Vegan banana cake

An easy, no-fuss banana cake recipe with a delicious result. Dairy free, egg free – vegan! It’s fluffy and light, yet also sticky and moist from the brown sugar and ripe banana. We’ve tried lots of recipes, and this one beats them all!

All that’s required is measuring out and mixing of only eight ingredients, so it’s perfect to make with children.

We recommend using really ripe bananas for the best result.

Egg replacers can be found in most good specialty food shops, or you can make flax ‘egg’. To make a flax egg, mix one tablespoon ground flaxseed meal with three tablespoons of water. Mix together, and let sit in your fridge for 15 minutes to set up and thicken. It’s that easy. You could leave it up to 30 minutes if you want.

If you prefer to use eggs, add another 15 or so minutes to the cooking time.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3-4 bananas, mashed
  • 2 replacement eggs
  • 415g self raising flour (if using plain flour, add one teaspoon of baking soda)
  • 355g sugar (half white sugar, half soft brown sugar)
  • 120ml vegetable oil
  • 60ml plant milk (we recommend cashew milk but any plant based milk will work)
  • Teaspoon of vanilla essence
  • 60-120g walnuts (optional – great for added texture)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine the oil, eggs, sugar, milk, vanilla, and mashed bananas.
  2. Fold in the flour.
  3. Pour into a greased round cake tin and bake in a preheated 140C oven for 40 mins (if cooking with eggs you may need to leave the cake in for longer).
  4. Leave to cool before taking out of the tin.

Slice into chunks and enjoy!

Did you like this banana cake recipe? If you haven’t already, try making our vegan chocolate chip cookies – they’re so good! We’ve also created a seven day recipe challenge if you’re looking for more sweet and savoury ideas.

Chocolate chip cookies WK

These chocolate chip cookies are yummy – and vegan! Just 9 ingredients, and 10 steps (and that includes eating them!). It’s the perfect recipe to make with kids.

If you prefer to use dairy milk or chocolate the recipe still works well, and for a gluten free version, choose a GF flour that contains xanthan gum.

Ingredients (makes 10 chocolate chip cookies)

  • 100g sugar
  • 165g dark brown sugar, packed
  • 185g flour
  • 120g cup refined coconut oil, melted
  • 60ml cup non-dairy milk
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 115g vegan semi-sweet chocolate chunks
  • 115g vegan dark chocolate chunks (swap for milk chocolate if you prefer)

Preparation

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, brown sugar, salt and melted coconut oil until combined (ensure the oil is warm to help dissolve the sugar).
  2. Whisk in the milk and vanilla, until all sugar has dissolved and the batter is smooth.
  3. Sift in the flour and baking soda, then fold the mixture with a spatula, being careful not to overmix.
  4. Fold in the chocolate chunks.
  5. Chill the dough for at least 30 minutes.
  6. Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F).
  7. Scoop the dough with an ice cream scoop onto a baking paper-lined baking sheet. Leave at least 2 inches of space between cookies and the edges of the pan so cookies can spread evenly (or you might end up with one giant cookie!)
  8. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until cookies just begin to brown. They will still be soft – as they cool, they harden so don’t be tempted to leave them in loger as they’ll become crunchy.
  9. Cool completely.
  10. Time to eat – enjoy!

 

Chocolate chip cookies step one  Chocolate chip cookies step two

Chocolate chip cookies step three  Chocolate chip cookies in the oven


We attach importance to seasonal, regional and organic ingredients to provide a biologically valuable vegetarian diet for all the children.Find out more about our philosophy.

Endorphins

It’s crucial to help children produce endorphins in their systems. They are developed naturally by the nervous system and often called “feel-good” chemicals because they can act as a happiness booster and pain reliever. They are natural analgesics and help us ‘power through pain’, which explains their association with the “fight or flight” response. They work by gathering in the space between neurons, preventing the pain impulse from traveling to the brain. They are most often associated with exercise and are also boosted through laughter and excitement.

Benefits

Endorphins (produced through exercise) develop a child’s fundamental movement skills, leads to improved motor skills (such as hand-eye co-ordination), better thinking and problem-solving, stronger attention skills and improved learning. Not surprisingly, these all combine to benefit school performance. Even the simple act of playing has a great part in this.

