Cabin Fever and Cooking With Kids

As I lay in bed yesterday, serenely drinking my fourth cup of tea, I pondered what recipes I could share with parents struggling to cope with having the kids home 24 hours a day. The answer? I can’t. I have no clue what special hell you’re going through.

I know some parents are already climbing the walls faster than their little darlings can climb the furniture and are developing a whole new respect for the teaching profession. But I don’t have kids. Please don’t hate me. I am in loco parentis only to two cats, three hens and a bantam cock, which leaves me unqualified to give you advice on how to keep your children happily occupied. Not that this will stop me, of course. 

Letting them cook splendidly messy things apparently works, assuming you have the ingredients in this time of shortages, and don’t mind adding to your burden by cleaning up behind them. I’ve seen a few pictures of people smiling in a carefree fashion while their kids create havoc in the kitchen and I am deeply sceptical, but then I don’t wear a halo or walk on water, either. It’s your house, go for it. 

I thought about recipes for home-made sweets but most of them involve ingredients heated to volcanic temperatures (except coconut ice, look it up). There are umpteen cut-out-cookie recipes online and I think Nigella’s is the best. Grab yourself a set of dinosaur biscuit cutters and unleash Jurassic Park in your home, hopefully without the gory bits, but who knows with kids?

Apple flapjacks

I’m quite partial to my recipe for apple flapjacks. It’s egg- and flour-free. There are rock cakes and fairy cakes if you do have the flour to spare. Easy flatbread pizzas mean they can assemble their own toppings. The food writer Sumayya Usmani has been tying geography lessons to what she cooks with her children for lunch, which is ingenious, and you can claim you’re also improving their manual dexterity.

Maybe give the older ones a notebook and get them to write and illustrate their own cookbook? It’ll probably last for about three recipes but it’s worth a try. Anything for ten minutes in which you can run away and have a shower in peace. Come to think of it, these days they’d probably be recording and editing their own TV programme instead. You never know, they might become the next YouTube sensation and they’ll be able to keep you in your old age.

If you have space in the garden or even a window box, you can get them growing easy things like radishes, lettuces and herbs. Peas germinate quickly, too, and if you don’t have much room you can always treat them as micro herbs and just eat the shoots. Marigolds (calendula oficianalis) and nasturtiums are fast-growing flowers and also edible (but check the packet).

It’s nearly Easter … dye some eggs? This links to an old article, so any competition will have to be kept in the family, but it details some handy techniques. Staying on the artistic front, my friend Jemimah Knight (log into Facebook to open the link) is producing the loveliest colouring-in sheets, which she’ll send if you ask nicely. Still waiting for her to do one featuring cooking chaos.

I’m running out of steam here, which is probably one thing I have in common with hard-pressed parents. Stuck inside my own home, I’ve been enjoying the leisure to cook other people’s recipes. I particularly enjoyed Lara Lee’s mie goreng from her soon to be published book Coconut and Sambal, reproduced here in the Guardian. And if you’re new to bread making, have a look at Lynn’s helpful post over at Ink, Sugar & Spice

There are lots of good cooks and food writers offering ideas and how-to videos at the moment, but if you have any specific queries for me, feel free to drop me a message via the Ask Mrs Portly page at the top of the blog or get in touch through social media. Happy cooking. Keep in touch and stay sane.

14 thoughts on “Cabin Fever and Cooking With Kids

  1. My kids are grown up with kids of their own, but many years ago I used to teach an after school cookery class for Junior school children and I still recall what fun we had. Looking forward to my grandsons being old enough to do some cooking with.
    I’m currently craving chocolate and would love to discover a good Rocky Road recipe. There are tons on line but no 2 are the same!
    Love and best wishes to you in Suffolk – I bet the countryside looks stunning. x

    • Hi Penny, it must be so hard not be able to see your family right now. Hope you’re all well. And yes, although we’re confined to barracks just bow, the garden at least is glorious, a riot of daffodils. I will ask my Australian friend for a good Rocky Road recipe … watch this space! Lxxx

  2. All great ideas! My daughter is having her own special hell, as you called it. The 5 year old is good with projects of any kind, and she’s very smart, but then the 2 year old comes in and knocks things over, in his brutish boy way. So they can’t really do anything, just the three of them. They haven’t come up here yet because of their quarantine, but it will help when they can visit. There will be enough adults where the two kids can be separated. I also admire what all the young moms are going through these days.

    • It must be really difficult for her. I’ll bet she’s longing to be able to come to your house and share the load! Thanks for stopping by here, Mimi. Stay well. xxx

  3. Thank you – a superb list. Trying to fill the days with my almost 5 year old means he is helping with dinner most nights – stirring, chopping. We’ve also been baking as much as egg availability allows.

    If the idea of kitchen knives for children doesn’t terrify you, these are wonderful:

    They arent sharp but can be used to chop up fruit and some vegetables.

  4. Our youngest is, thankfully, living with us at the moment. Even though she’s 25, top of my list when things started disappearing off the shelves was butter, eggs and flour so that we could still bake together. Her repertoire is bigger than that now, of course, but a joint baking session still lifts us on bad days. As do your continuing blogs. Thank you and stay safe x

    • You too, Sue, and thank you very much. I am running out of butter and flour so I’m having to curb my baking, but there’s something very comforting about it. xxx

  5. Well, at times like these I feel lucky to be a rather bookish homebody. This social distancing thing comes pretty naturally… 😉 Give me a good book to read or a movie to watch and throw is a few YouTube video and some herbal tea, and I’m perfectly content.

    And it’s nice to keep in touch with friends virtually. I’m getting longer and more frequent emails and messages and phone calls. I think we’re all rediscovering the joys of correspondence.

    Stay well! –Frank

    • That’s a very good point, Frank. I think all our ‘phone bills are going to be bigger this quarter! And like you, I’m quite content to be pottering. The work situation is tough for freelances and the self-employed in particular, though.

  6. great post (as ever!) – flattered you think my post is worthy of inclusion! I did laugh out loud at ‘special hell’. I think it must be exceptionally difficult for parent’s of young children but also it’s probably in some ways keeping more normality going. I’ve got older kids, so I have been through looking after them at infant ages, yet obviously not under these conditions. Young children can get bored easily and need a lot of attention but they’re also hilarious and you have to provide them with routine, which must mean there’s some routine and normality for the parent’s too. I don’t for a minute think it’s not hard but keeping yourself busy when you’ve no little ones to provide for is tough too – my mum’s climbing the walls with boredom for instance – I doubt anyone’s getting away with this situation unscathed. For me, it’s a challenge providing enough food for two 19 year old giants – they’re keeping themselves amused and have Uni work still – but they eat so, so much and we are trying not to go shopping more than once a week. Keep you and yours safe. Lots of love xxx

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