Teaching your kids cooking skills is no new topic on this blog… and for good reason! Cooking [from scratch] is “the single most important thing we could do as a family to improve our health and general well-being” according to Michael Pollan. Learning how to cook takes time and practice and, since most schools don’t teach this important life skill, it’s up to us as the parents to make sure it happens! I think the first step to get your kids interested in cooking is to give them the confidence they can do it.
We’ve shared recipes and other ways to get things started with you and your kids in the past, but I’ve come to realize that you (thankfully) don’t have to be their only teacher. Our family has recently discovered the plethora of classes and camps out there with a focus on cooking from scratch. I honestly did not even realize cooking camps existed until this year, and once I told my kids about it they were so excited to go this summer!
Cooking Classes for Kids
I’ve personally taken a few cooking classes myself, but the idea to involve my kids first started when we gave our daughter a class as a gift for her 11th birthday. I wrote all about it on the blog, and since then I’ve taken a sushi making class with my other daughter (her choice!) and both girls have loved the experience. Not to mention it was nice quality time together doing something we both could enjoy. Even the most seasoned cooks can learn new skills or different ways to do things at a class!
We took our classes at the Whole Foods cooking school (called Salud!) here in Charlotte, but I’ve seen other options in our area at local restaurants (including Passion8) as well as kitchen stores (such as Williams-Sonoma). Just be sure to check the minimum age requirements, although I will say I was able to get my kids in even though they were younger than 12 simply by asking and letting the school know they had previous experience. I think as long as you are there supervising and not sending them on their own, they are more flexible! I’ve seen other classes offered that are geared toward younger age groups as well.
Cooking Camps for Kids
There are several choices for culinary camps here in Charlotte. This summer we signed up for our first one and went with a camp by a local company, Chef Alyssa, but weeklong camps are also offered at Whole Foods which obviously has more locations. I’ve also heard of a third camp in our area, but was told it’s more of a “birthday party food” camp as opposed to healthy cooking from scratch.
This is honestly why we went with Chef Alyssa and were so excited about her camp. These kids made EVERYTHING from scratch (even more so than we do at home!) down to making their own hamburger buns and grinding their own meat for the burgers. My 9-year-old attended the camp with two of Kiran’s daughters, and all three loved it. The other day I started to chop a bell pepper in the kitchen for dinner and she said, “Wait! Can I show you how I learned to chop them at camp?” And sure enough her (new) way was better than my method. :)
Each day of camp had a theme, and the results ended up being their lunch (lucky them). In addition to the Burger Day they had a Pizza Day (where they made the dough from scratch), a Summer BBQ Day with marinated chicken skewers, and a Taco Day (with made-from-scratch tortillas) that they got to share with family members who could join on the last day. All foods (most) kids love! And they got a recipe booklet and apron at the end so they can continue to practice their new skills at home. Here are some snapshots of all the fun…
Whether your kid has never stepped foot in the kitchen or helps you all the time, I think a cooking class or camp is such a fun way to get them excited about cooking and give them the confidence they can do it. We would definitely let our girls go to a camp (or class) like this again in the future!
Online Cooking Resources for Kids
I realize not every town has this many great alternatives, so another thing to consider is an online camp or set of classes. You can do a search for options that meet your needs or check out our partner Katie with Kitchen Stewardship. Katie shared some tips for learning knife skills with us last week, and I definitely think her class is worth checking out. If you still have a couple weeks left of summer before school starts (like us!), this may just be the thing to help you beat the heat and avoid end of summer boredom.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on cooking classes and camps for kids in the comments below!