How can I explain Easter to children?

easter

Easter

This explanation of Easter, including both Christian beliefs and the various festive foods, as an imaginary conversation with a 4 year old is a lovely starting point for working out how to explain it to your children in a Christian household. Thank you Oh Baby magazine.

(I note that scholarly works, including Bede in 8th Century England, acknowledge that festive spring-time celebrations pre-date Christian celebrations of Easter in many northern European countries and elements of these were incorporated into Christian celebrations. It is believed that the hare (rabbit) and collecting eggs (or candies) are very old folk traditions / symbols that have morphed into something far more commercial and chocolatey in our present day than rabbit pie! I do like the explanation below that at its simplest can be that Jesus wants us to have fun and celebrate life, including Christ’s resurrection, and, well, chocolate is awesome.)

“My nearly four-year-old is busy studying the latest flyer from one of the big stores, so conveniently deposited into our mailbox ever other day. This one is seasonally filled with chocolate eggs. Big ones, small ones, hollow ones, marshmallow ones, licensed ones featuring the latest cartoon star/movie star/pop star. She is dreaming, mouth almost watering. I am curious:

Hey darling, can you tell me what Easter is really about?

Ummm… Eggs?

No, not really.

Ummm… Chocolate?

Nope.

Ummmm…. Chocolate eggs?!

No, not even chocolate eggs. Do you remember what happened at the first ever Easter?

Ummm… Jesus was born?

No, not quite. Jesus was born at Christmas time. He came into this world as a little baby, but he was actually God’s son and God was sending him to this world because we needed a Saviour.

Why did we need a saviour?

Well, this world is pretty amazing and beautiful. But people do some dumb stuff sometimes. They hurt each other and that makes God really sad. They also forget about God and try and manage on their own. But God loves us so much, He doesn’t want us to hurt each other, or ourselves, and He misses us if we just go off doing our own thing. So he came up with a plan. He would send his son Jesus to be with people on earth for a while, so they could learn more about God and the way God wants us to live. And then Jesus could take all the punishment for the wrong things people do, so us people – God’s precious children, would not be separated from Him forever but could stay connected to God and one day live with Him in heaven for eternity.

What’s eternity?

Forever and ever. But back to Easter. Jesus had been living on earth for about 33 years.

Daddy is going to be 33 at his next birthday!

Yep, Daddy is nearly 33. Jesus had been working as a carpenter…

What’s a carpenter?

A carpenter is a builder.

A builder like Daddy!

Yes, a builder like Daddy. Jesus had been building, but also telling people amazing stories, and teaching them really helpful things about life, and making sick people better again, and performing miracles.

What’s a miracle?

A miracle is something so amazing that only God could have made it happen.

Like me?

Yep, you’re a miracle. But back to Easter. People were hearing about Jesus and all the cool stuff he was doing. And some people knew he was a great leader and they wanted to follow him. But other people were afraid of Jesus. They were worried that Jesus might make trouble for the rulers, that Jesus would get people to fight against their rule and try and take over.

But you said Jesus was only doing cool stuff?

Yes, he was. He wasn’t going to fight with anybody. He was doing what God had asked him to do – teach people about the kingdom of God. But the really powerful rulers felt so threatened by Jesus that they got soldiers to arrest him, saying that Jesus had broken the laws of God. He hadn’t broken any laws, but by now the priests had told lies about Jesus to the Governor. The Governor didn’t want Jesus killed, but people were all getting really upset and out of control, so the Governor thought Jesus had to be punished and then hopefully people would calm down again.

Did Jesus get time out?

Well, sadly not. They did a really awful thing to Jesus. They nailed him to a big wooden cross, which is really, really bad for your body, and after a while Jesus couldn’t breath anymore, and he died. And we remember that day on Good Friday. We have Hot Cross Buns, and the crosses remind us what happened to Jesus that day.

Good Friday? That cross thing doesn’t sound very good.

Well, something really good was about to happen. And the cross thing – well, that was very, very important, because it was part of God’s plan for Jesus. So it was a holy thing to happen. And another word for “holy” is “good”.

Did Jesus stay on the cross?

No, his friends were allowed to come and take him down from the cross. They took his body and wrapped it up, and then they carried it to a tomb.

You mean a room?

No, a tomb… a tomb is like a cave in rock, and in those days that’s where they put people when they had died. And then a big rock was rolled in front of the tomb and a guard was there keeping an eye on things.

Were his friends sad?

