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Cook with Kids! Cooking Event Planner

A resource for planning cooking and nutrition education for children in the classroom.

Description

The Cook with Kids! Cooking Event Planner provides a variety of tips and handouts for planning and instructing cooking and nutrition education in the classroom, including equipment lists, sample recipes, and safety rules.  

  • Originator of Resource: California Department of Education (CDE)
  • User of Resource: School, afterschool, or child care staff (i.e., child nutrition staff, school wellness coordinators, teachers, afterschool program providers, family day care home providers), parents, and volunteers
  • Audience: School age children
  • Cost: Free
  • Date updated: July 2019

Resource

The Cook with Kids! Cooking Event Planner includes the following sections:

Check Students’ Skills and Restrictions

Before cooking with students, check for cooking skills that are appropriate for the grade level.

Tips

  • Consider your students’ ages, skills, and temperament before cooking.
  • Build on experiences and develop age-appropriate cooking skills.
  • Use the Cooking Skills and Sequential Nutrition Education outline of grade-specific concepts, strategies, and cooking skills below.
  • Check for food allergies or cultural or religious restrictions. For an example of how to request parent permission and food restrictions review this Sample Cooking Event Parent Permission Form (PDF).
  • Ensure that procedural safeguards are in place during meal prep and cooking so all students can safely participate in the classroom activity.

Considerations

Ask yourself or discuss with the classroom teacher the following questions before beginning a cooking event:

  • What is the grade level of the students?
  • What cooking skills do the students currently have?
  • Do any of the students have written medical statements or require meal accommodations due to a disability?
  • Do any of the students have food allergies, religious, or cultural restrictions?

Cooking Skills and Sequential Nutrition Education

Review the information below and make note of the skills that are appropriate for the following grade levels:

Kindergarten

Concepts and Strategies
  • Explain why healthy foods are necessary for energy and good health.
  • Identify simple words to describe foods by using a variety of senses.
  • Describe how to wash hands before handling food.
Sample Cooking Skills
  • Stirring
  • Simple measuring
  • Rinse and tear lettuce leaves
  • Squeeze lemons
  • Slice bananas

Early Elementary

Concepts and Strategies
  • Classify various foods into appropriate food groups.
  • Describe how to keep food safe from harmful germs.
  • Explain how both physical activity and eating habits can affect a person’s health.
  • Practice making healthy eating choices with friends and family.
  • Involve parents through take-home activities.
  • Provide incentives and reinforcements for healthy eating behaviors.
Sample Cooking Skills
  • Chop soft foods
  • Grate cheese
  • Open cans
  • Wash vegetables
  • Measure
  • Knead dough
  • Crack eggs

Upper Elementary

Concepts and Strategies
  • Assess food habits, noting portion sizes.
  • Introduce media and social influences on eating behavior.
  • Introduce label reading.
  • Discuss choices available when eating out.
  • Use food groups to plan meals.
  • Conduct role-play activities to enhance decision-making skills.
  • Discuss how child can positively influence family food behavior.
  • Practice sanitation skills.
  • Involve parents through take-home activities.
  • Provide incentives and reinforcements for healthy eating behaviors.
Sample Cooking Skills
  • Learn to use small appliances, such as microwaves, blenders
  • Chop vegetables
  • Learn to use stove and oven
  • Follow a recipe
  • Plan and prepare a simple meal

Middle and High School

Concepts and Strategies
  • Assess food habits using advanced methods of nutrient analysis (food groups, Recommended Dietary Allowances, and Dietary Guidelines).
  • Practice skills on responding to media and social influences on eating behavior.
  • Practice healthy choices based on label information.
  • Assess and choose a healthy fast food meal.
  • Use food groups to plan and prepare meals.
  • Conduct role-play activities to enhance decision-making skills.
  • Set goals with self-determined incentives and reinforcements.
  • Explain the relation between nutrition and future health, such as heart disease and osteoporosis.
  • Practice sanitation skills.
  • Encourage peer-led instruction; peers are role models.
Sample Cooking Skills
  • Plan and prepare a nutritionally balanced meal for the family.

Obtain Equipment

Kitchen equipment may be obtained through a number of ways including grants, donations, and purchases. If you have the resources for a more permanent set up, stocking a mobile cooking cart is a wonderful addition to any school. If properly cared for, it can last for years.

Tips

  • Start with simple activities and equipment; for example, taste testing.
  • Include eating utensils and cleaning supplies.
  • Coordinate with the school or district on how to obtain cooking kits and carts. For examples of cooking cart equipment and supplies, visit the Cooking Cart Equipment web page.
  • Teach students to use equipment safely and create safety rules for cooking.
  • Equipment tips: (a) use thin, flexible cutting boards that are easy to store and to cut to make enough for each group, and (b) use plastic picnic knives or the Lexan Camping Knife available at outdoor stores—they are sturdier than plastic, but not too sharp for younger students

Considerations

Ask yourself or discuss with the classroom teacher or the Nutrition Services Director the following questions before beginning a cooking event:

  • What equipment is appropriate for your students’ grade and skill levels?
  • Who will provide the equipment and how will it be obtained?
  • Do your students know how to safely operate the equipment?
  • How can your classroom, school, or district collaborate in obtaining and stocking cooking kits or carts?

Review Cooking Styles

The Cook with Kids! Cooking Styles includes four cooking instruction styles:

Tips

  • Review the Cook with Kids! Cooking Styles Handout (PDF) and four cooking styles below.
  • Consider grade level, students’ skills, group dynamics, classroom space, cooking time, and available adult supervision when choosing a cooking style.
  • Adapt cooking styles to fit your particular classroom needs.

