Big A has always loved cooking. For a while now, I’ve kept her from nagging me about when dinner will be ready by tasking her with an age-appropriate activity in the kitchen, and it certainly beats simply turning on the TV to keep her occupied. As a bonus, such activities serve as fun, quality time with my little girl, and motivate her to try new foods because she had a hand in creating them.
Try cooking with your little ones, and you’ll be amazed at the skills they quickly hone working in the kitchen. Early on, they’ll develop the basics: safety awareness (i.e., the blue flame is extremely hot and will burn you, so stay away), basic math (e.g., counting and measuring out ingredients), fine motor skills (e.g., scooping, stirring, kneading), and vocabulary (i.e., the vernacular of food). And recently, I’ve been pleasantly surprised as to the additional skills children can develop by participating in group cooking classes. Many of these like communication, collaboration, and patience will serve them well in the future.
A few weeks ago, I took Big A and her good friend to Young Chefs Academy in Sandy Springs for a “KinderCooks” class. After washing their hands and donning their chef whites, the children all sat around a table with a chef/teacher leading the group in crafting Fruit Salsa & Cinnamon Chips. Given Big A’s proficiency and comfort-level in the kitchen, I anticipated that she might be slightly bored by this exercise. I was completely mistaken.
After the chef doled out various fruits (kiwis, raspberries, apples, strawberries, etc.), Big A lit up with excitement upon learning that she would be allowed to use various KNIVES (implements strictly forbidden in my kitchen) to cut them up. Finally, she would be allowed to get her hands on something otherwise taboo for little kids. Let me clarify: the knives (and pizza rollers) were fashioned from plastic. Although perfectly functional, they are also completely safe for this often impulsive age group of 4 and 5 year-olds. You can buy a number of age-appropriate cooking tools there.
Unlike some cooking classes, where each student makes his or her own dish, this was a collaborative fruit salsa. Each student chopped fruit to put in the communal bowl. Each had to wait for a turn, exercising as much patience as each could summon until getting to add fruit and other ingredients (various sugars and preserves) to the bowl.
The teacher constantly asked questions about the ingredients throughout the process, as she tried her best to engage these short-attention-span foodies. After the fruit was left to macerate, the children began assembling baked chips by spraying flour tortillas with cooking spray, followed by sugar and cinnamon, before tossing them in the oven. The next activity, food bingo, cleverly distracted the children from getting restless while waiting to savor the fruits of their labor (pun intended), which the children hungrily gobbled. Now if they would only teach them how to do the dishes, this class would be an even better investment!
Individual Classes-$35; $25 for siblings
230 Hammond Drive, NE – Suite 368
Sandy Springs, GA 30328