Rainy days with kids

“I’m so bored! There is nothing to do!” Do you dread hearing those words from your kids this Winter? Instead of plugging them into the latest tv-game or DVD movie, remember there are alternatives to keep them occupied. Keep this activity list handy for those inevitable rainy days. 

Have a bird cake tea party
Birds sometimes have a hard time finding a good source of nutrients during the colder Winter months when their food is scarce, so treat them to a delicious, easy to make seed cake bird feeder. Take a few empty yoghurt pots and make a small hole in the bottom of each. Thread a string through the holes, with a knot on the inside, so that it can be tied to a tree later. Now, into the kitchen for the fun part! Take turns squishing some birdseed, raisins, peanuts, grated cheese and lard or margerine into a mixing bowl. Once everyone has had a turn at mixing, fill the yoghurt pots with the bird cake mix and place into the fridge to set for about one hour. When the cakes have hardened, hang them outside and wait for all the feathery friends to arrive. Enjoy a pot of tea and a slice of human chocolate cake whilst watching the birds feast!

Funk up your junk 
Instead of filling up a landmine with junk – funk it up with these nifty ideas. Make a day of it with other families and ask them to empty out their craft cupboards or recycling bins, and to bring containers, boxes, bottles and any other bits and pieces they have lying around. Provide glue, sticky tape, a stapler, kitchen foil, paint, scissors and a good sense of humour, as you encourage everyone to let their imaginations run wild! You could make anything from a junk Robocop superhero, plastic doll’s house, egg box boat or something completely modern. Even better, combine everyone’s masterpieces into one giant model and get in touch with an art gallery to view your piece! (or not!)

Go on a treasure hunt adventure
Kids love a good treasure hunt, and in rainy weather, it is a great boredom-buster! Buy a few small treats like chocolate or small toys and hide them in interesting places all over the house. Write down clues for each object, and depending on the explorer’s age, you can make the clues fairly simple or quite cryptic. Each clue should lead your little treasure hunter to the pot of gold. This game is also great when played after dark, where the kids can search with a torch. Let them take pictures of their monumentous discoveries with a digital camera, before eating or playing with it! 

Have fun with play dough
Ready-made play dough is easily available in toy shops, but it’s just so easy to make – and mixing your own is half the fun you and your kids can have. All you need is a cup of plain flour, a quarter cup of salt, a sprinkle of cooking oil, food colouring, half a cup of water and some glitter to add some sparkle. Take turns with your children to knead this altogether, slowly adding the liquids to the flour and salt, until it’s spongy and feels like scone dough. Bring out some plastic cookie cutters to make interesting shapes and creative doughy objects. Voila! It’s play time! 

Create an indoor fortress 
Blankets, tablecloths, a few cushions and some torches are all you need to transform a dull evening into an evening spent in a magical fortress from a faraway land – or for the boys – the Batcave! Drape blankets and tablecloths over couches and chairs and create a soft landing with some cushions, or even a mattress. Now that your fort is ready, play some music to add to the mood and snuggle undercover with a book or your imagination, to tell some fantastical stories. Other options include colouring in or playing a fun board game to pass the time. Make sure you’ve got some yummy ‘midnight’ 10pm snacks and juice on the ready and camp out for the night. 

Make your own homemade story tape 
Being stuck indoors all day is the perfect time to make your own story tape. Get the kids together and ask them to choose their favourite story from off the bookshelf. Once they’ve chosen, sit them down with a tape recorder, a blank tape and some odds and ends to make sounds with, like beans in a box or water that can be poured from one glass to the other. Making a tape can become quite a production if a few kids are also invited over to participate. Each child can read for a while, or can take on the part of a character in the book and can also take turns to make the appropriate noises and sound effects. Make sure the kids sign the tape cover and make a copy for each of them to take home. A homemade tape makes for a great present for elderly members of the family to brighten their day!

Bake some cookies for the firemen
There’s nothing better than the smell of fresh cookies baking in the oven. Gather your children into the kitchen, making sure their hands are washed and they’re wearing old clothes for that inevitable spill or flour explosion. All you need is one and a half cups of sugar, one cup of flour, five teaspoons of butter, three teaspoons of honey and some oil for greasing the pan. Mixing all the ingredients together, get your hands sticky until you’ve formed a slightly stiff dough. Roll into small balls and place on a tray, baking for about 12 minutes until honey-brown. When the cookies have cooled, divide them between yourselves, making a pile for your local community fire station. Get the kids to each write a card to the firemen telling them how much they’re appreciated for all the hard work they do in putting out fires. Hand deliver this delightful package the next day.

Make your own music with kitchen cutlery and crockery
You have a whole orchestra in your kitchen – you just haven’t realised it yet! Pots and pans make excellent drums when beaten with a wooden spoon. And let’s not forget, glasses filled to varied levels with water and a teaspoon can make a truly magical, tinkling tune, reminiscent of a glockenspiel. If you’re a tenant in a high-rise flat, this activity might upset the neighbours, but just maybe you might be able to impress them with the melodic sounds coming from your kitchen. Add to this your own voice, fun songs, and you have a choir and an orchestra… home-grown!

Have an indoor picnic 
Who says a picnic has to be in the great outdoors? It can be just as fun having it inside the house. Perfect for making mealtimes more exciting, kids can get involved moving the lounge furniture out of the way and laying a picnic blanket over the floor. Print out some sunny day pictures from the computer, like a beach or forest scene, and stick them up on the walls to create a picnic mood. Pack a basket with some of your kids favourite goodies – or even better – get them to help prepare the picnic basket, including some cheese sarmies, salads and of course some cake or chocolate for dessert. Eat out of paper-plates to save on washing up, while enjoying a good time with your family. Food just tastes better when eaten on a blanket!

