February 2015: What did you do today?




The children rarely need any encouragement to use Emma’s hand-operated sewing machine and will usually wait very patiently for a turn.  During February we made bean bags.  The children chose their own fabric from a large selection of donated offcuts.  The children turn the handle of the machine and, under Emma’s guidance, change the settings so the machine goes backwards or forwards and learn how to lift the ‘foot’ so the fabric can be turned round.  They chose their filling (lentils, black eye beans, wheat) and used a spoon to fill the bag, before sewing up the remaining side.


What do they learn?  As well as patience and turn-taking, it is an activity that requires good listening skills and the ability to understand an instruction.  Listening and paying attention to safety information is essential as the machine has moving parts which could cause an injury.  The children appreciate that it is a ‘real’ activity and that is definitely part of the attraction.  They are usually fascinated by the way the reel turns round, the thread moves and the needle goes up and down and some children like to look inside the machine to watch the mechanism.  The children also practise fine motor skills (snipping thread, filling the bag, moving levers) and gross motor skills (turning the handle).  Then there is the pride and satisfaction gained from making something that you can take home and play with.  It’s fantastic to see their reactions when parents turn up and see what they have made.  Don’t ever underestimate how much your opinion of their creations matters to them.



·         If you have a sewing machine at home, perhaps you could try making something simple with your child, eg, bunting for a bedroom or birthday party.  It’s quite easy to make a simple ‘sleeping bag’ for a soft toy.

·         Other ‘real’ activities might include gardening (planting seeds for the summer or potatoes) or cooking – see below for some recipes.



The children have participated in another Bake and Share Lunch and are becoming accustomed to the routine now.


Several children helped Anna to make the Melting Moment biscuits including weighing and mixing.  The dough was made into balls and then rolled in oats before being baked.  Others helped Gabby to make the bread rolls; weighing, mixing, kneading and rolling.  There was also LOTS of chopping involved in preparing the salad (lettuce, tomatoes, pepper, cucumber and carrot) as well as the fruit to accompany the biscuits for pudding.


It’s great to see the children so involved in the preparation and several of them prepared to try something different.  Several had second and even third helpings of the macaroni cheese.


Please let us know if you have any ideas or recipes to try for Bake and Share Lunches.


RECIPES to use at home:



·         250g/9oz macaroni

·         40g/1½oz butter

·         40g/1½ plain flour

·         600ml/1pint 1½fl oz milk

·         250g/9oz grated cheddar

·         50g/2oz grated parmesan (or a similar vegetarian alternative)

1.     Cook the macaroni in a large saucepan of boiling water for 8-10 minutes; drain well and set aside.

2.     Melt the butter over a medium heat in a saucepan slightly larger than that used for the macaroni. Add the flour and stir to form a roux, cooking for a few minutes.

3.     Gradually whisk in the milk, a little at a time. Cook for 10-15 minutes to a thickened and smooth sauce.

4.     Meanwhile, preheat the grill to hot. [NOTE: We baked ours in the oven]

5.     Remove the sauce from the hob, add 175g/6oz of the cheese and stir until the cheese is well combined and melted.

6.     Add the macaroni to the sauce and mix well. Transfer to a deep suitably-sized ovenproof dish.

7.     Sprinkle over the remaining cheddar and the parmesan and place the dish under the hot grill [or in oven]. Cook until the cheese is browned and bubbling. Serve straightaway.


BREAD ROLLS (Best eaten on the day you make them)

1 lb strong white bread flour

1.5 tsp salt (we left this out)

2 tsp caster sugar

1.5 tsp easy blend dried yeast

9 fl oz milk

1 oz butter

1 egg (optional as glaze)

Heat oven to 220 deg C or gas mark 7

1.     Sift flour (and salt if using) into large bowl.  Stir in sugar and yeast.  Make a hollow in the middle.

2.     Put butter and milk into pan and gently heat until butter has just melted.

3.     Pour milk mixture into hollow in flour.  Stir until it is all mixed and no longer sticks to side of the bowl.

4.     Sprinkle some flour onto clean, dry work surface and knead dough until it is smooth and stretchy.  (To knead: Push dough away from you with both hands, fold dough in half and turn it around.  Then push it away from you again.  Fold and turn it, then push it away again.)

5.     Dip paper towel in oil and rub inside of bowl.  Put dough into bowl.

6.     Cover bowl with clingfilm.  Leave in warm place for about 45 mins, until the dough has risen to twice its size.

7.     Knead the dough again for about a minute, to burst any large bubbles of air in it.  Then divide dough into 16 pieces.

8.     Roll each piece to make a sausage about 10 in long.  Tie each one into a knot and put on a greased baking sheet.

9.     Turn on oven.  Rub some clingfilm with oil, then cover the rolls.  Put them back in warm place for 20 mins.

10.   Optional: When you remove the clingfilm, brush the top of each roll with the beaten egg.

11.   Bake for 10-12 minutes and leave to cool on a wire rack.



3 oz soft margarine

3 oz caster sugar

Half a beaten egg

Few drops of vanilla essence

1 oz rolled oats

4 oz self raising flour

Few rolled oats to coat

·         Heat over to 160 deg C and grease two trays.

·         Beat margarine and sugar together until soft and creamy.

·         Work in the egg and vanilla essence.

·         Add the oats and flour and work into the creamed mixture to make a dough.

·         Divide the mixture into 20 pieces (approx) and with damp hands roll into balls. 

·         Roll each ball in the rolled oats and place about two inches apart on tray.

·         Flatten each biscuit and place in oven for 20 mins until biscuits are pale golden brown.

·         Leave to cool on wire rack.