In Ramadan it becomes especially tempting to just focus on the Muslims in our community. I wanted to be proactive about this tendency and decided it would be a great time to share some food with an important and often overlooked demographic in our community: the homeless (not that they are some monolithic entity that congregates in one place).
Last year, I came to know about a group called YYC Helping Homeless (I have mentioned them in a blog post here). I wanted to buy some food to donate as well as prepare some food for them to have at their weekly fiestas. Since I also wanted to involve my daughter, I decided to bake muffins (we made banana, banana-blueberry, and banana chocolate chip).
As discussed in past posts, baking is a great sensorimotor experience. Not only do children get to see, touch and smell different ingredients, but they get to learn about the properties of food. I know it can be daunting to let a toddler handle unboiled eggs, but I’d rather have a toddler who had a few accidents along the way and was competent and confident in the kitchen by the time they hit grade school than still be packing their lunches into university *ahem mom ahem*. It is impressive how quickly they start incorporating the language you use to describe things in their own vocabularies (just the other day my daughter was talking about “powdery flour”).
Baking also reinforces numerical skills like measuring, fractions and children’s abilities to follow directions. It can also help with instant gratification. Children will start to understand that typically, eating requires cooking. Not everything is readily available from the fridge and pantry. Sometimes, they have to wait or things to finish cooking and cooling off before they can enjoy them.
Cooking with children also does wonders for hygiene! If you have a young child who is constantly running away after using the toilet without washing hands, only to have to drag them back to the sink, try presenting an opportunity like cooking, that necessitates handwashing before they can handle new and exciting ingredients.
The method we followed was pretty generic but one thing I did find interesting when we were baking this time is as my daughter becomes older and more experienced, she can do more. While I finished off mixing the batter, she excitedly lined the muffin trays with paper cups, using fine motor skills. If you are working on counting, get your child to count as they line the muffin tray.
While my daughter was a little young to discuss social realities like homelessness in detail, talk to your preteens about it. Encourage them to reflect on their own blessings and solicit them for ideas on how things like homelessness can be resolved. Sometimes children have beautifully simple insight into the most complex problems.