Take a walk in the rain anyway! 
Yes, some might argue it’s better to stay inside where it’s warm, but there is so much fun to be had outdoors, enjoying the rain – with a raincoat and wellies on, of course! If the rain is not too heavy and there’s no thunder and lightning, take the dog with you (if you have one) and go for a walk, looking for earthworms and splashing in mud-puddles. Watch the weather, paying close attention to the clouds and see what the little ones want to talk about. After you’ve had your fun, go back inside, dry yourselves off and enjoy a cup of hot chocolate, marshmallows and buttery rusks together. 

Author: Charlene Yared-West, Fresh Living Magazine, July 2010, p66. 

Go nuts! Nuts and seeds are good for you.

Feeling guilty about that snack of mixed nuts you just couldn’t deny? Well, believe it or not – there are good reasons to make nuts and seeds an essential part of your everyday diet.

For many years, nuts and seeds have been given a bad name for being high in fat. Thank goodness this myth has been debunked by American nutty professors and scientists alike, in at least five different studies, showing the impact of nuts and seeds on heart health. Here’s the lowdown on our top ten nuts and seeds and why we’re simply nutty about them!

Nutty all-rounder almonds
Not only do almonds have a wonderful flavour, but they also help to lower cholesterol levels in the blood and reduce the risk of heart disease, says Pick n Pay dietitian, Teresa Del Fabbro. “They are also rich in vitamin E, an anti-oxidant that helps to prevent oxidation in cell membranes and other tissues, and are a useful source of calcium, which builds strong bones and teeth and keeps them strong,” she says. 

Good night hazzzzzZZZZZZZZelnuts
Hazelnuts are no doubt a firm favourite for chocolatiers, but they are also noted for being a good bedtime snack. High in the amino acid tryptophan, you will be guaranteed more Zs during the night!  In addition, although hazelnuts are relatively high in fat, they are also significantly high in anti-oxidants that can protect against several types of cancer. 

Lean, mean, green pistachios
“Pistachios are relatively low in kilojoules compared to other nuts,” says Del Fabbro. “They are also a good source of fibre, protein, anti-oxidants and mono-unsaturated fatty acids which help to lower cholesterol levels.” For the health conscious, it is best to snack on unsalted, raw pistachios and not the salted, oil-roasted version. 

Wonderful walnuts 
A study published in the journal of the American College of Cardiology in 2006, showed that eating walnuts after a fatty meal helped to reduce the effects of clogging up the blood vessels. Other studies have also shown that eating walnuts can help your cardiovascular system, help improve brain functioning, protect your bones and even prevent gallstones. They also contain melatonin, which helps to regulate sleep. 

Chew on a few cashews
Originating from Brazil, cashews contain iron, which is essential for red blood cell function, as well as magnesium for energy and bone growth, phosphorus for strong teeth and bones, zinc for digestion and metabolism, and selenium, which helps to protect the body from cancer. Cashews also help to promote a healthy heart.

Cancer-crunching pecans
Perhaps best known for their role in the delicious pecan-pie, pecan nuts are also a good source of a variety of vitamins and minerals. “Because they are quite high in calories, pecan nuts should be eaten in moderation,” says Del Fabbro. “Pecan nuts also have anti-cancer effects and are also a good source of vitamin E.” 

Marvellous mouth-watering macadamias
Macadamia trees were first grown for their ornamental value, until someone discovered how delicious the nut was! Nutritionally, Macadamias are a rich source of B-complex vitamins, for metabolism, and fibre, for healthy digestion. Even though it has a relatively high kilojoule count compared to other nuts and must be eaten moderately, it contains anti-oxidants, which decreases the risk of certain types of cancer. 

Leading little linseed 
“Linseeds may help manage menopausal symptoms, and they are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids,” says Del Fabbro. “Rich in fibre, they can also help to relieve constipation and regulate the digestive system.”  Because linseeds are small, it is a good idea to grind them in order to release the nutrients.

Simply superb sesame seeds
“Sesame seeds help to protect the body from free radicals,” says Del Fabbro. “Sesame seeds are also a source of phytic acid, which may inhibit colon cancer, and also contains magnesium and calcium.” Eating sesame seeds in moderation could also provide relief from arthritis and help to improve vascular and respiratory health. 
These seeds should be ground down before they are eaten in order to obtain their nutritional value.

Pretty powerful pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin seeds, best eaten fresh, are very good for men’s prostate health. They also support the immune system, lower cholesterol levels and assist people suffering from arthritis, as they have an anti-inflammatory effect. Pumpkin seeds are also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, and zinc for improved metabolism and digestion.

Don’t go completely nuts! Exercise moderation…
In 2003, the FDA approved the following health claim for a variety of nuts; “Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating about 44g per day of most nuts as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.” 

Pick n Pay dietitian, Teresa Del Fabbro agrees; “Even though the types of fatty acids found in nuts are healthy, fat is still kilojoule-dense and therefore portion sizes must be controlled. Using nuts and seeds as a topping, rather than a snack, can help to incorporate them in the right quantities,” she says. 

The lowdown on nuts and seeds

  • Nuts and seeds can certainly add important nutrients, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, vitamins, minerals and fibre to the diet. They also add flavour, texture and interest to dishes.
  • All nuts and seeds are cholesterol-free as they are plant foods. Plain versions are usually the healthiest option (e.g. plain cashews versus salted and roasted cashews).

Author: Charlene Yared-West, Fresh Living Magazine, April 2010, p52.