Kids in the kitchen

Published 3:58 pm Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Most children know how to microwave pizza rolls or help bake a batch of cookies, but not many can slice, dice and boil their way to creating a homemade meal.

Each summer, St. Vincent’s One Nineteen offers cooking camps for children, allowing them to become more confident in the kitchen.

“I think cooking is somewhat becoming a lost art, although there’s more of an interest now with all the cooking shows out there,” said Donna Sibley, One Nineteen’s Wellness Dietitian and camp director.

Sibley developed the children’s cooking program, now in its fourth year, and works as the director and occasionally an instructor.

The children focus on four recipes each day, working in groups to complete each dish. Instructors, with help from University of Alabama dietetics students, supervise the meal preparations.

“It’s nutrition education without them realizing it,” Sibley said. “We’re teaching them about lower calorie foods versus processed foods. Often they haven’t been familiarized with fresh ingredients like fruits, vegetables and grains.”

The programs also include useful skill sets, from learning how to read a recipe to practicing fractions when measuring amounts for a recipe.

One of the biggest benefits of the cooking camps is that children, even picky eaters, will try things they wouldn’t try at home. They see their peers tasting certain foods, and they enjoy tasting things they’ve made themselves, Sibley said.

“We want to instill in the children the love of cooking and how you can take fresh ingredients and put them together in simple ways,” Sibley said.

The program allows for different skill levels, as well as two separate age groups, 6- to 9-year-old “sous chefs” and 10- to 12-year-old “master chefs.” Participants can choose to attend the morning session from 8 a.m. until noon, the afternoon session from 1 to 5 p.m. or all day.

Next week’s camp, “Entree for the Day,” is for ages 10 to 12 and runs July 20-24. Each session costs $175, all day is $300 and discounts are available for siblings or multiple-week signups.