint they will dive in up to their shoulders, which is great if you’re game for that! But if you’re not, give them small pottles of finger paint and they will dive in up to their fingers. That’s a much less risky dive! When they’ve used up their pottle you can replenish it, this makes the activity last longer too.

3. Before you put the materials out take a few deep breaths and make a commitment to relax and enjoy the process. You might even want to have a little play yourself. Go on, dive in…

 

Edible Finger Paint

Makes a big batch of gooey finger paint suitable for spreading and tasting.

1 cup cornflour

5 drops stevia or 2 tablespoons castor sugar.

Pinch of salt (optional).

1 teaspoon vanilla essence (smells lovely and adds to the sensory experience).

1 cup cold water

3 cups boiling water

Natural food colourings (we used Queen brand).

 

Method:
1. Mix the cornflour with the cold water, vanilla, stevia/castor sugar and salt in a medium sized saucepan and stir briskly with a wooden spoon. (Make sure the cornflour has completely dissolved or you will end up with lumpy finger paint).

2. Pour in the boiling water and stir between each addition. This may be enough to thicken it to the consistency that you like but we found putting it on a medium heat on the stove top for about 30 seconds thickened it perfectly. Note: this recipe continues to thicken as it cools. You can add extra boiling water to thin it out further.

3. Separate the mixture into bowls ready for cooling and colouring. The mixture was safely warm for us to use after about 20 minutes of standing. Transfer into small pottles or bowls when you’re ready to play.

Note: This recipe will not leave you with permanent artworks but rather is designed to be an ‘experience’. Have a camera ready to capture the memories!

Enjoy!

Love Emma

On a sunny wintery day Miss Mila (age 3) and I took a batch of warm finger paint outside for some sensory fun. Here’s a few cute photos of our messy play session:

The Best Calm Kids Smoothie Ever

 

My kids were introduced to healthy, fresh drinks before the green smoothie craze was even a thing. Their afternoon tea was usually washed down with spirulina and fresh apple and carrot juice. I found the extra energy usually carried them through to dinner with less crankiness and frankly I’d do just about anything to take the pressure off what I called ‘zoo hour’- that 5pmish time when all necessary chores collide and children morph into howling, ankle clutching monsters. If only I’d developed this incredible kids smoothie back then, I might’ve abandoned the cooking and given them this creamy, dreamy meal in a glass instead! my nerves (and theirs!) would’ve thanked me for it!

Firstly a little about smoothies and why I think they are hands down the best nutritional addition to your kids diet.

  • They are quick to make.
  • They are packed full of nutrients.
  • They are incredibly versatile and can be adpated to tastes and dietary needs – eg: do you have colds or flus in the family? add some echinacea drops and fruits high in vitamin c for an immunity boost. Do you have a child who struggles to sleep or who has growing pains? increase the magnesium and calcium rich smoothie inngredients for calmer nerves and muscles.
  • Most kids love them! After trying a few variations they quickly develop a favourite flavour base. One of my girls loves berries and yoghurt and her sister prefers a spinach and banana base. Who am I to argue? They’re both teenagers now and Im grateful that they’re still putting good stuff in their bodies when I’m watching!

This smoothie recipe has been designed to help a child feel calm yet energised. It is fabulous for breakfast but works just as well as an afternoon snack. Some ingredients can be ommitted if you don’t have them but the smoothie works and tastes best if you throw them all in.

The Ingredients:

Banana – why? it adds sweetness and a familiar flavour that can put a ‘scared-of-new-foods’ child at ease. Bananas are high in potassium which helps prevent dehydration and helps with muscle building. They are also high in Vitamin B6 which helps the brain create serotonin, bananas have been called a ‘good mood food’ for good reason.

Avocado – Why? it adds a mild creaminess to the texture and ‘mouth feel’ that most kids find attractive. High in magnesium which is a vital mineral that they need for their nerves and muscle function. Magnesium can ease irritability and improve sleep and is essential to most bodily functions. Like bananas, Avocados are also high in potassium. They also contain zinc which can improve appetite. Avocados are a true super food -packed full of good fats and vitamins that help growing bodies.

Yoghurt – why? protein and probiotics. Probiotics are the good bacteria found in yoghurt and other fermented foods. Yup, this food is ALIVE. They are super stars in our digestive system and are worthy of their own article, but for now take my word for it – If you want calm kids with calm tummies get some good live culture into their diet.

Cacao Powder – Why? It tastes like chocolate without the bad stuff! How? Because it IS chocolate without the bad stuff. Essentially cacao is the raw ingredient that is used to make chocolate and believe it or not before they add sugar, dairy and preservatives and strip it of most of its nutrients, cacao is full of some pretty punchy stuff – Magnesium, antioxidants, essential fatty acids. However, the most delightful part of cacao (because it creates the most delight!), is a little neurotransmitter called anandamide. Anandamide alters dopamine levels in the brain, which along with seratonin cause a sense of peace and relaxation. This is why we sometimes crave chocolate when we are miserable. Waaaaaaah! Pass the anandamide.

