For many of us on the Sawyer team, cooking is a way to unwind, entertain, and be creative. While we actively seek out ways for our children to feel a similar passion, we know that it takes time to discover (especially when your main food groups are cheddar bunnies and string cheese). When looking for tips to get your children more interested in cooking, who better to talk to than the experts?
We sat down with eight of our cooking providers to talk about the benefits of cooking for kids, as well as the home exercises they can practice to help them discover their own passion for cooking.
It’s nice to talk with all of you. So our first question is, what would you say the biggest benefit is for children who take cooking classes?
Cheryl, Sugar Beet Schoolhouse: My students take away a sense of confidence. I show them that we all make mistakes, we all mess up sometimes but it’s the practice of “doing” and having fun that makes for a lifetime of enjoyment in the kitchen.
Jennifer, Sugarsuckle: The kids learn how to follow steps in a recipe — to take raw ingredients and transform them into a baked product. At the end of the lesson, they get a sense of achievement because they have made something entirely on their own (...with a little help!).
Cara, Freshmade: There are so many benefits! Kids learn so many things in the kitchen - from math (counting, fractions, sequencing, measuring, shapes, problem-solving), vocabulary, geography/culture (foods/ingredients/spices from around the world, where different foods grow, how people eat around the world), health/nutrition (nutrition, food groups, food safety), fine motor skills (whisking, pinching, kneading, pouring, sifting, rolling), social skills, responsibility, cooperation/sharing, self-confidence and so much more!
Gina, Cook n’ Grow: I think cooking is a life skill, something that no one can ever take away from you. We don’t teach kids to memorize recipes, we teach them to enjoy cooking so they do it because they love so. They don’t see it as a chore!
Sara Kate and Dana, The Dynamite Shop: Feeling in charge of their nourishment and contributing to the everyday maintenance of family life. In particular, with our afterschool program all children take home a prepared dinner for five people each week.
Stacey, Allergic to Salad: You get to learn a life skill, become independent, take comfortable risks in what you taste — adventurous eating. So much more. It sounds crazy when you're talking about really young kids, but one day you won't be home to cook for them, or they'll be out of the house and to know how to cook is self-reliance.
Such great insight from all of you! What’s one fun thing you want people to know about your classes?
Pascal, Bake Austin: I’ve noticed that parents are often surprised that the kids really do everything here at Bake Austin. They measure the ingredients, they mix the dough, they shape and scoop and decorate and also they clean up and put things back. We are all about teamwork and hands-on experiences.
Stacey, Allergic to Salad: You get to taste what you make at the end of every class! Even for kids that might be afraid to try something new, they usually come around-- it might take a few weeks, but the most skeptical eaters often become the best eaters in our classes!
Sara Kata and Dana, The Dynamite Shop: We have a disco ball which means sometimes we break out into a dance party.
Laura, Oui Chef: Each class we do a "tasting time" where we try foods/ingredients related to what we are making that day. We also learn about a topic related to what we are making. Kids walk into my business and the first thing they ask is what is for tasting time. They love it.
What tips do you have for parents looking to get their children more involved in the kitchen?
Gina, Cook n’ Grow: Let them help you every time they want to. Be patient, invest in children safe cooking utensils, let them do it on their own, teach them to be safe (what burns, what cuts, etc). At the beginning cooking would take longer than usual, it may not be perfect or the prettiest, but it’s so worth it… you’ll be surprised what they can do!
Cheryl, Sugar Beets: Make the time. It might take an hour longer to cook a simple dish with children because they are learning. They want to spend time with their parents as much as they want to cook so don’t rush things, let them make a mess, show them how much you love them with attention and encouragement. Be enthusiastic and playful.
Sara Kate and Dana, The Dynamite Shop: Start by cooking what they like to eat. Go to restaurants they like and ask the cooks how they made their favorite dishes. Involve them in dinner every night, even in small ways. Give them their own (age-appropriate!) tools.
Laura, Oui Chef: Look at the recipes you are making and break it down into small steps. There are always places your kids can help no matter how difficult the recipe. Mixing, cutting with kid friendly knives, rolling. They can often do more than what we expect them to.
Cara, Freshmade: Don’t be afraid to make a mess! Keep it fun and simple. Getting kids involved in even the smallest ways like washing vegetables or plucking herb leaves is beneficial. Start small and give them more tasks as they go and you both get more comfortable being in the kitchen together. The kitchen is the heart of the home. I am a firm believer that the more you cook together, the more you eat together, the stronger the relationship will develop. You’re providing your child with life skills that will empower their confidence for years to come and allow them to be self-sufficient in the kitchen as they get older.
We need some winter dish ideas...If you could only cook one dish all winter...what would it be?
Sarah and Dana, The Dynamite Shop: An impossible question to answer! We teach lots of soups in the winter because there are so many lessons in them — knife work, stock, mirepoix, roux, caramelization, seasoning — and they're so hearty and soul-satisfying.
Laura, Oui Chef: Chocolate Chip Cookies. Simple, but always loved!
Gina, Cook n’ Grow: Empanadas for sure!
Cara, Freshmade: Soup! We just made an amazing Minestrone Soup with the kids and it’s all I can think about the last few days. It’s the perfect heartiness you need to warm up your body on a cold Winter’s day.
Cheryl, Sugar Beets: Soup! Put it all in the pot - whatever you got. We’ve been making tomatoey veggie soup with handmade orecchiette pasta this month. So delicious!
Stacey, Allergic to Salad: Soup. I have soup almost every day in the winter. We make homemade stock once a week from kitchen scraps and everyone rotates their pick we'll make. The other week my 6-year-old wanted Italian Wedding and my 4-year-old wanted Ren Lentil.
Pascal, Bake Austin: At the moment, the favorites are Bavarian soft Pretzels and French Macarons. It is hard to decide.
Jennifer, Sugarsuckle: Grilled cheese and tomato soup.