Other benefits:

  • Alleviates depression
  • Reduces stress and anxiety
  • Boosting self esteem
  • Increases self-esteem and cognitive skills
  • Combats behavioural disorders.

Learning

In recent years, endorphin studies have focused on how this chemical contributes to learning. The release of endorphins is essential to brain development: when we feel good, we learn better. Intellectually stimulating the brain when endorphins have been released helps even more.

The mind-body connection is a powerful thing, and as parents and caregivers it’s crucial to work on stimulating the good feeling chemicals in the brains of our children.

Ways to boost endorphins naturally

  • Listening to, singing and making music
  • Free play
  • Sun exposure
  • Acts of kindness and compassion
  • Daily laughter.

Did you know children laugh on average about 300 times a day? For us adults in can be an average of just five! Nurture this as much as possible – the act of laughing is sometimes described as “inner jogging” and has lots of benefits. It can help reduce stress hormones, boost immune function by raising levels of infection-fighting cells, and produce a general sense of wellbeing.

If you’re interested in enrolling your child at Wild.Kind. Compassionate Playschool please contact us.

Serotonin - Wild Kind Compassionate Playschool

What is serotonin?

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter found in your brain, blood, and digestive system. It ships feel-good messages between nerve cells. That’s why it’s often nicknamed the “happy hormone” or “happy chemical.”

It’s also a regulator, so serotonin can be thanked for good moods – and somewhat blamed for bad moods!

“It’s a molecule involved in helping people cope with adversity… to keep going and try to sort everything out,” says Philip J. Cowen, serotonin expert at Oxford University and the Medical Research Council.

Serotonin also puts a brake on the excitement and sometimes recklessness that dopamine can produce. When the overall brain chemical system is working well, these chemicals interact to balance out extreme behaviours.

How does it help children in their development?

  • Promotes learning and memory
  • Essential for motor skills and cognitive functioning
  • Promotes positive feelings and pro-social behaviour
  • Helps regulate appetite
  • Helps good sleep (by helping regulating circadian rhythms)
  • Regulates blood pressure, heart rate, and the digestion system.

Low levels might cause:

  • Irritability, anxiousness, feelings of depression
  • Sleep issues or fatigue
  • Nausea and digestive issues
  • Cravings for sweet or carbohydrate-rich foods
  • Decreased appetite

Natural ways to increase serotonin in kids:

  • Staying hydrated
  • Getting the blood pumping with aerobic exercise
  • Massage
  • Reminiscing about happy memories

Food

A diet of tryptophan-rich foods paired with carbs can increase serotonin levels over time. Here are some foods we recommend increasing/adding to your child’s diet:

  • Pineapple
  • Bananas (The National Sleep Foundation recommends eating half a banana 1 hour before bedtime because of the fruit’s tryptophan content)
  • Tofu (the best serotonin-boosting food for vegans and vegetarians)
  • Peanuts
  • Pumpkin and sesame seeds
  • Milk and cheese

Interested in finding our more about other neurotransmitters? Investigate our blogs on Dopamine and Oxytocin. Next week we’ll be looking at endorphins!

You can contact us if you’d like further information on enrolling your child at Wild.Kind.

Oxytocin and kids

This week, we’re discussing oxytocin – its functions, how it affects children and ways to increase levels to help them lead a more balanced and fulfilled life.

There four major chemicals in the brain that influence our happiness are:

  1. Dopamine
  2. Oxytocin
  3. Serotonin
  4. Endorphins.

Activated by positive social interactions, oxytocin is known as the “love molecule” or “cuddle chemical” and is the foundation for trusting others. It motivates us to work together for a common purpose and makes us care about others in tangible ways – and essentially increasing empathy and compassion.

Let’s discuss the neuroscience bit.

“Oxytocin helps us respond appropriately to our social environment by changing its amounts in the brain second by second. 

Because it is so ancient (a precursor can be traced back at least 400 million years to fish), natural selection has found ways to utilise it in both the brain and the body. Unlike almost every other neuro-chemical we make, studies have shown that the change in oxytocin after a social interaction as measured in the blood reflects changes in the brain. Thus, if an activity causes a spike in oxytocin as measured in the blood, a corresponding spike is likely occurring in the brain. It is brain oxytocin that is most responsible for effects on behaviour, and blood oxytocin gives us a window into what occurs in the brain.”