Raw Cashews – Why? They are so full of nutrients that cashews are sometimes called natures vitamin pill. They are full of stuff that human bodies thrive on. High in protein, fibre, good fats, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, zinc, copper, manganese these little gems also add a lovely smooth creaminess to the mixture.

Raw spinach – Why? We have all told our kids to eat their greens. High in vitamin c, vitamin k, iron and vitamin B6 to name a few we know greens are essential for our health. Sometimes however the slight bitterness of leafy greens can be off-putting to little tastebuds. Save yourself a battle if they don’t like them and let them drink them instead. The green colour is masked by the brown of the cacao powder so they don’t even know those green meanies are in there (sneaky Mum trick!).

So without further ado here is the recipe…..

 

The Little Well Beings Calm Smoothie

Serves 2 little people

1 Banana
1/2 an avocado
2 Tablespoons yoghurt (we used coconut yoghurt)
1/4 cup raw cacao powder
1/4 cup raw cashews
3/4 cup raw spinach
3 cups milk of choice (we used almond milk)
2 Tablespoons natural sweetener (optional, we use organic maple syrup)
Method: Blitz it all together in a high speed blender until smooth and delicious. Or for a bit of extra fun, have the little person measure the ingredients and blend it themselves. My friend Kiri (aged 8) and I had a smoothie date on the weekend to show you how it’s done. Here’s Kiri in the kitchen!

 

Enjoy! 

(We did!)

Love Emma

Lunchbox Love

It isn’t a particularly remarkable object – a purple plastic lunchbox with a broken, clicky lid. The sticker on the top which once spelled my eldest daughters name is now a kind of puddle stain of felt pen and ancient marmite smears. I had actually forgotten it existed. However, at some time that I don’t remember I bundled this used up object into my suitcase of most-treasured-possessions-to-never-ever-be-thrown-away. There are stones in that suitcase that I collected when I was eight and letters from my Grandma, I mean that stuff is IMPORTANT!

So how did a broken lunchbox end up with this royal status? Like many precious things it’s not actually the object itself that holds the value but the contents and meaning behind it. Do you want to have a peek inside?!

IMG_6786

 

These are my daughters lunchbox notes. Love notes, if you like, for the two girls who own my heart. Each day they went off to school or kindy I sent them with a note in their lunchbox. Most days they were scrawled on little bits of ripped up envelopes that I’d grabbed off the pile of bills on the bench. If I’d managed to get their hair tied back and shoes on in time to avoid complete morning meltdown they might have got a sticker attached. On the extremely rare occasion that I was feeling virtuous and organised (ok, next to never) I would find a pair of scissors (remarkable in itself) and they got a little heart or butterfly shaped note. With a sticker. Serious amounts of patting myself on the back happened on those days.

Butterfly note

I can’t remember the first lunchbox note that I wrote but I do know why I wrote it. I wrote it for love reinforcement. I took a minute out of every crazy morning to scrawl down those offerings because our kids go out into a really overwhelming world, and a note in their lunch makes them remember that they are loved beyond measure. All paths to happiness and wellbeing stem from the security of knowing you are loved and children cannot be reminded of this enough. Reinforce the bonds you have with your kids with small, love packed gestures, it raises their vibrations and gives them extra armour for the day ahead. It whispers “you are loveable” from underneath a marmite sandwich.

 

“The most precious gift that you can give to the child is unconditional love and acceptance,which allows the child to discover his own inner being, his authentic self, his freedom to be himself”

Swami Dhyan Giten

I love you

I encourage all Mums and Dads to find their own simple, daily expressions of love reinforcement that bring a smile to their kids faces. Lunch box notes might not be your thing! Here are some other ideas:

~ Light a candle at dinner time to celebrate being together.

~ Give your child a pebble or crystal that they can feel in their pocket whenever they need to be reminded that you love them.

~ Use touch every time you greet your child – on the shoulder, a tousle of their hair or a quick hug says “I love you” without words.

– Make up a secret hand squeeze that means “I love you”. My now teenage daughters still squeeze my hand in the way we made up when they were tiny. Sometimes words can be hard for kids when they get bigger, hand squeezes say it for you.

– Grow plants or flowers together and check on their growth every day. Nature is calming and taking the time to slow down and watch a seed grow tells your child that small things matter.
lunch box notes

 

Do you have any special love reinforcement gestures that you use in your family? If so I’d love to hear from you. Drop me an email at emma@littlewellbeings.co.nz

Wishing you love and happiness,

Emma