I was making my weekly sauerkraut today. Music on. Gentle breeze. Sun. Electrically happy.
While massaging the cabbage it dawned on me that this would be fantastic for developing kids hand and finger muscles.
Before I get to the recipe let me digress. Let’s talk about hand and finger strength for children.
In this post here I talked about fine motor skills- how and why they are important for children. I even listed creative and practical strategies to support fine motor development.
Strong hands are important for children so that they can use their hands in a controlled and a coordinated way. Read: strong hands allows for better fine motor skills. When I assess children’s fine motor skills, such as their drawing skills, handwriting, ability to manage cutlery- I typically recommend parents incorporate hand and finger strengthening activities at home, during play and every day activities.
And there are so many practical ways to develop your child’s hand and finger strength: think art and craft activities such as colouring in, pasting, cutting to playdough activities and specific games like using tweezers, tongs and pegs during play. But there are many practical ways:
// Helping in the kitchen to peel, chop, grate, kneed.
// Setting the table
// Carrying shopping bags and unpacking groceries
This is where sauerkraut comes along! I’m always thinking about ways to combine food education and exposure with child development. Essentially combining my love for nutrition and motor skill development to collide. And here, they have.
Here’s why I love the idea of getting kids to help make sauerkraut:
1. It’s fun- How hilarious is the idea of massaging cabbage? When I asked a few children if they would help me do this they couldn’t stop laughing. They loved it. It’s enticing.
2. It build’s strong hands- 10 minutes of massaging surely makes my hands feel like they have been through a workout. I can only imagine what a few minutes would do for little ones hands.
3. It’s hands on- Most kids (minus the kids who are sensitive to touch) love to learn when it involves using their hands (tactile system). The hands are full of receptors which are ready and waiting to communicate with the brain: hence a great way to learn.
4. An opportunity to exposure and educate- You can talk to your child about cabbage, have them smell it, touch it and possibly even taste it (I know I can’t help myself!). If that’s all too much they might be interested in watching what you’re doing. Again- still ticking boxes for exposure and education.
5. It’s good for their guts- Sauerkraut and fermented foods are fabulous for balancing the good and bad bacteria in the gut. I’m going to write another post about ways to promote a healthy gut (in my opinion your health depends on the integrity of your gut). Stay tuned.
6. They are more likely to eat it if they make it- Get massaging I say.
1 green or red cabbage
1 tablespoon fine sea salt
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
Core the cabbage, removing any hard fibrous parts. Finely slice the cabbage (or use a mandolin slicer). Place the cabbage, salt and caraway seeds into a bowl and either pound it with a mallet or use your hands to massage it for 10 minutes. As you massage it you will notice the cabbage significantly reduces and you will be left with liquid.
After 10 minutes squeeze the cabbage to extract more brine. Pack it firmly into a glass jar, ensuring you have a good 1 cm from the top left for ‘breathing room’. Pour the liquid into the jar and pack firmly again. You will need to have enough liquid to cover the sauerkraut. If not add a bit of water.
Firmly screw on the lid and then place in a warm spot way from direct sunlight for 2-5 days depending on the temperature in your country. When done store in the fridge.
I serve my kraut on top of salads, stirred through soup and eaten on top of smashed avocado and scrambled eggs. I also love a tablespoon or two if I am peckish, eaten straight from the jar.
This is fantastic for young children- even the juice is beneficial if your child is not yet eating solids. You can add the juice to pureed vegetables for extra gut loving goodness, to a soup or you can cook quinoa or rice in it.
How do you love to build strong and health hands in the kitchen? Have a recipe to share? Comment below!