So, as parents and caregivers, how can we increase levels in children, thereby increasing their empathy and compassion? By offering them lots of sensitive, responsive care.

We have good reason to believe that sensitive, responsive parenting and care-giving can cause immediate spikes of oxytocin in babies and children. Skin-to-skin contact appears to raise levels in both parents and infants (Vittner 2018). An experiment on school-aged children confirms that big kids can get a boost when their parents offer emotional support. Affectionate physical contact does it. So does affectionate conversation (Selzer 2010).

Benefits of increasing oxytocin levels:

  • Reduces anxiety and the release of cortisol, your body’s main stress hormone
  • Increases feelings of calmness and security
  • Suppresses activity in the amygdala, the fear centre of your brain
  • Improves mood and increases feelings of contentment
  • Stimulates the vagus nerve
  • Increases creativity
  • Improve self-perception in social situations
  • Increases positive personality traits such as empathy, warmth, trust, and openness

Ways to increase oxytocin

  • Natural sunlight, ideally first thing in the morning as well as throughout the day
  • Vitamin C from fruits and vegetables, as well as a supplement
  • Magnesium-rich foods such as spinach, chard, pumpkin seeds, almonds, avocado and bananas
  • Hugs and cuddles
  • Listening to music
  • Singing along to music
  • Free play
  • Giving someone a gift
  • Doing something kind for someone else
At Wild.Kind., we encourage activities that help boost oxytocin, such as ample time for free play, playing outdoors and group play. We also provide nutritious, healthy meals and our caregivers provide the children with a safe, caring and happy environment to thrive in.
 
If you’re interested in enrolling your child at Wild.Kind., please contact us.

Dopamine and children - Wild.Kind.

This week, we’re discussing dopamine – its functions, how it affects children and ways to increase levels to help them lead a more balanced and fulfilled life.

The four major chemicals in the brain that influence happiness are:

  1. Dopamine
  2. Oxytocin
  3. Serotonin
  4. Endorphins.

So, what’s dopamine all about? It is the primary neurotransmitter that helps us to focus, feel motivated, and enjoy activities. Although often referred to as being a ‘happiness chemical’, it is actually more involved with anticipation (of pleasurable reward) than the actual ‘happy’ feeling.

https://youtu.be/JJ6YB4674GQ

Notable functions are in:

  • behaviour and cognition
  • attention and learning
  • sleep and mood

How dopamine affects children

Low levels can cause children to have issues with social anxiety, focus and attention, problem-solving and executive functioning. A lack of this chemical is also associated with ADHD. To kick start and boost their low levels, children with ADHD are often drawn to things that constantly stimulate them at an intense level, such as video games.

Try incorporating the following things to help stimulate the reward response:

  • Completing a task
  • Self-care activities
  • Celebrating little wins
  • Eating homemade food

Tyrosine

Our body makes dopamine from an amino acid called Tyrosine, so eating a diet rich in tyrosine is an excellent way of boosting levels naturally. Ingredients that contain antioxidants and natural folate also support healthy dopamine levels.

These include:

  • Apples
  • Avocado
  • Bananas
  • Beans and lentils
  • Berries
  • Carrots
  • Cheese
  • Folate-rich vegetables (green leafy veggies, broccoli, cauliflower)
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Oats and whole grains (brown rice, quinoa)
  • Pumpkin (and pumpkin seeds)
  • Spinach
  • Sweet potato
  • Watermelon

At Wild. Kind., we encourage activities that boost dopamine in a natural and fulfilling way, as well as by providing balanced, nutritious food.

In our next blog we’ll be discussing Oxytocin – the neuro-chemical that helps us feel empathy and as a result make connections with others.

The importance and science behind hugging

Hugging – one of life’s joys. We all thrive on oxytocin, and nothing reflects the feeling of giving and getting a hug.

All children crave a sense of love, trust and safety – and a simple hug can foster those feelings in all of us. One thing to keep in mind – hugs that last 20 seconds or more carry the most benefit.

Giving your child a hug actually carries more benefits than you might think. In fact, it’s scientifically proven that hugs aid brain development, boost physical health, help emotional regulation and build resilience.

