Child CareGrowing upPlaytimeRecipe

Dough of Love

Shawna shares how her little chef, Ian, continues the family tradition of helping out in the kitchen, while having a whale of a time whipping up mouth-watering pizzas.

Not many children will naturally flock to the kitchen. For Shawna Yuen, a mother of 2, Ian, three and a half, and Megan, 10 months, she found a handy little kitchen helper in her son, Ian.

Ian started showing interest in helping out around the kitchen about a year ago. He was old enough to identify ingredients and focus on finishing an activity, like putting toppings on his mum’s whole wheat pizza—his favourite dish.

Ian is like any toddler who  is full of curiosity and boundless energy. When he’s not playing with his ‘Hot Wheels’ or ‘Lego’ blocks, you can hardly keep up with his leaping and jumping.

Shawna and her husband, Anthony understand that this stage in their son’s life is all about learning through play and exploring. . She wanted to tap on this window for learning by  involving him in the kitchen. From arranging pizza toppings to baking cakes and decorating lollipop cookies, food is not the only thing mother and son create. The bigger reward is the happy moments generated together that will become part of their precious shared memories.

Mummy-son bonding time

Her kitchen is a place for fun and creativity.

For Shawna, many memories are made in the kitchen. Her earliest recollection is helping her mum out when she was in primary school to make pork dumplings and Chinese New Year goodies.

“Most old folks would keep the children out of the kitchen because they only add on to the work. But my mum encouraged my brother and I to help her out in chopping, mixing, pouring and tasting”, she says fondly.

It is one of the memories she cherishes and hopes to create for her children as they grow up. She adds that she loves her kitchen activities with Ian and looks forward to them every time. Unlike Ian’s dad who prefers frolicking in parks and playgrounds with their boy, she delights in their mother-son time over familiar aromas, talking and giggling in her kitchen.

Once upon a time, the only dish she could cook was a microwave meal. But when Ian came along, she chose to become a stay-at-home mum and started experimenting with meals for the family.

Shawna was a full-time graphic designer for a creative agency but chose to give up her job and devote her time to her kids. “I decided on a stay-at-home arrangement so that I can keep an eye on them and spend as much time together while they’re young.

When asked what her secret is in making her parent-child bonding time extra special, she says: “A LOT of patience! And be ready to clean up!”

Beside homemade pizzas, wholemeal lollipop cookies are also a hit with Ian and his friends. Recently, Shawna organised a play date where the kids decorated her baked cookies with icing sugar and candies. “It was a bit crazy to see sticky fingers and frosting everywhere! But it was a lot of fun for the kids and us mummies,” she says with a laugh.

A rich learning environment

“Be ok with the mess and don’t worry about what your kitchen will look like afterwards,” says Shawna.

The kitchen offers a variety of sensory stimulations and abundant opportunities for learning and exploring.

Through taking and giving instructions, as well as processes such as mixing, weighing, mashing, pouring and stirring, children get to improve their fine motor development, speech development, perceptual and sequencing skills.

Shawna proudly says that Ian can identify his veggies very well. She adds that including him at this young age will make him feel more comfortable in the kitchen as he grows older.

She also thinks that giving him enough space in the kitchen boosts his confidence and helps him become more creative. “It is important that he is fully involved in the food preparation and cooking process.”

A perfect combination of fun and creativity

Ian gets his hands dirty in the kitchen.

Another bonus—involving children in the choices and the preparation of food really is the greatest way to get them to try new food!

For her homemade pizza, she prepares the dough while Ian takes care of rolling it out into single portion sizes. Prior to cooking, she pre-measures and sorts the ingredients in individual bowls.

“Mama, the pizza’s already done,” says Ian. He has done this several times, even during cooking play dates with his friends. He knows his pizza is ready just by the scrumptious smell of toasted pizza dough.

The pizza comes with toppings such as ham, pineapples, olives, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. It is light and chewy—cooked to perfection—just like what a Neapolitan pizza should be.

Ian may just be well on his way to owning his own pizzeria in 15 years time, and he has his mum to thank for that.

Who knows, she could just have inspired her little one to become the next Iron Chef.

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