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Making cakes … for birds!

You may have noticed that Ellen has an obsession with cakes at the moment.  Well – with eating them anyway.  I thought I’d harness this enthusiasm and on the RDI ‘same but different’ theme have a go at making some bird seed cakes with her.

I found a very simple recipe on the RSPB website http://www.rspb.org.uk/discoverandenjoynature/families/children/makeanddo/activities/birdcake.aspx and set about planning the activity, using a new planning template which helps me to really focus on my current objective (which is for Ellen to notice and react to my level of engagement).

I wanted this to be a real experience sharing activity that with a focus on mutual enjoyment; so I made sure that all the ingredients and tools were out on the table in advance – I didn’t want to dilute the objective by spending time collecting the items together.  This proved to be a wise move, although stabbing the yoghurt pots with a pencil to create a hole (as the method suggests) failed miserably and so I had to shuffle off at one point for some sissors, but only after Ellen and I had had a good laugh at the concertainering pots!

Ellen enthusiastically filling the yoghurt pots

Ellen enthusiastically filling the yoghurt pots

It turned out be be a great activity:-

1. Ellen not only noticed when I yawned and sighed (to indicate my waning enthusiasm) but she immediately pretended to squirt me with water to wake me up.

2. I hadn’t expected her to handle the suet/bird seed mix at all as she dislikes getting her hands messy, but with the gloves on she did attempt it.

3. It was quite a long activity – 25 minutes – and she remained engaged throughout and even stayed on to make a human cake with me afterwards (although that is perhaps not so surprising given her current cake addiction).

In fact, the whole thing went so well that I suggested to Ellen that we play a joke on Daddy.

‘Ask him if he would like a delicious slice of cake’ I suggested, ‘he’ll say “yes please”, but instead of giving him a slice of chocolate cake you could put one of the bird seed cakes on a plate and give it to him!’

Ellen looked at me as if I were mad ‘you can’t give Dad a bird cake’ she said ‘he is not a bird’.  I couldn’t fault her logic.  Ellen does like a joke, but her sense of humour is more slapstick than practical.  Perhaps it’s the whole autism Sally-Anne thing going on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sally%E2%80%93Anne_test – or perhaps she just thinks that her mother is rather strange….?

Of course by the time the bird seed cakes had cooled in the fridge Ellen had completely lost interest in them and although she did eventually come out into the garden with me to hang them up, she made it very clear that she would rather be watching Arnold telling Max on the Tweenies that his face is like a squashed tomato….at least she’s stopped telling me that my face is like a squashed tomato…for now.

Spot the home-made bird feeders...

Spot the home-made bird feeders…

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A story about a cake

The pre-cut lemon cake

The pre-cut lemon cake

Today Ellen suggested that we make a cake for Granny’s Birthday.  I am not fooled.  I know that Ellen’s ultimate goal is to lick the icing bowl clean after the cake is made, but I play along.  After all, how nice for her to want to make a cake for her Granny’s Birthday and a good opportunity to practise her new egg cracking skills.

We have a discussion about what sort of cake we should make; we think Granny would like a lemon cake and so we buy some lemons while we are at the community shop in the morning.  We then have a discussion about which heffalump and woozle will be best at making cakes and Ellen decides it is Road Sweeper Heffalump – as long as he’s washed his hands of course.  So I paint her face the appropriate pink.

‘One day’ Ellen begins, as we spoon the cake mixture into the tins, ‘Ellen wanted to mix a cake, but Mum said she was too big to help’

‘Oh dear, poor Ellen’ I reply.  She giggles and continues.

‘Ellen went for a walk until she found Dad.  Dad, Ellen says, can I mix a cake with you?  Of course says Dad and they lived happily ever after’ she giggles again.  I’m not quite sure why I am the villain of the piece, but perhaps Ellen has anticipated the next problem.  We have run out of icing sugar for the all important icing.

‘I’ll tell you a story about the icing sugar’ Ellen begins.

‘One day, Mum was making a cake but there was no icing sugar.  Oh dear, said Mum I need to go to the shop and buy some icing sugar.’  Ellen pauses and looks at me expectantly.

‘You want me to go and buy some icing sugar?’ I ask, Ellen nods, I sigh.  The nearest shop is a 10 minute drive away but I can’t leave the cake half made and anyway I always find it hard to say no to Ellen.

So I drive to buy the icing sugar and when I get back we assemble the cake, with minimal finger licking but quite a lot of manual cleaning of the icing bowl and whisks.

‘Can I have a slice of cake please?’ Ellen asks when we have finished cleaning up.

‘I thought this cake was for Granny?’ I reply.

Ellen barely pauses ‘take Granny a slice’ she replies, already getting a knife out of the drawer and getting herself a plate out of the cupboard.

A new story is already circulating in my head as I cut guiltily into the sponge…Oh well, it’s actually not Granny’s birthday for a couple of weeks and anyway, she’s not supposed to eat too much sugar and she certainly wouldn’t want a whole cake, I tell myself.  After all it’s the thought that counts, isn’t it?