Yes, they were really, really sad. And they comforted each other. And then on the third day, the Sunday, some of Jesus’ friends, some ladies, went up to his tomb.

To take Jesus some flowers?

Something like that. But do you know what they found? Nothing! No Jesus!! And the big huge heavy stone had been rolled away! The tomb was empty, and the guard had no idea what had happened. And then they saw a couple of angels who told them that Jesus was alive! He had come back to life, he had risen from the dead! We call that resurrection. That’s why Easter Sunday is called Resurrection Sunday. The friends of Jesus were amazed, and ran back to their other friends to tell them the good news. It was hard to believe it was true, so Peter, another one of Jesus’ friends came up to the tomb and all he could find were some of the bandages they had wrapped Jesus in before.
Jesus was alive, and he visited with his friends and talked to them some more before going up to Heaven to be with God.

Why did he go back to heaven?

Well, his work on earth was done.

His building work? Had he finished his house?

Not his building work, but the job God had sent him to earth to complete – Jesus had to die as punishment for our sins – the things we do wrong. Because Jesus took the punishment for us, we don’t have to be punished, we can be forgiven and still stay really close to God, even though we make mistakes and do the wrong thing sometimes. But God’s plan was not just Jesus dying on the cross, the most amazing part was that empty tomb. The empty tomb showed us God’s amazing power – God is more powerful than death, so Jesus came back to life! God is the greatest, most powerful king and ruler EVER. And because of Jesus dying on Good Friday but then coming back to life on Resurrection Sunday, we too don’t need to be afraid of dying – we can live forever with God. In fact, with God we don’t need to be afraid of anything!

So… why do we have Easter eggs?

That’s a good question. The hollow chocolate eggs, the ones with nothing inside, can remind us of that empty tomb… there was nothing inside the tomb because Jesus was alive!

Does Jesus know the Easter bunny?

He might do. Jesus is actually really into fun stuff, and people having a good time. The bible says he came so that we may have life, and life in abundance! That means a really fun, happy, full life! At Easter there is heaps of fun stuff around. Some things – like eggs and baby chickens represent new life, the new life we can all have because of what Jesus did. Other things are symbols of spring because in the Northern Hemisphere Easter happens at springtime. It’s not Spring here in New Zealand though, its actually Autumn, but that’s ok – we can still think about Spring and all the new life that happens then when animals are born and chickens hatch out of eggs…

So why does this Easter Egg here in the magazine have a picture of Dora on it?

That, my darling, I just can’t really explain.”

 

 

 

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

 

Easy Butterscotch Pudding (Gluten free!)

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Easy butterscotch pudding

Ingredients

Sponge

  • 1c fine white rice flour / 1c plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp guar gum (or xanthan gum) / *not needed if using gluten containing flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2c sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 1/4c neutral oil (I used rice bran oil) / 60g margarine (i.e. Nuttelex) / 60g butter
  • 1/2c water / milk of choice (i.e. almond milk)
  • egg replacement i.e. 1T ground linseed + 3T warm water / 1 egg, whisked

Sauce

  • 1/2c brown sugar
  • 1c boiling water

Allergies: gluten free, dairy free, soy free, egg free, nut free.

NOTE: This is a delicious and easy self-saucing pudding that can be made free of all major allergens. I’ve included options so that you can tailor it to your needs; i.e. I made my batch gluten free, dairy free, soy free, and included the egg. You can also tailor the sugar to meet your sweet tooth; i.e. you can use less sugar in the sponge (and just have the sweet sauce), or make less sauce, or dissolve maple syrup in boiling water for the sauce.

I was thrilled when Mum sent this to me – gluten free and doesn’t require mixing several types of flour together! It’s also versatile; you could add cooking cocoa to the sponge and sauce to make this a chocolate pudding, or serve with spiced stewed apple, or with warm custard etc.

Mum mixed and cooked hers in a Pyrex dish; I cooked mine in five ceramic ramekins. It occurs to me that this would be a great gluten free option to serve at kids parties (especially winter birthdays!). It’s easy to make individual serves (if you don’t have enough ramekins consider using the large silicon muffin trays) and then kids could add to them with with things like custard, sliced fruit, fruit sauces, ice-cream, marshmellows, lemon curd, chocolate hazelnut spread etc.

Directions

  1. Mix all the ingredients together.
    • Choose whether you want to cook this in a single dish (i.e. Pyrex bowl) or individual serves; if the first option, you can mix it up in the dish it will be cooked in.
  2. Pour into cooking dish or ramekins.
  3. Sprinkle brown sugar over the top. Slowly pour on boiling water (you may want to pour over the back of a spoon to help disperse it more gently).
  4. Cook in pre-heated oven at 180’C. Takes approx. 25 mins in ramekins or 35-40 mins in pudding bowl.

