Cooking with Kids: Pasta with Pesto

We made a delicious lunch of pasta with spinach basil pesto with the children and we thought you’d love the recipe, too. Children can help make this recipe, and the steps in bold indicate what the adults need to do.  

Spinach Basil Pesto

1 1/2 cup baby spinach leaves
1 cup basil leaves
5 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup roasted pine nuts or walnuts (this is optional – we don’t add nuts to meals at school)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Let the kids smell the leaves and tell you the color. We also let them smell the lemon, and identify its colour.
Wash the leaves.
Squeeze the juice of the lemon out using a citrus juicer.
Put the spinach, basil, garlic, nuts (if using) in the food processor with the salt, pepper and 3/4 of the oil.
Blend until nearly smooth scraping the sides of the bowl with a spatula if necessary.
Count the pasta and may be separate by color to make it more fun.
Add pasta to boiling water. Drain when cooked. 
Toss it with the pesto, the rest of the olive oil and Parmesan cheese and serve.



Resource: Vintage books for children

We loved stumbling upon this post on the fantastic Brain Pickings, which is a favourite resource for all things interesting. One thing led to the next, and here is a list of five vintage books for children that are worth looking into.


Shapes for Sounds, by Timothy Donaldson


Little 1, by Ann Rand



What Can I Be?, by Ann Rand, with illustrations by Ingrid Fiksdahl King



Sparkle and Spin, by Ann Rand and Paul Rand


I Know A Lot of Things, by Ann Rand and Paul Rand

Why children must be out in nature


“Take care of the land and the land will take care of you.”
– H Bennett


“Teaching children about the natural world should be seen as one of the most important events in their lives.”
– Thomas Berry, The Dream of the Earth


“Children have a natural affinity towards nature. Dirt, water, plants, and small animals attract and hold children’s attention for hours, days, even a lifetime.”
– Robin C Moore and Herb H Wong


“As children observe, reflect, record, and share nature’s patterns and rhythms, they are participating in a process that promotes scientific and ecological awareness, problem solving, and creativity.”
– Deb Matthews Hensley


“As a child, one has that magical capacity to move among the many eras of the earth; to see the land as an animal does; to experience the sky from the perspective of a flower or a bee; to feel the earth quiver and breathe beneath us; to know a hundred different smells of mud and listen un-self-consciously to the soughing of the trees.”
– Valerie Andrews, A Passion for this Earth





Does education hurt creativity?

We found this article interesting for the argument it makes: Everyone is born creative, but it educated out of us at school

Creativity is an important leadership skill. It is an important life skill. This article lists these benefits:

1 High quality arts or cultural experiences in early childhood can help children develop subsequent abilities in the arts which will be useful right through life.

2 Early years arts and cultural activities can help children make sense of their cognitive, physical, emotional, spiritual, linguistic, and moral development by enhancing the whole curriculum.

3 Early childhood arts and cultural activities can significantly strengthen parent-child bonds and engage families in their children’s learning, providing a positive focus for shared experience and communication.

4 Stimulating and compelling experiences at museums, galleries, theatres, libraries, dance, arts or music venues will offer many parents the ideas, confidence and resources to play with their children as a natural part of everyday life.

5 Early years arts and cultural activities can help develop intrinsic human qualities, such as creativity, expression, identity, culture and imagination. As well as helping to preserve our cultural heritage, they enable young children to develop their own languages which help shape their individual, community and global identity.

6 Early years arts experiences can impact positively on confidence, self-esteem, personal, social, emotional development and behavioural health, breaking down language barriers, cultural prejudices or societal differences, and leading to decreased social problems, reduced inequality and increased creativity.

7 Collaborations that encompass the perspective of arts or cultural professionals, early years professionals, children and parents can bring a vibrancy to learning that results in a much deeper understanding of, and attention to, a child’s needs and interests. This leads to sustainable progression, raising standards of achievement, and a sense of fulfillment for both teachers and children both immediately and later on in life.

We couldn’t agree more. At Elements we recognise that creativity is not merely an art project or time spent crafting. It’s about teaching children to tap into themselves to think creatively and approach life in a creative manner – from a conversation, to an activity, to when they have time alone.


A Day of Family Fun

We ended last week with a day in the rain with the Elements students and their parents. We played in the yard, adding to the garden, exploring the outdoors, and enjoying being connected to nature. It was a fun day of learning and laughter.
The best kind of day!


On Children
– Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.




Make This At Home: Spinach Wraps

We made a delicious lunch with the Elements kids that we thought you might like to try at home.

Encouraging your child to help make their meal is a great way to teach them about nutrition and introduce them to different tastes. It gives them a chance to take charge, and with your help, be brave about trying new things. 

Feel free to use the kind of meat and vegetables you enjoy at home. This was our list of ingredients, and how we made the wraps. 

We used:

  • Spinach wraps
  • Mayonnaise
  • Honey turkey
  • Provolone cheese
  • Spinach leaves
  • Chopped tomatoes



Start by asking the child to spread mayonnaise on the wrap.



Get them to add in cheese and the meat.



This is followed by the spinach and tomatoes.



Help them roll the wrap up.



And they have made themselves a yummy, healthy lunch!


Mindfulness = Happiness

Jon Kabat-Zinn, an authority on mindfulness defines it as – “Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally. It’s about knowing what is on your mind.”

In children, especially, mindfulness can be very quickly and successfully taught and cultivated. All you need to do is encourage them to stay focused on whatever it is they are doing.

For example, we put out a bowl of coloured pasta and encouraged our students to sort them out onto similarly-coloured plates. Then they counted the pasta pieces. It was an activity that involved activities but also involved quiet and concentration. Every child was given the time he or she needed and the others were encouraged to watch and focus, too.

When they are in the kitchen helping cut a fruit or vegetable, we create the space they need to stay engaged fully in the activity. This not just helps them finish their tasks to their satisfaction, but also helps them build a skill more fully.


And, of course, there is yoga, which is filled with moments of mindfulness


As this wonderful piece points out“We cannot expect our kids, or ourselves, to be intentionally mindful every minute of every day.  But I do believe that we can use the concept of mindfulness to bring a little bit more peace to each day; in fact the essence of the practice is the act of redirecting our attention when faced with stress, anxiety, or complexity. We can also equip our children with a skill that will last a lifetime, a skill that many of us are just trying to learn as adults.  What an advantage that would be!”

At Elements are true believers in this philosophy. By allowing our students to get the time, space and resources they need to begin exploring mindfulness, we hope that we are helping them develop skills that will always steady them.

More Resources:

7 Fun Ways to teach your kids Mindfulness

Follow the Bird: A new form of meditation for children

Just Breathe: A short film by Julie Bayer Salzman and Josh Salzman

The Magical Enchanted Tree: A guided mindfulness meditation for children