Thursday 12 January 2012

Child-Friendly Almanac - recipes, eating out, play ideas

Feeding and entertaining children is a delight.  It can also be tiring.  There are days when I draw a blank.  Here is my list of ideas for such days.  Most of the list are recipes and places I have tried and highly recommend but a few are on my wishlist.  I hope it might be helpful for others as well as me.  I will add to it as I discover more.  Suggestions are welcome.

My daughter, Sylvia is almost 3 years old (at the time of writing this post - I try and update it occasionally).  She is a vegetarian, who has a peanut allergy and likes plain food with lashings of tomato sauce from the shop.   (See more links to posts about her eating and a post about getting her to try food and what she is trying at age 6)  Here is some of the food that she likes eating. 

  • Boiled egg with toast
  • Toast with promite and cheese
  • Porridge
  • Leftover vegie sausages
  • Fruit
  • Smoothies (banana, fruit, oats, chia seeds, soy milk)

  • Hummus with crackers and vegies
  • Baked beans and toast
  • Sushi (we make our own with a sushi rice filling but no veg)
  • Cheeseymite scrolls from Bakers Delight or home made cheeseymite scones or cheeseymite puffs
  • Chips (would have these every day if I let her)
  • Pancakes or pikelets
  • Fruit balls
  • Fruit

Often her dinner is as basic as
  • protein (beans from a tin, edamame, plain tofu cubes, cheese slices, and [for older kids] walnuts and other nuts) 
  • carbs (pasta, rice, crackers, mashed potato or bread) and 
  • vegies (carrot sticks, cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, capsicum slices, corn on the cob, peas, broccoil, brussels sprouts, asparagus, beetroot, cauliflower)
  • fruit (apple, pear, banana, apricot, peach, nectarine, grapes, plum, pineapple, strawberries, blueberries, any berries, mandarin, orange, watermelon, cherries)
I've been gradually finding meals that we enjoy that she can share with us.  Often her meal still have fairly plain vegies with it if we have salad or is a downsized version of ours, eg when we have pizza hers is plainer than ours.

Something sweet for everyday:

Special treats

Healthy food for celebrations:

Baby puree ideas (that Sylvia liked):
  • banana and avocado
  • pumpkin, apple and peach
  • potato and broccoli
  • onion, pumpkin, lentil and carrot puree
  • rice, pumpkin, silverbeet, onion, zucchini

School Lunchbox favourites (portable and nut-free)
To see an overview of Sylvia's lunchboxes in her Prep year (age 5) check out Lunchboxes - a reflection on a year of vegetarian school lunches.  Some of the snacks I made for the lunchboxes included:

      It is not always easy to find a family-friendly cafe that has space for a stroller or a run; food that kids will eat; and friendly staff who will be flexible when faced with a fussy eater.  A few times I have consulted Hey Bambini, a great website to check out child-friendly cafes in Melbourne.  I have also recently discovered this page of restaurants/cafes with playgrounds.  (Also found this top 5 child-friendly cafes in Melbourne useful.) Here are a few favourite places.
      • Birdie Num Num, North Carlton - big yard with sandpit and toys out the back and nice kids menu. Update: CLOSED DOWN
      • CERES Café, East Brunswick - this cafe is in the midst of an environmental centre - tables are outdoors with shade and near to play areas - kids can watch hens, play in the sandpit or check out the gardens.  (UPDATE: CERES has removed the outdoor cafe but there is still one near the market place.)
      • Half Moon Cafe, Coburg- great falafels for a quick lunchtime stop in an outdoor mall, and they do chips and dips too, both of which Sylvia loves.
      • Kenzan @ the GPO, Melbourne city - not much room but they do takeaway - Sylvia loves the diy sushi and the edamame.
      • Crafternoon, Brunswick - lots of good food with an awareness of alternative dietary requirements and lots of craft fun to keep the kids amused.
      • Happy River Cafe, Footscray Arts Centre - I haven't been there yet - my family has recommended this to me - lots of space for kids.

