Homemade pizza Submitted photo

When I reach far back into my kindergarten days, I find many great memories. I had an excellent teacher who had no children of her own. I think she must have considered each of us her children. She was a nice mix of structure and fun. She wasn’t stern, but she was firm, and we all knew not to push her when told to do something. She was also a great storyteller and offered kindness that I’m sure some children didn’t get at home.

However, when it came to creativity, she was a rule follower. We often did creative projects, but the sky is blue, and the grass is green; don’t ask questions. Today I recall our tussle about drawing and coloring apple trees. I added different sized limbs and apples that randomly dotted those limbs and the part that got me into trouble. I tore off the paper from the oversized green crayon (mistake one) and, using the side of it, colored over the limbs and outside of the tree outline. I saw that trees are not perfectly symmetrical, but rather their limbs stick out here and there. Usually a rule follower, my feelings were crushed.

Without the concern of being judged, I believe it’s wise to encourage creativity, especially in children. It’s good for their soul. I think constantly judging leads children to give up being creative. When we homeschooled, each sibling took turns planning a menu and making lunch. In several areas, it gave them a sense of accomplishment. As I told my wee ones, don’t worry if making sugar cookies took all day, the important thing is that you enjoyed making them.

Sandwiches and pizza are fantastic options for introducing kitchen creativity to toddlers and older children. These are also terrific options for young caregivers helping take care of siblings and other loved ones. Give them a few options while talking about flavor combinations, then let their imaginations take over.

Fruit and nut butter sandwiches: Use peanut, almond, or cashew butter and slices of banana, strawberries, or pears – added spices such as cinnamon or herbs for additional flavor. Turkey or chicken slices are options for extra protein. Suggest using hummus or cream cheese instead of nut butter and add sprouts or lettuce. Encourage children to explore different types of bread and fillings.

Pizza: I’ve never met a kid who didn’t love making pizza. It gives kids a chance to handle dough without concern about its appearance. Explore using bread, naan or English muffins. Kids will eat what they make, so get all the colors in – red or orange peppers on a white or red sauce, chopped broccoli, roasted Brussel sprouts or sliced tomatoes! Most meats, fish, and seafood go with any combination of vegetables and cheese. Sprinkle with chopped fresh herbs after baking.

Cooking and baking, whether at home or in traditional school settings, is an excellent opportunity for adults to step back and observe while giving kids a safe place to express their creativity.

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