William Steig’s books are always clever and unique. Pete’s A Pizza is no exception. This book, published when Steig was about 90 years old, is based on a game he used to play with his own daughter decades earlier. The character in the story, Pete, is disappointed when the rain spoils his plans. His dad however, turns the day around by pretending to turn Pete into a pizza. The typical steps for making pizza take on an imaginary element (checkers for tomatoes, paper for cheese) and soon evolve into tickling and chasing until Pete, of course, is happy once again. It’s a fun read, and one that obviously invites some light-hearted participation!
Extend this book into an activity by simply following along with the game! Make pizzas out of children by following the same steps in the book (especially the tickling part). You could even write out a step-by-step recipe based on the book, increasing story recall. Add your own spin as well, introducing other toppings or silly procedures. Story acting is great for increasing literacy skills like comprehension as well as vocabulary as the children use new words and concepts they heard in the story.
Make it Real
Of course, this book is a great starter for a real pizza making activity as well! (Combine the two by making your own pizza, and playing the game above while you’re waiting for it to bake!) Pizza making is a sure-fire winner with little ones! Make a big pizza together, or give each child a small pizza to customize to perfection. Cooking together is great, as it increases the likelihood the children will actually eat the food, since they have some ownership in it, while it also promotes a wide variety of developmental skills. Here’s how I go about turning the kitchen into a gourmet pizzeria.
Start with the dough. I used to use a pizza dough like this one, which is great, but I was in a pinch and running late one day so I decided to use my usual soft pretzel dough recipe, since it doesn’t require any rising time. I have to say, I think I actually prefer the pretzel dough! Besides being faster, it’s a little more dense and chewy, which I like. So try either one, depending on your preference — light and soft or dense and chewy. The children love to work the dough, kneading and rolling to their hearts’ content! It’s loads of fun, but it’s also great for the small muscles in their hands!
Now the sauce. This is what makes it or breaks it for me. With a little research and a bit of tweaking, I’ve come up with our family’s favorite pizza sauce. This recipe makes one quart. So I usually make a batch, use half on our pizzas, and put the other half in a jar in the fridge and save it for the next pizza night, or use it on pasta for a quick lunch for my boys. So here goes:
Incredible Pizza Sauce
In a saucepan combine:
3 (8oz) cans of tomato sauce
3 Tbsp sugar
3 tsp extra virgin olive oil
3 tsp garlic salt or granulated garlic
3 tsp good Italian seasoning
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 cup water
1 can tomato paste
Mix well and simmer for about 15 minutes.
And of course, the toppings. Create an assortment of toppings and let children experiment with their own favorite combinations. At our house, we need cheese (I mix Mozzarella with Colby Jack), ham, pineapple, and olives. That gets pretty much everybody in one way or another. Find what components meet the needs of your group, and arrange them salad bar style. When everything’s ready, bake it at about 425 degrees for about 10 minutes (give or take depending upon the size).
I’m sure this kind of pizza would have cheered Pete up as well!
Pizza photo by Moi Cody.
You might also enjoy Welcome to the Pizza Shop! Prop Ideas for Preschool Dramatic Play.