When should we start toilet training?

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Potty! Starting toilet training.

Toilet training often varies from country to country; it may be impacted by culture, environment, and personal experiences. In New Zealand, the average age for children to be toilet trained at night is 3-6 years, statistically boys take longer. I’ve met people from other countries where toilet training occurs much earlier; it sounds like various countries in Asia often start quite early and I’ve met people from the United States who’ve commented that it can almost feel competitive there to have your child toilet trained as early as possible.

In general, in New Zealand we tend to be a bit more relaxed about it. Please remember that toilet training can be immensely stressful for your child. Disposable diapers are now so efficient that often they stay feeling dry even after doing wees; there’s a convenience in being able to wee while you eat breakfast, or play in the sandpit, or chase after your friends. Toilet training means having to stop what your doing, go to another room, fiddle with clothes, undertake a series of steps that everyone expects you to remember, and then go back to whatever you were doing. It can be annoying. It can be scary. It can be miserable wetting your clothes. It can simply feel strange feeling an empty space underneath your bum. It’s important that your child is ready and that they feel safe, supported, and encouraged.

When is my child developmentally ready?

Watch for the following signs:

  • They show signs of bladder control.
    • They can go 2 hours without doing a wee.
    • They can stop & start their wee.
  • They wake up dry from a nap.
  • They show an interest in the toilet and others using it.
  • They have enough language skills that you can teach them words that will form part of your toilet training process (i.e. potty / toilet, wee / poos, flush, wash hands, dry hands, help me).
  • Can follow simple instructions.
  • They feel happy and settled; they are not going through any other changes.
  • Note: Toilet training can be impacted by genetic inheritance (surprisingly!). If one or both of the parents took a long time to toilet train (especially at night) then your child is more likely to do the same.
  • Note: My experience (and talking to many other families) is that the eldest child will often take the longest to be ready to toilet train (sometimes not till after they’re at kindy and seeing other kids use the toilet); younger siblings will often want to start earlier (sometimes at 18m) because they want to be like their big brother or sister.

 

Does gender make a difference?

Yes. In New Zealand:

  • Girls will often show readiness between 20 – 26 months.
  • Boys will often show readiness between 24 – 32 months.

 

How I can help my child feel ready to toilet train?

  • Have an open door policy at home (if you can) and let them come to the toilet with you; let’s face it, most toddlers want to anyway! Talk about needing to go to the toilet and verbalize the steps (like flushing, washing hands etc.).
  • Get a potty and have it available. Ask them each day if they’d like to sit on the potty. Ask them if they’d like a nappy/diaper or undies/knickers. Most days they won’t; persevere – it took a year before mine decided that we were actually toilet training rather than just her having a passing interest.
    • Sometimes younger children will want to roleplay – especially while you’re using the toilet. Let them practice sitting on the potty fully clothed and ‘wiping’ themselves with toilet paper.
    • Sometimes they will ask for undies before they’re ready to use a potty (because they’re friends are using them). That’s fine! Let them wear a nappy over their diapers and get used to the idea. Encourage them to practice putting them on and off themselves. Let them help you choose ones that they like (i.e. they think are pretty / cool / exciting / awesome).
  • Some experts will encourage cloth nappies (so that they can feel being damp) or training pants but discourage nappy pants as delaying / confusing things. Personally, I advocate doing what works for you. My daughter is strong willed and does not respond well to change so I’m going for the long & slow approach; it’s far more practical (and cost effective for me) for her to be in nappy-pants if we leave the house, bare bum / underwear at home, and a nappy at nap / night.
  • Read books about potty training. Often there are lots of picture books at the library so read a few until you find ones that work for you.
  • Consider adding incentives. We started actually potty training because Miss 2 decided that she wanted to see the magic doggy appear. She loves looking down and seeing the doggy appear, then saying ‘Bye Bye Doggy’ as it gets emptied & washed. Apparently the WeePal stickers are also a great way of teaching little boys to aim!

    WeePal stickers

    WeePal stickers

 

When should I see a doctor?

