With the winter weather forcing kids to play indoors, keeping them engaged — and from tearing apart the house — can become a challenge for parents within a couple of days. Instead of turning on a movie or caving in to video games, plan a couple of fun and edible activities your kids' next snow day or school holiday.
Our suggestions for edible snacks comes with a caveat: playing with your food is not always bad, especially when the food is meant to be played with. Give kids a chance to be creative by making their own pizzas with flour tortillas instead of yeasted dough. Decorate healthy snacks like you would a cake, and kids will be excited to have them in their school lunches. And once you discover edible play dough, your days of fishing tutti-frutti Play-Doh out of your children’s mouths will finally be over.
Make Your Own Pizzas
If you have lots of time, or are hosting a make-your-own-pizza party, you can make your own pizza dough. But, if it’s just you and the kids, use plain 6 or 8-inch flour tortillas instead of the dough for an easier alternative (plus, there are fewer carbohydrates). Prepare lots of healthy bite-sized toppings for the kids to pick and choose from, including diced grilled chicken, sliced red peppers, mushrooms, pineapple, ham, raisins, turkey sausage, and diced broccoli florets. Create happy face pizzas, using the peppers for a smile, pineapple for eyes, and broccoli for curly hair.
What you need: Flour tortillas, plain marinara sauce, grated mozzarella cheese, assorted toppings.
1. Place tortillas on a foil-lined baking sheet.
2. Spread the tortilla lightly with tomato sauce.
3. Sprinkle cheese on top.
4. Decorate with toppings as desired.
5. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven until the cheese is melted and bubbly and serve.
Designer Granola Bars
If you’ve ever looked at the ingredient list on a package of granola bars, you might have been surprised to see all sorts of unnatural additives like high-fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, and caramel color. Instead of purchasing these store-variety sugar bombs (you might as well serve your kids candy), instead turn making homemade granola bars for their lunchboxes or after school snack into a fun activity that you can do together.
To personalize your bars, start with a basic granola recipe and then add your own combination of flavorings or toppings to create a custom bar. This basic recipe combines cinnamon, toasted pecans, and dried cranberries in the bars, but we’d try some of these more exotic flavor combinations:
Tropical: Substitute the pecans for macadamia nuts, and then replace the dried cranberries with a mixture of sweetened flaked coconut and chopped dried mango.
Dried Cherry and Almond: Swap the pecans and cranberries for chopped toasted almonds and dried cherries.
Chocolate Peanut Butter: Instead of the sugar, nuts, and raisins, add in peanut butter and your favorite kind of chocolate chips.
Oatmeal Raisin: Substitute raisins for the dried cranberries and pecans, and increase the amount of cinnamon.
Maple Walnut: Substitute maple syrup for sugar, and add in chopped toasted walnuts.
Edible Play Dough
Be warned that this dough is very good when eaten, but contains a fair amount of sugar for little tummies. So, before you let your children have the dough (as they will eat their creations), make sure that they have already had a simple, yet nutritious lunch that will act as a buffer to the slight sugar rush.
What you need: Peanut butter, honey, confectioners’ sugar, optional nuts, raisins, and/or play dough tools for creating shapes and patterns.
1. Combine 1 cup peanut butter, ½ cup honey, and 2 cups confectioners’ sugar together in a large bowl.
2. Mix with a spoon until well-combined (depending on your ingredients, you may need more honey or peanut butter if the dough is too try, or more confectioners’ sugar if it is too sticky).
3. Give the dough to your kids and watch them play. We’re partial to edible play dough “cookies,” little rounds rolled thin and decorated with raisins and peanuts.
Another favorite childhood activity is making mud pies outside with dirt. Instead, get dirty in the kitchen and create miniature dirt cakes with your children that are actually edible.
The basic ingredients for dirt cake are pudding, crushed chocolate wafer cookies, and of course, a gummy worm. These are layered however you please in small terracotta flower pots (make sure they’re clean), but you can also use mugs or even a baking pan with at least 2-inch sides. We’ve also seen dirt cakes decorated with real flowers; just stick a trimmed drinking straw into the cake and then place the flower stem into the straw.
1. If using terracotta flower pots, cover up the drainage hole with a chocolate wafer.
2. Layer pudding and cookie crumbs into pots, beginning and ending with the crumbs.
3. Garnish puddings with gummy worm and let chill for at least an hour in the refrigerator. Add optional straw and flower just before serving.
Ants on a Log
This is a healthy snack that appeals to both kids and adults. Traditionally, ants on a log are made with celery, peanut butter, and raisins, but you can also experiment with swiss chard stems, cream cheese, dried cherries, dried cranberries, and more.
What you need: Celery stalks, peanut butter, raisins, knife.
1. Fill washed, trimmed, and dried stalks of celery with peanut butter.
2. Dot filling with raisins, like ants walking on a log.