      One great site with lots of information about big and little playgrounds is Melbourne Playgrounds.  Here are some places I love to visit for some fun:
      • Fitzroy Gardens - on the eastern edge of the city, this park is full of wonder with Captain Cook's Cottage (entrance fee), the fairy tree, the miniature tudor village, a playground and a conservatory.
      • Scienceworks, Spotwood - great museum with lots of interactive activities to amaze and amuse kids, plus an historic pumping station and a large outdoors with play equipment.
      • The Zoo - lots to see and lots of space - among the highlights are the trail of the elephants, butterfly house, giraffes, Australian animals, seals and the carousel.
      • Indoor play centres such as Dizzy's Castle in Maribyrnong and Kidzone in Coburg
      • Melbourne Botanic Gardens - the children's garden is great, there is a cafe by the lake and lots of space to run about.
      • South Melbourne Beach playground - fun play equipment by the beach with a shade cloth over it. (Update 2014: the park now has been updated with some waterplay.)
      • Melbourne Museum, Carlton - the kids section has lots of interactive activities and what kids don't like to see the stuffed animals.
      • Coburg Lake - a few different playgrounds here and ducks and geese to watch on the lake.
      • Latrobe Wildlife Sanctuary and Blackburn Lake Sanctuary - places recommended by a friend that I intend to check out.
      • Chesterfield Farm, Scoresby - lots of animals to feed, pat and learn about.
      • Riverwalk water park, Werribee - sounds an interesting place to visit in summer.
      • Hays Paddock - Kew East - an interesting playground

      Here are a few interesting places to take children on a daytrip from Melbourne.  Many of these places are not cheap but are good for a special outing.

        Farmers markets are a great way to get out of the house, get the shopping done and let the kids stretch their legs, all in a pleasant environment.  Listing are available at  These are some of my favourites for kids.
        • Collingwood - heaps of space for kids to run about, plus the entry fee ($2) also gets you entry to see the children's farm. (Second Saturday of the month)
        • Gasworks - lots of interesting spaces, with some kids music for entertainment and the South Melbourne beach playground nearby. (Third Saturday of the month)
        • St Andrews - out of town farmers market that is a chance to feel like you are in the bush - they had pony rides and kookaburras in the bush when we visited. (Every Saturday)
        • Coburg - it is in a school so there is a playground, like quite a few other farmers markets, where the kids can play (2nd and 4th Saturdays)

        Choosing movies that are suitable for preschoolers is tricky.  We have been lucky that Sylvia has not been too scared of wicked witches and Nazis.  Yet, despite Sylvia loving The Sound of Music, it took us a while to let her see the end of the movie when the Nazis chase the family through the graveyard.

        Most of the films below are ones that Sylvia has loved to see over and over as a preschooler and continues to love as a schoolgirl.  We watch films with her a lot of the time so most of them are fun for adults too.  I particularly love films like Brave and Spirited Away that have interesting characters and strong female roles.  Ghibli Studio and Aardman Studios are pretty reliable for great films.  As an adult I haven't been so enthused by the Disney movies I loved as a child.  Sylvia disagrees but parents have to give some guidance.  I also wish there were more Australian movies in my lists.

        Recently made films:
        • Brave
        • Despicable Me (and sequel)
        • Finding Nemo
        • Frozen
        • Matilda
        • Monsters Inc
        • Shrek trilogy
        • Spirited Away
        • Tangled
        • Toy Story trilogy
        More recent films:
        UPDATED 2017: I wrote the above "recent films" list in about 2014/2015 so I am updating it.  There are so many great films for kids comeing out every year.  We have seen a lot of the Ghibli movies and love them too.
        • Beauty and the Beast
        • Boxtrolls
        • Ernest and Celestine
        • How to Tame Your Dragon
        • Minions Movie
        • Oddball
        • Paddington
        • Paper Planes
        • Shaun the Sheep movie 
        • Zootopia

        Films for tweens
        UPDATED 2017: As Sylvia is now getting older, she is interested in some different sort of movies.  NB she doesn't like all of these but I live in hope that one day she will.
        • ET: the Extra Terrestial
        • Ever After
        • Freaky Friday
        • Harry Potter movies
        • Hugo
        • Nanny McPhee
        • Neverending Story
        • Parent trap (1961) 
        • Star Wars
        • Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

        Older films:
        • Annie
        • Aristocats
        • The Court Jester
        • Mary Poppins 
        • The Railway Children
        • The Ringing Singing Tree
        • Snow White
        • The Sound of Music
        • Swallows and Amazons
        • The Wizard of Oz

        Films on my wishlist to show Sylvia:
        • Babe
        • Chicken Run
        • Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
        • Coraline
        • The Lion King
        • Oliver
        • Princess Bride
        • Up
        • Wallace and Gromit films
        • Yellow Submarine

        Here are a few of the books that Sylvia loved and I found fun to read.  It is a esoteric list that reflects what we had.

        Baby books: Peepo by Janet and Allan Ahlberg, Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg, Monkey Red Monkey Blue by Nicki Greenberg, Where is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox and Judy Horacek, These are My Hands by Judy Horacek, The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, The Baby's Catalogue: Janet and Allan Ahlberg, Mog by Judith Kerr, Yo Yo Goes to Playgroup by Jeanette Rowe, Foodie Babies Wear Bibs by Michelle Sinclair Colman, and nursery rhymes.