The science

For young children and babies, who need a variety of different sensory stimulation for development, hugging is one of the most important ones required to grow a healthy brain and strong body.

“We know that even from the moment we’re born, as a newborn, that touch, physical touch, attention, hugs, are so very important for both nervous system regulation, brain development, just from the moment we’re born. We talk about kangaroo care and skin-to-skin, and that really continues through childhood.” Dr Emily Mudd

Hugging triggers the release of oxytocin, a hormone associated with trust, safety, and love. When released, it also stimulates particular growth hormones in the body.

Find out more below.

1. Brain development

Touch is the first of the five senses to develop, and because babies first learn to navigate through the world this way, physical contact such as a hug is crucial for their development. Premature babies are particularly receptive to brain response when they are hugged or gently touched.

In fact, maternal skin-to-skin contact was found to enhance prematurely born infants’ physiological organization and cognitive control for the first 10 years of life in one study, according to Psychology Today.

3. Emotional development and regulation

Nothing soothes more than a big, loving hug.

Children can lose control of their emotions quickly – not because they’re being difficult, but simply because they haven’t learned how to regulate their emotions. Hugging a child in a moment of intense emotional outburst will actually teach them that you’re a support during difficult times.

4. Reduces stress and increases resilience

During moments of distress and stress, adrenaline and cortisol are released into the body and brain. Because children haven’t learned how to regulate their emotions, stress can linger in the bodies of kids reaching toxic levels. When this happens, these stress hormones can impact a child’s health both mentally and physically.

“When you get a loving and firm hug, it stimulates pressure receptors under the skin, which in turn send a message to the vagus nerve in your brain. The vagus nerve takes this cue to slow down your heart rate and your blood pressure, putting you in a relaxed state.
The hug even curbs stress hormones such as cortisol, facilitates food absorption and the digestion process, and stimulates the release of serotonin, which counteracts pain.” The Connected Child

5. Relationships

In addition to the scientific benefits for your child, hugging your child also creates a stronger bond between you. When you’re giving a hug, your brain releases dopamine — the pleasure hormone that signals reward. This hugging “high” helps babies and children recognize your smell, and vice versa. The more you snuggle, the more dopamine kicks in, which creates a cycle that makes you want to snuggle more.

Wanted hugs

It’s important to mention that all the above benefits are a result of natural and ‘wanted’ hugs. Some children just aren’t ‘huggers’ – and that’s OK, too. Teaching children how to speak up and be confident about not wanting a hug is also a very important lesson as they grow up. If this is the case, we suggest a very simple message like “you’re in control of your body, and if you don’t want to hug the people at this gathering, that’s okay. Perhaps you can give them a high-five instead.”

Laughter

A child’s laughter is one of the most heartwarming sounds in the world.

It’s also a critical part of their development; helping diffuse stress, develop self-esteem and connect socially.

Director of the InfantLab at Goldsmiths, Dr Caspar Addyman, suggests that “a baby’s delight, and the help they continue receiving because of it, are part of what drives them forward to master the next thing, gradually achieving greater and greater mastery over the world.”

Benefits include:

Developmental

  • Develops optimism
  • Helps not take themselves too seriously
  • Encourages spontaneity

Physiological

  • Reduces stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Improves sleep
  • Releases ‘feel-good’ hormones (endorphins)
  • Relaxes muscles and reenergises the body

Social

  • Develops connections with family and other children
  • Helps see things from a different perspective
  • Develops empathy

Ages and stages

Babies

  • Babies don’t really understand humour but become highly responsive to tactile stimuli like tickles and blowing raspberries on their tummy
  • From around 9 months (although every baby’s development is different) babies begin to laugh at things that are unexpected, e.g. when you make animal noises or animated facial expressions

1.5 – 2.5 years

  • Appreciation for physical humour grows, especially when it involves an unexpected turn, like a surprise tickle or round of peek a boo
  • Rhymes and made up words become extremely funny (this stage continues on for a little while!)
  • Another dimension of humour is discovered – making others laugh. Children might give silly or ‘wrong’ answers to evoke a response of laughter

2.5 – 4 years

  • Visual humour grows and children see the funny side in pictures that are a little out of the ordinary e.g. a giraffe on a skateboard
  • Incongruity between pictures of sounds is also hilarious, e.g. a fish that barks like a dog
  • Toilet humour begins now too, with children finding anything to do with this subject raucously funny

So whether it’s a tickle, joke, game or just doing something a little bit silly, have some lovely deep belly laughter with your children today!

