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With February half-term and Spring break coming up, it’s always good to have some ideas and recipes to turn to for the children to keep busy. There are lots of really straightforward activities to try with kids in the kitchen and they’ll love the idea of rolling up their sleeves and getting a bit messy. Let’s start with some ideas for making homemade bread, pizza and pasta, to introduce the technique of kneading.

Bread and pasta dough recipes will often involve a little bit of kneading, which is a great kitchen skill for young children to practice – helping them to build up their control and muscles, as well as encouraging them to connect with their food by making items from scratch. Kneading is really all about creating texture and developing the gluten in the flour. It can also allow the dough to hold tiny pockets of gas, which will help with rising, in the case of bread, or elasticity, in the case of pasta. Although you can use a mixer with a dough hook or a bread machine, kneading by hand is much more fun! Just remember to set out a floured table or board, and then get the children to use the heels of their hands to flatten and stretch the dough. Dough containing yeast should then be left to rise or prove, whilst pasta can be wrapped in clingfilm and left to rest for a little while.

If you are new to bread making, it’s probably best to start with a recipe that requires a little kneading. Soda bread is very quick and rewarding to make. Or try a batch of easy flatbreads, which can be rustled up in no time using just four ingredients; flour, salt, baking powder and plain yoghurt. Once made the bread is ideal for mopping up homemade vegetable soup or healthy dips. Once everyone’s mastered the very basic recipes, move onto something simple using yeast. Pizza dough is a great place to start, because the children can get lots of kneading practice in and enjoy creating their pizza with different toppings. Next, move onto a basic bread recipe to build up those kneading skills. Then, try using your bread to make simple eggy bread for breakfast.

Homemade egg pasta dough is also very straightforward to make, and will help the kids to really get those kneading skills down to a tee. The dough is made with eggs and ‘00’ Italian pasta flour. When it comes to making pasta dough, Jamie’s advice is to “bash the dough about a bit with your hands, squashing it into the table, reshaping it, pulling it, stretching it, squashing it again.” What could be more fun for the kids?!

You can also watch this video together on Perfect Pasta Dough with Gennaro, who adds a little semolina to his pasta dough and offers some more advice on kneading technique. To go with pasta, children like simple sauces the best and a really good sauce to get the kids involved in making is a basil pesto. The kids can pretty much make the whole recipe themselves using a pestle and mortar to bash up some garlic, with a pinch of salt, adding in basil leaves and pine nuts until they have a thick paste. A drizzle of olive oil and some freshly grated Parmesan will finish their homemade pesto off nicely.

Why not let the children have a go at some of these ideas for making bread, pizza and pasta at home when they’re off? Let me know how you get on.

About the author

Ren Behan is a well-known food writer and mum-of-two based in Hertfordshire in the UK. She grew up in a food-loving Polish household and now writes a popular family-friendly and seasonally-inspired blog at www.renbehan.com. Ren enjoys cooking with her two children, aged 6 and 4.

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