  • If your child has ongoing constipation.
    • Sometimes get scared / uncomfortable about doing poos in the potty. They can get so worked up about it that they literally hold it in by sheer force of will. Talk to your doctor (for help with loosening up that blockage) and let your child know it’s okay to do poos in a nappy until they feel ready to let it go in the potty!
  • Your child says it hurts to go to the toilet.
    • Little girls will more commonly get Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) than boys. Ouch!
  • Frequent little wees.
  • No day training progress by 4 years (to rule out any physical / medical issues).
  • If they are not night trained by 5 or 6 years (again, to rule out any physical/medical issues).

 

For more great tips about toilet training, check out Laura Morley’s workshops, or her FAQs blog on LooLoo Toilet Training Solutions.

 

How to make Teriyaki sauce (soy & gluten free)

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Teriyaki Pork stir fry

I posted recently about discovering Coconut Amino Acids as a soy replacement and they are the secret for making Teriyaki Sauce that is soy free. Miss 2 LOVED it 🙂

There are two recipes below, one for a small amount (i.e. for a stirfry) and one for a larger amount (i.e. for marinating chicken thighs).

Allergies: soy free, gluten free, dairy free, egg free, peanut free, tree nut free.

Ingredients (stir fry)

  • 2T coconut amino acids
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • pinch salt
  • pinch pepper
  • 1 T brown sugar
  • 1T rice vinegar

Ingredients (marinade)

  • 6T coconut amino acids
  • 3 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3/8 tsp pepper
  • 3 T brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 T liquid honey
  • 3 T rice vinegar
  • 3 T dry sherry

 

Source: “Allergy-Free and Easy Cooking. 30-minute meals without gluten, wheat, dairy, eggs, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, and sesame.” by Cybele Pascal

Quick & Easy Breaded Kumara Fries (Gluten Free!)

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Gluten Free Breaded Kumara Fries

 

Ingredients

  • All purpose Gluten Free Breading mix
    • Remember this stores in the fridge for several months! Alternatively, you can halve all the ingredients if you’d prefer to make up a smaller amount.
  • Kumara (sweet potato)
  • Emulsifier (choose one of the following)
    • Egg (whisked)
    • 1/3c coconut milk + 1 tsp lemon juice
    • 1/3c rice milk + 1 tsp cider vinegar
  • Neutral oil.
    • I like rice bran oil personally and it has the advantage of a high smoke point.

Allergies: soy free, dairy free, gluten free, egg free*, nut free.

Directions

  1. Whisk up your choice of emulsifier in one bowl.
  2. Pour your breading mix into a second bowl.
  3. Slice up the kumara into fries.
  4. Dip each piece of kumara into the wet mix and then coat it in the dry mix.
  5. Cook in batches in a neutral oil until golden and crisp. This took about 8-10 mins.
    • Don’t worry if you don’t have a deep fryer; I did a shallow/medium fry in the electric wok! Alternatively, bake in a preheated oven, @ 180’C, until golden and crisp. Turn once during baking. Generally this will take about 20-25 mins.

 

Quick & easy Breaded Zucchini Chips (Gluten free!)

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Quick & easy Breaded Zucchini Fries (Gluten free!)

 

Ingredients

  • Zucchini
  • All purpose Gluten Free Breading mix
    • Remember this stores in the fridge for several months! Alternatively, you can halve all the ingredients if you’d prefer to make up a smaller amount.
  • Optional: Parmesan powder.
  • Emulsifier (choose one of the following)
    • Egg (whisked)
    • 1/3c coconut milk + 1 tsp lemon juice
    • 1/3c rice milk + 1 tsp cider vinegar

Allergies: soy free, dairy free, gluten free, egg free, nut free.

Directions

  1. Whisk up your choice of emulsifier in one bowl.
  2. Pour your breading mix into a second bowl.
  3. Slice up the zucchini. Up to you whether you choose rectangles (fries) or circle (chips).
  4. Dip each piece of zucchini into the wet mix and then coat it in the dry mix. Place on a baking sheet.
  5. Bake in a preheated oven, @ 180’C, until golden and crisp. Turn once during baking. Generally this will take about 20-25 mins.

Handy tip: You can cook these in the oven at the same time as other parts of the meal (like the sausages and potato hashbrowns in the photo above!)

How to replace soy sauce – introducing coconut amino acids

coconotsoy-sauce

Dairy, Soy, and Gluten Free

Some people search for a replacement for soy sauce for health reasons (such as reducing salt or going paleo) and for others it’s because of food allergies (like gluten or soy). I was really excited while researching alternatives to discover coconut amino acids.

