Since we have been travelling Australia full time with children, I’ve noticed they spend more time on physical activities than they would when home. The three girls have really taken to bike riding, swimming, snorkelling, fishing, playing in the sand dunes and painting themselves in red dirt. Keeping children busy helps them stay happy and less likely to fight amongst themselves. Still, there are days when the weather is not on side, or they need to cut back on their screen time. For days like these, I find baking and craft is a great way to entertain them.
I often bake at home with my girls when I find time, but it’s something we have been doing less since travelling because we spend most days out exploring. When building our caravan, we decided against an oven to add more storage, and I have regretted since being on the road. Since living in the van full time, I realise how much I relied on an oven to cook dinner and bake when we were home. We planned our trip to follow the warmer weather believed cooking outside on the Weber Q or stovetop would be more suitable for our lifestyle. It’s a decision I now regret.
I’ve also realised that baking comfort food brightens the mood over extended rainy days. So, we have been experimenting with our Weber Q to do most of our baking. While it doesn't limit our choice of recipes, there is a higher chance of burning the bottom of foods if not monitored regularly.
We bake scones, banana bread, carrot cake, apple pie, quiche, sausage rolls and pinwheels, just to name a few. They are simple, easy-to-follow recipes, and the children absolutely love them. Banana bread is an excellent option if your bananas are very ripe. Unfortunately, I find bananas ripen quicker in the caravan than at home due to the heat.
If you are crossing state borders and going through quarantine, stewing any of your apples, pears or berries is a better option than throwing them out. You can freeze your stewed fruit and later cook a pie or crumble.
The children are all involved in preparing the food, cutting, peeling and grating the ingredients. If, like me, you have a fussy eater, then getting them involved in preparation may make them more likely to try the food.
When grocery shopping for the ingredients, we split the list of items between the children and give them each a basket. They enjoy finding the things throughout the store and returning them to the trolley. Mind you, we need to keep an eye on our youngest daughter to ensure she doesn't go too far off the list. However, the older two stick to the script, and it seems like a great idea to keep them entertained when shopping with us, making the shopping quicker and helping them learn life skills.
There are many free craft ideas accessible on the internet. Pinterest is my go-to for crafts and recipes for the family. Different seasons can be a great time to experiment with various ideas. For example, we stayed at a farm in Busselton during Autumn, where the ground was covered in maple leaves blown from the trees. With a bit of thought, we made masks and animal pictures out of the larger leaves.
If you find flowers that have fallen from plants, you could make lanterns with baking paper or suncatchers with clear contact. Remember though, that it is illegal in some states to pick wildflowers, so make sure they are from the ground, not cut from a plant. Scissors, sticky tape, glue, twine and fishing line are musts in the caravan as they come in handy for many crafts, such as wind chimes and tying things together. Some other simple activities are nature bingo, where the children paint or draw on rocks. There are even Facebook groups to join that find and hide rocks, keeping your children busy at parks and around towns.
Your Wild Imagination and Your Wild Child – books by Brooke Davis - have a lot of nature crafts for children and families. They are a great source of ideas, and the books are small enough to easily store in the caravan. Journals and maps are also a great way to document travels and keep children entertained. We have found many maps online or at tourist shops when travelling Australia. Card games, colouring and activity books are also handy when needing something to entertain children when your time is short for planning activities.
You could even get creative with your baked goods and craft. Have your children set up a market out of the front of your caravan to sell their food, crafts, shells, second handbooks or items you no longer require for travelling. If you want to add some school equations into the task, have your children add the money it costs for the ingredients and take it away from the amount made at the market stall.
THREE INGREDIENT SCONES RECIPE
- 3 ½ cups of self-raising flour
- 1 cup thickened cream
- 1 cup of lemonade
How to prepare:
- Mix all ingredients until mostly combined
- Gently knead on a lightly floured surface to bring dough together, Roll or flatten to 2.5cm thick
- Use a glass or cup to cut into dough into discs, about 5-6cm in diameter
- Put scone discs on prepared baking tray and brush the tops slightly with milk
- Place the tray in the Weber Q on medium heat. I put the tray also on a trivet tray to stop the bottom of the scones burning.
- Cook for 15 minutes or until they are slightly golden
STEWED FRUIT CRUMBLE
Stewed fruit recipe:
Add fruit (about five apples worth), 3 tablespoons of caster sugar, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon sugar and 1/3 cup of water. Bring to boil until fruit is soft. Once cooled, freeze the stewed fruit until ready to use.
- 1 ½ cup plain flour
- ¾ cup of brown sugar, firmly packed
- 200g chilled butter
- ¾ cup rolled oats
How to prepare:
- Add defrosted stewed fruit to a prepared baking tray
- In a bowl combine flour, brown sugar, butter and oats. Rub together with your fingers until it forms a crumble.
- Sprinkle the crumble mixture over the top of stewed fruit.
- Put the crumble on a trivet in the Weber Q and cook on low-medium heat. Keep checking to make sure the bottom is not burning and turn it down if it is. Cook for around 30 minutes or until the crumble is golden.
SPINACH AND CHEESE PASTRY PINWHEELS Recipe
- 2 sheets of puff pastry
- Spinach frozen (moisture removed) or fresh spinach (I use a mixture of both)
- 100 grams of feta cheese
- ½ cup parmesan cheese, tasty or mozzarella. I used shredded mozzarella cheese which is a little messier, but my children love it.
How to prepare:
- Sprinkle cheese and spinach over pastry
- Roll pastry tightly to enclose filling
- Cut each roll in 10 slices and brush with a beaten egg before baking
- Place pinwheels cut side upon trays and bake (or refrigerate for an hour before to allow pastry to become firm).
- Bake for 20 minutes or so on medium heat. Flip them over in between to prevent burning one side.