        Preschooler books: Katie Morag books by Mairi Hedderwick, Alfie books by Shirley Hughes, Maisie comes to Morningside by Aileen Paterson,  Dr Dog by Babette Cole, Smile starring Sunny McCloud by Leigh Hodgkinson, Room on a Broom by Julia Donaldson, Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Suess, Little Mommy by Sharon Kane, Fancy Nancy books by Jane O'Connor, Possum Magic by Mem Fox, Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans, and fairytales.

        Chapter books to read to kids in early school years: Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson, Lob by Linda Newbery, Charlotte's Web by EB White, The Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton, Tashi stories by Anna Fienberg, Barbara Fienberg and Kim Gamble, Fortunately the Milk by Neil Gaiman. The Sunken Kingdom by Kim Wilkins, Nancy Drew books by Carolyn Keene, Billie B Brown books by Sally Rippin, and Clementine Rose books by Jacqueline Harvey, Spiderwick Chronicles by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black.

        Books for mid to late primary school (we still read a lot aloud to Sylvia):
        Harry Potter series by JK Rowling, Withering by Sea by Judith Rossell, Ophelia and The Marvellous Boy by Karen Foxlee, Black Cats and Butlers by Janine Beacham, the Northern Lights trilogy by Philip Pullman, Wonder by R J Palacio.

            And more ideas:


              1. I think I will certainly be referring back to this post when Baby BBB starts eating solids!

              2. I may not have kids, but luckily I'm enough of a kid myself to love prety much all these recipes :P

              3. I think I could happily enjoy most of the foods you listed, as well as the cafes with playgrounds and the parks :) Certainly the ones I know are ones I already like, although my Melbourne experience is fairly limited really. Fitzroy Gardens and the Botanic Gardens are certainly magical at any age.

              4. This is a really helpful list, thank you! I have a nephew who is pretty fussy too and we're always after ideas for him so we will definitely try your suggestions. If Ki had a say in it, all he would eat would be grandma's home made peach yoghurt and blue milkshakes. He also likes plain things and getting him to eat meals can be a struggle and since his brother was born recently it's been even harder. The current meal he's guaranteed to eat at the moment though is vegemite soldiers, he never eats the white but he loves dipping the toast fingers into the egg yolk. His mum also found that he will usually eat something from the sesame street C is for cooking cook book, as long as it closely resembles the picture in the book...

                If you're looking for places to eat near(ish) to ScienceWorks, there are a couple of places in South Kingsville that are child friendly - Famous Blue Raincoat though the service there can be slow at times, and Motorino which is a pizza/pasta place. My nephew eat a few items from the kids menu - spaghetti with butter, spaghetti with tomato or a potato pizza. They also have a good range of vegetarian pizzas there too.

              5. This is such a useful post! sylvia really is SUCH a great eater for a kid her age! And for most adults her age!

              6. That is a pretty impressive list! I don't have kids, but I love your ideas.

              7. Great post Johanna! I'm sure a mother would treasure this advice because it's so useful. And thank you so much for including my sparkling bracelet cookies! :D

              8. Thanks Lisa - I wondered about adding some of the food Sylvia was eating when she started on solids but ran out of puff - maybe will update with these but nevertheless hope it will be useful to you at some stage

                Thanks Hannah - me too - who doesn't love kids food - except for raw unseasoned tofu - Sylvia can keep that to herself!

                Thanks Kari - I agree with you about the Botanic Gardens and the Fitzroy Gardens - especially the latter - one of my favourite places to explore

                Thanks Katie - that's funny about the C is for cooking cookbook - must look it up - but it is tiring when kids don't eat the same as us - and challenging - one of my nieces loved her food so plain we asked for plain pasta at a restaurant once and she refused to eat it because it was tossed with olive oil - she eats well now which gives me hope for Sylvia. And thanks so much for the Scienceworks recommendations - am going to post about our visit tomorrow - have been to the famous blue raincoat but need to go back because I was only there for a party

                Thanks Joanne - Sylvia does eat well but rarely finishes what is on her plate and goes hot and cold on quite a few things on the list - but there are times I feel she eats better than me

                Thanks Cakelaw - most of us have some kids in our lives so hopefully this will be useful to those without kids too

                Thanks Lorraine - was pleased I found the bracelets in my bookmarks as I think Sylvia is ready to just love these right now

              9. What a great resource for people with kids. :) I love the fun kid food idea list.

              10. Those are fantastic ideas......
                Thanks for sharing.......

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