Coconut aminos are a liquid made from the aged sap of coconut blossoms and salt. It is a low-glycemic, vegan, and gluten-free alternative to soy sauce, with 17 amino acids. Coconut aminos have about 65% less sodium than regular soy sauce but still has a rich, sweet-savory flavour. They can be picked up from health food stores, organic stores (like Huckleberry) and some supermarkets.

The brand that was recommended to me was Coco Not Soy Sauce and I used it to make a fabulous Teriyaki Sauce that Miss 2 loved.

All-purpose Breading Mix (delicious, easy, and gluten free!)

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Gluten free breaded kumara chips & fried chicken

This gluten free breading mix is easy to make, stores for up to two months, and is really versatile.  Often food allergies mean that takeaways are a thing of the past, so it’s always nice to have a few recipes up your sleeve that allow you to make them at home.

You can use this for everything from breaded zucchini, to fried kumara (sweet potato) chips, chicken nuggets, and fried chicken. I’ve used it both in the oven and in a shallow oil fry and it works both ways.

Ingredients

  • 2c superfine white rice flour
  • 1/2c fine cornmeal (polenta)
  • 2T onion powder
  • 2T garlic powder (garlic granules also work)
  • 1T paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper

Allergies: soy free, dairy free, egg free, gluten free, nut free.

Note: Gluten free ingredients are often sold at bulk food stores or Asian supermarkets if you’re having trouble finding them in your normal supermarket. Spices are also much cheaper and have a wider variety at bulk food stores!

Directions

  1. Whisk all ingredients together in a large bowl.
  2. Use immediately or store in an airtight container, refrigerated, for up to 3 months and use as needed.

 

Source: Elizabeth Gordon’s “The Complete Allergy-Free Comfort Foods Cookbook.”

Sweet cornbread muffins

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Cornbread muffin

So I’m starting to experiment with other grains as part of our journey to reduce (or eliminate) gluten, dairy, and egg from our diet (as well as needing to be 100% soy free). I picked up some cornmeal really cheaply and went looking online for what I could make up. I’d vaguely heard about cornbread in reference to America and that seemed a good place to start. From what I could gather, after looking at about eight different recipes, cornbread tends to be sweeter in the North and more savoury (and maybe a bit drier) in the South. Its often made with buttermilk which was a problem for me as (a) it’s expensive, and (b) I wanted to make these dairy free.  I finally found a Northern recipe for sweet cornbread that looked suitable to adapt and make in muffin trays.

Note: I only wanted to make a small batch so this makes 5-6 muffins, double the recipe to make more.

Ingredients (Dairy or Dairy Free)

  • 1/2c yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2c plain flour
  • 1/2T Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2T Brown sugar
  • 2T liquid honey
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3c milk*
    • I used coconut milk.
  • 1/4c butter*
    • I used rice bran oil.

These turned out beautifully; they were quite sweet with 2T brown sugar & 2T liquid honey. I wouldn’t have known they were dairy free. They were light, fluffy, and delicious warm & cold. Made 5 muffins.

Allergies: soy free, dairy free, peanut free, tree nut free.

Ingredients (Dairy Free & Egg Free)

  • 3/4c yellow cornmeal
  • 3/4c plain flour
  • 1/2T Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2T liquid honey
  • 1T ground linseed soaked in 3T warm water
  • 1/2c – 3/4c coconut milk.
  • 1/4c rice bran oil.

With this batch I was aiming to increase the size of the mix, replace the egg and reduce the sugar. I find, in general, that linseed works well as an egg replacer but you may need a little more liquid. These still turned out well although not quite as fluffy as the first batch. Makes 6 muffins.

Allergies: soy free, dairy free, egg free, peanut free, tree nut free.

Directions

  1. Mix the dry ingredients together.
  2. Mix the wet ingredients together.
  3. Pour the wet ingredients onto the dry and mix till combined. Do not over mix.
  4. Put mixture into muffin trays. Bake at 180’C for 15-20 mins until golden brown.

Customised Allergy t-shirts

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Custom allergy t-shirts for kids

I had the pleasure this summer of talking with Hayley, the awesome graphic designer at Little Red Inspired, who has a fantastic range of t-shirts for kids with allergies. As well as ordering from her direct they can also be purchased from Willow Boutique; personally I think the flying cow for the dairy-free t-shirt is super cute!

As well as having a range of ready made t-shirts, Hayley can also customise them for only a couple of dollars more. Once I’d settled on a general design and wording that I liked, she mocked up 3 different designs for me to choose from – what great service!

She also does stick-on washable labels for lunchboxes which is super handy!

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Custom allergy t-shirt

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Food allergy label for lunchbox