Pizza Express at Bluewater Greenhithe shows Our Kent Family a slice of the action
As parents we're often told that children will eat better if they get involved in making their own food.
Let them get messy, let them have a go, let them make it for themselves and there's a chance they'll be a little more adventurous.
Now my little tribe of four - bar one - love a pizza.
Square box, round shape, triangles slices.
It's the stuff of their foodie heaven dreams. For Oscar particularly.
It's also the stuff of quick teas, rapid dinners or fast food if you're a busy parent.
Perhaps up there with beans on toast, omelettes and fish fingers and peas - the latter recently made famous amongst busy parents with the social media hashtag #solidaritea
But when Pizza Express at Bluewater invited us along to its newest restaurant for a slice of pizza making action - this was an experience far beyond throwing a supermarket pizza into the oven in a hurry.
Pizza Express offer fantastic party packages - something I was only aware of a short time ago.
And as it's every kid's dream to make a mess - and every parent's dream to not have to clear it up - throw in eating some wholesome food everyone has created and wants to eat and this is a win win on so many fronts.
And while we're on the subject - something else I had no idea about is the restaurant chain's exceptional involvement with local schools.
Turning their kitchens into classrooms Pizza Express offers free school visits once a month to between 10 and 30 children who will learn about cooking, and good food, some cooking basics as well as things about food hygiene and kitchen safety.
And yes - for anyone wondering - the pupils also get to make some pizzas which can be taken back to school for lunch!
There are some other terms and conditions, and each restaurant depending on its size and location has its own policy for visits, but all the details of this fantastic scheme can be found here.
But back to the pizza...
The restaurant's manager Suzy took the children slowly through how to knead and shape their dough, and add their tomato base and toppings.
She had the patience of a saint as more than once someone pierced the dough with their finger and made an unintentional hole!
Now about the toppings.
At home, you'll find us in Hawaii tucking into ham and pineapple, and it's very difficult to get the children to deviate from their default choice.
But Suzy brought out olives, mushrooms, pepperoni, chicken and various vegetables. Together with the ham they'd all told her they love.
And gradually one by one little fingers poked and picked up some of the more unusual toppings placing them on little parts of their pizza 'for a try' before covering the whole lot in cheese and sending them off to the kitchens to be cooked.
Now as I said - one of my quartet isn't really a pizza fan and definitely not one for olives and pepperoni.
But while you might think such an experience is an odd choice for someone who professes not to like pizza, she perhaps got the most out of it, talking and touching food with Suzy that probably at home she'd quickly shun and even taking a few small bites from the pizza she made.
Which for anyone who battles a fussy child daily will know, that's quite some rapid progress.
(And Oscar soon hoovered up her leftovers in his ongoing quest to break his own pizza-eating records).
While Liv - who at only four - had the potential to revert to toddler tantrum mode if there was even a fleck of something hidden in her pizza she didn't like will now eat pepperoni on her pizza, whole tomatoes, sweetcorn and we're working up to mushrooms. So long Hawaii!
Topped off with a hefty dose of ice-cream and some beautiful pizza-making certificates and the kids not only had a great time but gained so much from the experience too.
Not least a desire to be a little more adventurous when it comes to some new foods and flavours. Bellissimo!
Pizza Express has opened its latest restaurant on the upper floor of The Plaza in Bluewater, Greenhithe.
To make a reservation telephone 01322 242 000 or click here for further details.
To learn more about Pizza Express birthday parties and pizza making experiences visit the Pizza Express website.