Summer holiday activities

We’re embracing the warm weather with some fun summer activities.

Real, free play – a chance to get a little messy and have fun without constraints – is so important for young children, and helps them develop and improve their motor skills, co-ordination and concentration. It also encourages independence, collaboration, exploration, problem solving and creative thinking.

Here are six fun summer activities we encourage you to try this week.

1. Fizzy ice chalk

Fizzing Ice Chalk

This is so much fun for kids – and adult! And super easy to make. Children can get involved in the making, as well as playing afterwards.

Chalk cubes are made in the freezer with three ingredients and frozen in an ice cube tray. Pop the ice chalk put of the trays and they’re ready to use! Hosing down the road/patio can help blend the colours beautifully, but isn’t necessary at all.

Once the ice chalks has sufficiently melted and mixed, it’s time to have fun with squirting vinegar to make the chalk ‘erupt’ and fizz!

We recommend this excellent step-by-step method from Learn Play Imagine.

 

2. Animal Kingdom races

Animal races

What animal might win the race – crab, duck, bunny, frog, elephant… or maybe even a starfish?! Keep children moving, fit and having fun with these hilarious animal exercises. They’ll love pretending to be one of their favorite animals!

Here’s a great video from hellowonderful.co to get started.

3. Yoga

Here are 14 easy yoga poses for kids from Great Wolf Tales.

Yoga poses for kids

4. Toy washing station

Image: Crayon Box Chronicles

This is super easy to set up and so much fun for little ones to spalsh around with. Kids can scoop, pour, whilst, scrub and dry toys in any way they wish!

Supplies

  • Large container
  • Washing up liquid/soap
  • Washable toys, e.g. wooden animals, dolls etc
  • Bowls, sponges, ladles, spoons and other utensils
  • Towels
  1. Fill the container with warm water and washing up liquid/soap.
  2. Place the bowls in the water, some filled with water, some not.
  3. Here’s where children can have ultimate free play – using the main container for washing, a bowl for rinsing, another bowl for ‘drying’… the options are endless.

5. Squishy colour bags

Squishy paint bags

Image: Learning 4 Kids

This a wonderful sensory activity for children to experience how colours mix. They can use their hands to squash the bags and create new colours.

Supplies

  • Large tray
  • Water paints (red, blue and yellow are the minimum number of colours that can be mixed to make the greatest number of secondary colours)
  • Clear plastic zip-lock lunch bags
  • Sticky tape

Method

  1. Add a few squeezes of paint to each bag, starting with one colour in each corner, ad using three in some bags (being careful to keep them separate). Zip the bags closed. Feel free to double-bag if you’re worried they might split!
  2. Use sticky tape to seal the squishy bags. You can also stick the bags down to the table to keep them in one place and help younger children with control over ‘squishing’.

Help children identify what’s happening by explaining how each colour is blending with the others, and asking them to repeat the colour names. It’s also a great opportunity to ask questions like “which colours made purple”?

For younger children, just feeling the consistency of the paints and seeing the colours mix are great sensory experiences.

6. Looking for Spaghetti Worms

Image: Learning 4 Kids

Possibly the messiest – but also one of the most fun activities! It’s amazing what a little mud and some cold spaghetti can do to keep children entertained.

Supplies

  • Container (large tray or bowl)
  • Sand or soil from the garden
  • Cooked spaghetti

Method

  1. Wet the soil or sand and make sure it’s not packed down too tighlty (spaghetti can break easily under too much weight)
  2. Place the strands of spaghetti on top of the soil, covering some lightly and burying some deeper down

Children can use their hands to dig out the spaghetti worms from the soil. For more of a challenge for older children, they can try lifting the worms out with BBQ tongs or tweezers.

Extra ideas to add to the sensory experience: counting ‘worms’ as they’re saved from the mud, and measuring the lengths of the worms.

Here are some other ideas from previous blogs, like making playdough, a 7 Day recipe challenge, bake Spitzbueb biscuits, and activities that teach children about sustainability.