Basic Kids' Cooking Class Guidelines For Youth Aged 8 – 15 Years
Bring: a frying pan, a large spoon, partially cooked pasta, garlic, small paring knives for each child, a larger knife for you to demonstrate, salt and pepper, olive oil and parmesan cheese. (See our simple recipe on the Recipes page)
1) Think about where you know children who you can teach to cook. We recommend for a basic cooking class to have kids 8 years of age of over, as then they are more coordinated to hold a knife. Some kids who are age 6 or 7 may be familiar with using a knife as they have been taught this at home. Check that out first. If children are not familiar with a knife, then we suggest that you start with kids at age 8 (this is usually the age where kids have the dexterity to handle a knife) and above. You might want to start with a class of 4--if you have more than 4, have a co-teacher to help you.
- These guidelines are offered to give you some idea of how to have a basic class and what content you might want to cover. However, if you feel confident that “Get them cooking…” right away. You might want to start the class by doing a cooking demonstration, having the kids eat the dish and then move into some of the content explained below. The idea is to do what you feel comfortable and confident doing so that cooking is fun, pleasurable and socially interactive.
2) Beginning the Class: Ask children to clean their hands before the class, as clean hands are important in cooking. Introduce yourself and ask children to say their name and share something that they may know about cooking.
- Other ideas for “Icebreakers”
- Ask the kids to introduce themselves and name one thing that they have cooked or,
- One thing that they would like to leave the class knowing or,
- The funniest thing that ever happened to them while cooking or in the kitchen or.
- If they could be a vegetable, which one would they want to be?
- You get the idea J
3) Explain to them that you are interested it teaching them about Food: good, clean and fair food as a member of Slow Food Pittsburgh (This is optional… however you would be surprised how much kids want to know and do know about this subject)
- Good food: It is whole, not processed by people, coming from farmers and farm land,
- Clean (safe) food: explain here the difference between organic food versus conventionally grown and the taste difference between local food and food trucked in from another state.
- Fair food: food that is grown and gives the farmer a fair price for the food that they grow.
Through the whole group-- ask the children what they know about organic versus conventional, locally grown versus trucked in food. Children are curious and ask them to share-- you will be surprised at how informative they are! Promote and facilitate interactive dialogue with the kids sharing their experiences with one another. Not all children have access to organic vegetables—the idea is to get the kids to eat more vegetables, whether they are organic or not… this is one way to get kids to eat healthier.
4) Bring to the class examples of good, clean and fair food: locally grown organic vegetables. Also bring conventionally grown vegetables… they look the same. The vegetables that you choose will depend on the season as to what is locally grown, the market you shop in (they may not have organic vegetables), how far your market is from a farm. Naturally, not all kids or families have access to local, fresh food however, our goal here is to teach kids to cook fresh and to teach HOW to cook vegetables, as that is healthier ... we all could benefit from cooking and eating more vegetables and fruits. Alternatively, if you want to make this a lesson about fresh fruit, you might teach them to cut fruit and make a fruit salad. The idea here is to promote the eating and cooking of fresh vegetables and fruits as this is healthier and promotes whole food cooking and eating.
5) Ask the children why they think it is important to learn to cook. Get their thoughts. Some might be:
- We all have to eat--so learn to cook
- Knowing how cooking helps you when you have to leave home and go out on your own
- If you know how to cook, you can get a job anywhere in the world.
- Or... our favorite--if you know how to cook you will always have friends.
The point here is that learning how to cook helps us to eat healthier and is a way to connect with others, to enjoy each other’s company and to develop relationships that are meaningful while eating food that is pleasurable.
Learning to use a knife:
6) Teach kids how to use a knife in order to cut vegetables.
First explain “Claw hand” Have them hold up their claw hand… it is this hand that we hold the vegetable with as we cut with a knife.
- Explain how when you use your claw hand, you hold the vegetable down with your fingernails and your knuckles are out so when you cut your knife blade will hit up against your knuckles and NOT your fingertips.
- Explain that if your fingertips are sticking out, then you run the risk of cutting the tips of your fingers. Show examples of this as you demonstrate cutting the vegetable.
- Explain how to stabilize a vegetable: if the veggie is a carrot, for example, or a potato or any vegetable that “rolls”. It is cautious to cut out a small piece of the carrot or vegetable to keep it flat and from rolling as you cut. Demonstrate this.
- Wash the vegetable to prepare for cutting.
- Here is a good time to point out the color and shapes of the vegetables – and the beauty of food. We emphasize that food needs to be delicious and beautiful as we cook and serve it.
- Give them a paring knife and have them practice cutting a vegetable. Watch to see which if children are not using the knife properly, correct hand positions and any un-safe use of knives.
- As children cut vegetables, get the sauté pan ready. Show the simple way to sauté delicious vegetables.
- Place 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in pan.
- Show them how to smash a garlic clove and put it in the simmering oil
- Explain that garlic starts to bubble and this is when you put the chopped veggies in. If the garlic turns brown, it gets bitter. You can take it out then and still have garlic flavor in the oil.
Cooking the Vegetables:
7) Have the children give you their chopped veggies and then place them in the sauté pan with the oil and garlic. You can have the children help stir the pan to get the concept of stirring and keeping the vegetables moving so they cook. ** Important to note here, you might have children saying to you, since you are combining various vegetables together, that they “don’t like ____ “ and therefore can they not have it on their plate. We make it a point to say that they are to taste sample all the vegetables. That often it takes up to 8 tastings of a vegetable to like it. We do not “indulge” the reticent children by not giving them certain vegetables. Everyone gets the same food - everyone tastes the food. You will be surprised at how children will eat certain vegetables that they previously said they did not like when they see other children eating it or simple because this time around the vegetable is more delicious.
- Make a point here that the veggies in the pan are different colors and shapes and that this is attractive—the color and shapes—that food need to be beautiful as well as tasty.
8) take the pre-cooked pasta. WE recommend either penne or Cappellini, and place in the pan of the cooking vegetables. Cook for several minutes.
9) Have the children clean up their space to get ready to eat. As you pass out the pasta and vegetables, ask the children to wait while everyone gets their food. Then give them an assignment while eating:
- Chew each bite 10 times. What do you notice when you do this?
- Some comments may include: I can taste more of the food, I can hear what others are saying because I’m not talking, I can feel more texture in my food, etc.
- The point is to have children experience chewing and savoring their food.
10) Before the children leave the group ask them what they have learned. What three things have you learned today? What will you remember when you return home? What will you tell your family about your group today? (We have included a sample form at the end of these guidelines –children can write down what they have learned to bring home to their family)
- As children share what they have learned, repeat it so that others in the group may learn more about ideas to take from the group.
- There is an attached basic recipe that you can give children to children to take home to replicate the recipe for their family.
- Encourage the children to teach their family the recipe and to cook for themselves and others.
Thank them for coming and ask if they know of other children who would like to learn.
Survey the kids using sample feeback form below. Use it at the end of the class to reinforce learning in the group. Kids can take this home and show their family members what they learned.
Congratulate yourself on teaching some kids to cook and cooking it forward!
Teach a Kid to Cook Feedback Form
1. Did you like this group? Yes_____ No_______
2. Would you like to attend another group like this one? Yes___ No____
3. What did you learn from this group?
I learned __________________________________________________
I learned __________________________________________________
4. Will you use some of these ideas at home with your family or in school? Yes___ No____
If YES, what did you learn that you would use at home or in school?________________________________________________________________________________________