Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Little Chefs

Yummy looking ricotta cakes (above)

Kids have a natural interest in cooking and food – there’s nothing more exciting than helping Mum or Dad bake a cake. But with busier lifestyles and a generation of parents who often have fewer cooking skills and even less time to cook, cooking classes for kids have sprung up to fill the gap.

Cooking For Kids recently opened their doors in Balcombe Road, Beaumaris and offer a great range of classes for children, teenagers and adults.

Baysidemama talked to co-owner Marion Rispin.

Baysidemama: What benefit do children get from cooking classes?

We believe that children’s life long learning is enhanced when they actively participate in a positive and fun environment. Every day we are bombarded with confusing messages about the foods that we should or shouldn’t eat. At Cooking for Kids we provide children and families with skills and knowledge in the selection and preparation of healthy food. Just like learning how to swim or speaking a second language, learning how to cook is more effective if we learn it earlier in life and have fun at the same time.

Through their participation in classes, parties or workshops, children’s knowledge, skills and confidence can develop in many varied ways:

Sensory learning: Tasting, touching, smelling and seeing;

Motor skill development: Hand, eye, mind coordination;

Mathematic concepts: Counting, measuring, and following directions;

Safety: Using equipment safely and developing hygiene skills and knowledge;

Social skills: Working with others, sharing and learning to cooperate;

Language skills: Lots of new word experiences;

Why are children so attracted to cooking?

Children and indeed people of all ages are naturally inquisitive about the food they eat. As in all things there are quite large variations in children’s knowledge and confidence in talking about and handling food. Our groups like to get into the cooking as quickly as possible and love to discuss their understanding of where their food comes from and what they like to eat. The Cooking For Kids team has developed age appropriate activities that help children express their ideas about food as well as learn new skills.

Why are cooking classes for littlies becoming so popular?

There appears to be more interest and enthusiasm for food and cooking for children/young people and there are several factors behind this:

    • Many children are almost totally removed from the sources of their food and no longer see food as a vital life giving substance;
    • TV and popular media largely portray food as a way to relieve boredom or make you feel better but seldom relates food to nutrition or health. The messages are often mixed and negative;
    • Body image has become an alarming issue for many parents and this is a complex and often difficult subject to tackle. Linking young children to dependable information about their food and how to use it can be a good way into this subject;
    • Making time to prepare food and cook, as a family is very difficult for many families. Many parents also tell us that they would also like to take some classes to get back to the basics.

What can parents do to help fussy eaters?

There are many issues behind the so-called fussy eater. We need to consider each child/person individually and to work closely with the parents. What we have found is that all children are curious about food and we work with this curiosity. Colour, texture, taste, smell and fun are our key words. It is amazing to see children who won’t eat vegetables get stuck into grating a carrot, feeling the texture, experiencing the smell and taste. It often takes a bit of mess and lots of fun to introduce a new food. It also requires patience and persistence.

So what classes are on offer?

During school term classes are available for pre-school children at 10am or 1pm on most days of the week. School age groups are planned for 4 to 4.30pm and Teenage programs are run on a Saturday afternoon. Adult classes are planned either for a morning or evening. All of the timetables are available on our Web site or by contacting us. We also run special Easter classes, school holiday programs and cooking parties.

Tell us about the team’s background.

The Cooking for Kids team has over thirty years of teaching experience in health, nutrition and cooking. Geraldine Marsh, myself (Marion Rispin) and Ann Marsh bring a range of experiences from schools, pre-schools, health and community organizations. We are passionate about good health, nutrition and the preparation of nutritious food. We also know the enormous impact that the media and environment can have on how children view themselves and how this effects their level of confidence in tackling new experiences.

The Cooking For Kids team (above). Pictures: Courtesy Cooking For Kids.

Marion has supplied this recipe to try at home:

Fruity Muffins:

Sift together:

1 and 1/2 cups self raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/3rd cup raw sugar

Mix together:

4 tbs cooked apple/pie apple

1/3rd cup oil

1 egg (may be left out)

1/3rd cup milk

1 tsp vanilla essence

  • Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix thoroughly but don’t beat. Use two teaspoons to half fill 6/8 paper patty pans that have been placed into patty tins.
  • Bake at 180 degrees on the middle shelf of the oven for 10 – 12mins or until the muffins spring back when touched gently in the centre.
  • These are delicious just as they are or for a special occasion add your favourite topping (icing or muesli crumbs).
For more information, including timetables, contact details and holiday programs, visit:

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