We are incredibly fortunate to meet an increasing number of children through our KIN Village school holiday programs. We have observed over the last few years at our programs, and previously in our role as teachers, a decline in the number of children who possess even the most basic of ‘home’ skills. Children who didn’t know how to use a grater or a knife. Many were unable tell the difference between a cucumber and a zucchini! This is truly concerning to us. It drove us to make our KIN Village sessions more than activities and building cubbies. However, it requires sneaky teaching and a very specific approach.
At our KIN Village school holiday programs, amid the freedom, play, adventure, social connection and joy we attempt to instill a sense of ownership. We help children experience opportunities for developing independence and we aim to ‘teach’ them some life skills in sneaky ways that feel like play. Cooking lunch is one of these skills or experiences that, when presented in the correct way with the right amount of autonomy and freedom, becomes a joy and a highlight of the day.
Our lunch menus differ from season to season. In Winter and Spring, lunch consists of sausage sizzle cooked on a Webber, accompanied by fire-roasted vegetables such as corn, zucchini and capsicum. During Autumn, we reduce the size of our fire and use it only for boiling water to make rice paper rolls. In Summer, we are limited by fire bans. So we look to the sun as our source of heat, and harness its intense power through the use of a solar cooker. The joy of transformation inspires children to get involved in the cooking process, to understand the process of cooking a little better and even encourages them to try foods they’ve never eaten.
But it’s not just about the cooking. At KIN Village, lunch requires preparation, and children are actively involved in every step. We source food from local growers and present the children with the produce and tools to create a healthy, colourful meal. This also becomes an opportunity to support the development of fine motor skills, knife techniques and an understanding of safety and hygiene.
It is interesting to note the most common injuries at KIN Village sessions are not from the large tools. Nor from carrying sticks around, or running in the bush. It is from over confidence or incorrect knife use when cutting things like tomatoes or zucchini! We demonstrate correct knife techniques, remind children to slow down and take their time. However, we often see children rush, appear over confident and take less care. In contrast, when carving and whittling with more complex tools, we see the opposite. Children slow their pace, aim to refine their technique, and generally have more patience and precision. It’s interesting to observe the varying levels of coordination when it comes to using simple kitchen utensils and tools. To support this skill development – we peel, we chop, we dice and we grate!
Many parents tell us they are gobsmacked their child helped to chop vegetables AND eat them too! Parents often share how difficult it is to get their children to help in the kitchen. We do have a few benefits – we are not their parents, and with KIN Village there is the novelty factor. Most importantly it comes down to that ownership and independence of working to make something for themselves. We love the satisfaction we see on their faces when lunch is served! They have contributed to the community – they feel pride, confidence and joy!
Take the Challenge
We challenge families to engage their children in the process of cooking from the initial steps.
- Harvest – ask your children what they want to eat and involve them in the shopping;
- Prepare – Guide them in the cooking, but let them have autonomy and control in this space; and
- Share and Celebrate – Eat together as a family and ensure there are no distractions at the dinner table.
Take the challenge to reinvigorate the process of making and sharing food! We’d love to hear your stories. Perhaps booking into our next school holiday programs might be a way to kick-start your child’s involvement in the kitchen?
By Daniel Burton
So, most importantly, what are the kids saying about the food?
“This is the most delicious food I’ve ever eaten!!” Sam, 9.
“I normally wouldn’t eat this kind of healthy stuff. But here it’s different. I dunno maybe it’s cause we made it ourselves.” Alex, 10.