With all the bunnies, chicks and jelly beans, who can blame them? It can be easy -- and stress-free -- to include your children in the holiday fun. Keep these ideas in mind when planning some Easter fun with your children.
1. Keep it safe. Make sure all cooking and crafts are done with adult supervision. Give young children plastic knives or small flexible icing spatulas for cutting soft vegetables or decorating cakes and cookies. For crafts, offer blunt-edged scissors and non-toxic and washable paints, markers and glue. Glue guns are for adults only.
2. Keep it Clean: Cover your table with an inexpensive vinyl or oilcloth tablecloth for a work surface that is big and easy to clean. Have plenty of paper towels and damp sponges ready for quick cleanup along the way.
3 Keep it simple: Remember your child's age and attention span before starting any cooking or craft project. Start by preparing quick and easy crafts or treats such as these Flaky Hens' Nests, an easy Easter version of the ever-popular Rice Krispie treat. Melt together 3 tablespoons of butter or margarine and a 10-ounce bag of marshmallows and mix with 6 cups toasted rice flakes cereal (such as Special K). Spray your hands with a little non-stick vegetable coating and quickly form one-third cup of the mixture into a free-form nest shape with a depression in the center. Press 3 jellybeans or chocolate eggs into the center of each nest.
4. Throw a cookie-decorating party: Get into the spirit of the season by hosting a kid's cookie-decorating party before things get hectic--preferably a few days before Easter. Bake sugar cookies shaped like eggs, rabbits, chicks, carrots and baskets ahead of time (you can bake the cookies a week or two ahead of time and freeze them until ready to decorate). Set out bowls of icing tinted in a rainbow of Easter hues and assorted decorations, miniature jelly beans and sprinkles. The kids can eat their cookies right then and there or save them to share with their family on Easter day. Clean, clear plastic carryout containers make great cookie carriers for kids to take home.
5. Or host an egg-decorating party. You can throw an egg-decorating party one or two weeks before Easter with no thoughts of spoilage if your children decorate "blown" eggs. To blow eggs, pierce the fat end of a raw egg with a large needle (such as a quilting needle). Wiggle the needle to create a slightly larger hole. Pierce a hole in the opposite end of the egg. Insert the needle to break up the yolk, and use a baby's nose aspirator to "blow" the contents of the egg into a bowl. When the egg is empty, rinse with water and pour out before dyeing. Decorate blown eggs by the dozen with intense dyes made with paste food coloring (1/8 teaspoon paste food coloring, 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar and 1 cup boiling water) instead of the little colored tablets available at Easter. Festoon dyed eggs with fun stickers, glitter, ribbons, beads and feathers, attached with non-toxic craft glue. These eggs can be saved and cherished for years; store in cardboard egg cartons to protect them.
6. Make a surprise Easter gift: Children love giving gifts, and surprise gifts are the best. Secret Message Easter Eggs are easy, different and lots of fun for children and adults alike. Start with one blown egg and brush with a thin coating of craft glue. Sprinkle with clear, silver, gold or colored glitter and allow the egg to dry. Cut out a 2-inch-by-2-inch square of airmail or tracing paper. Write a small fortune, note, poem or promise to perform a certain task or chore on the paper and roll up tightly. Slip into the larger hole at the bottom of the egg. Cover the hole with a sparkly sequin, sticker or bead. The recipient cracks the egg to discover the message. Can't bear to crack your creation? When you insert the message, leave a little bit of it exposed so it can be pulled out without destroying the egg.
7. Make a quick Easter snack: Kids can make a bowl of Chicken Feed by tossing together crisp, crunchy shoestring potatoes, salted corn nuts, shelled sunflower seeds and pistachios, dried blueberries and unsweetened coconut flakes for a crunchy, nutty treat. It takes minutes to assemble.
8. Make an edible Easter basket: Bring a batch of Easter Basket Cupcakes to school for your children to share with their class. Prepare cupcakes from your favorite cake batter, and frost with cream cheese frosting. Create green Easter "grass" by placing shredded coconut and a few drops of liquid green food coloring in a resealable plastic bag. Massage the food coloring into the coconut until it is evenly distributed and the coconut is green. Sprinkle the coconut over the iced cupcakes. Insert one end of a red licorice whip into the cupcake, then bend and insert the other end of the licorice into the opposite side of the cupcake to form a basket handle. Top cupcake with a few jelly bean "eggs" and they're ready to serve.
9. Make some edible play dough with marzipan. Marzipan is an ancient sweet and still a traditional ingredient in many European Easter desserts. Massage paste food coloring into chunks of prepared marzipan and let your children play with it as they would modeling clay. Form bunnies, chicks, eggs and other Easter shapes to decorate cupcakes or a simple layer cake or simply eat like candy.
10. Paint a bunny face: Children love to have their faces painted. Here's an easy way to turn your little one into Peter Cottontail's helper: Draw an upside-down triangle on the child's nose with the brush from brown or black liquid eyeliner. Fill in completely. Rub a circle of rouge on each cheek. Paint three whiskers with the eyeliner on each side of the face, starting from the nose and extending across the cheek. Allow to dry. This bunny face comes off in a flash using makeup remover pads.
More Easter Resources:
• Back to Celebrate Spring!
• Learn more about Jill O'Connor at the Cook of the Month page.
• Talk to other iVillagers about Easter food and fun on the Holiday Recipes and Tips message board.
• Find Easter recipes in the Recipe Finder.