Considerations

Ask yourself or discuss with the classroom teacher the following questions before beginning a cooking event:

  • What is the grade level of the students?
  • What experience do the students have with group work?
  • How much time is available for the cooking event?
  • Are there any adult volunteers available to support the event?

Cooking Styles

Demonstration

Cooking demonstrations in the classroom allow students to watch an instructor prepare a recipe.

For a detailed image of the Demonstration cooking style, download the Cook with Kids! Cooking Styles Handout (PDF).
Student Experience
  • Cooking Level: Beginner
  • Group Interaction: Individual and observational
Requirements
  • Time: Low
  • Supervision: Low
  • Equipment: Low to medium
Advantages
  • Works well with large groups
  • Simplifies set-up, presentation, and clean-up
  • Requires only limited adult supervision
  • Expands students’ experiences with guest and celebrity chefs
Disadvantages
  • Limits reinforcement of reading, mathematics, and science skills
  • Limits hands-on experiences

Single Portion

The single portion cooking instruction style allows students to prepare their own portion or serving.

For a detailed image of the Single Portion cooking style, download the Cook with Kids! Cooking Styles Handout (PDF).

Student Experience
  • Cooking Level: Beginner
  • Group Interaction: Individual and hands-on
Requirements
  • Time: Medium
  • Supervision: Medium
  • Equipment: Medium
Advantages
  • Provides hands-on experiences
  • Reinforces reading, mathematics, and science skills
  • Requires only limited adult supervision
  • Limits group-dynamic distractions
Disadvantages
  • Increases preparation time
  • Limits opportunity to practice group work
  • Limits recipe selection by requiring simpler recipes

Cooperative Group

The cooperative group cooking instruction style allows students to work in groups to prepare ingredients for a single class recipe.

For a detailed image of the Cooperative Group cooking style, download the Cook with Kids! Cooking Styles Handout (PDF).
Student Experience
  • Cooking Level: Intermediate to advanced
  • Group Interaction: Cooperative and hands-on
Requirements
  • Time: Medium to high
  • Supervision: High
  • Equipment: Medium to high
Advantages
  • Provides hands-on experiences
  • Provides opportunity to practice group cooperation
  • Reinforces reading, mathematics, and science skills
  • Expands recipe selection by allowing for more complex recipes
  • Reduces preparation time with students working together
Disadvantages
  • Works best for older students who have group work experience
  • Requires group dynamics to be managed

Cooking Station

The cooking station cooking instruction style allows students to work in groups to prepare an entire recipe.

For a detailed image of the Cooking Station cooking style, download the Cook with Kids! Cooking Styles Handout (PDF).
Student Experience
  • Cooking Level: Advanced
  • Group Interaction: Cooperative and hands-on
Requirements
  • Time: High
  • Supervision: High
  • Equipment: High
Advantages
  • Provides hands-on experiences
  • Provides opportunity to practice group cooperation
  • Increases practice of reading, mathematics, and science skills, since student groups complete the entire recipe
  • Expands recipe selection by allowing for more complex recipes
Disadvantages
  • Works best for older students that have group work experience
  • Demands greater preparation time to set and clean up stations
  • Requires group dynamics to be managed
  • Requires increased adult supervision

Explore Recipes

Tips

  • Choose healthy recipes based on MyPlate food groups. To learn more about MyPlate nutrition guidelines and resources visit the USDA Choose MyPlate web page External link opens in new window or tab. .
  • Select recipes that complement nutrition and health education lessons. For examples visit the Cook with Kids Recipe Sampler web page.
  • Base recipes on students’ ages and cooking skills, classroom space, available equipment, and your chosen cooking style.
  • Choose a recipe format that works for your students’ ages and reading abilities.
  • Choose recipes that will involve all students.
  • Review the recipe with your students and have students create a list of safety rules.

Considerations

Ask yourself the following questions before beginning a cooking event:

  • Does the recipe support MyPlate health and nutrition concepts and align with the Local School Wellness Policy?
  • Is the recipe appropriate for students’ ages, skills, and experiences?
  • Do the ingredients in the recipe meet food allergy, religious, or cultural considerations?
  • Does the recipe require special equipment?
  • Is the recipe a good fit with selected cooking style?
  • What safety tips and skills do students need to know or practice before cooking this recipe?

Keep Students Safe

Tips

Food Safety
  • Keep food choices healthy.
  • Handle food properly.
  • Keep cold foods cold and cook foods thoroughly to proper internal temperatures. For more information regarding temperature controls for potentially hazardous foods, visit the CDE Management Bulletin, NSD-SFSP-01-2008, Temperature Controls of Potentially Hazardous Food web page.
  • Prevent cross-contamination by washing all food and work surfaces.
  • Check with the Local Environmental Health Department (LEHD) to determine what is allowable in your county and what local procedures you must follow. The LEHD may require a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HAACP) Plan to be in place specifically for classroom or student cooking.
Sanitation
  • Allow enough time for the entire class to wash hands thoroughly.
  • Rewash hands often and when necessary.
  • Wash and sanitize all work surfaces.
  • Make your own sanitizer by mixing 2 teaspoons borax, 4 tablespoons vinegar, and 3 cups hot water in a clearly labeled spray bottle.
Safe Environment
  • Check with your district’s security officer or local fire department for regulations on heat cooking in the classroom.
  • Be prepared with first aid equipment and a fire extinguisher, and know how to use them.
  • Do safety checks before and during cooking activities.
  • Train students and adult volunteers to use all equipment before cooking. For example, review the Primer of Basic Kitchen Skills web page with your students.
  • Use an adult-supervised cooking station for cooking with heat.
  • Teach and review often the Claw-and-Saw Knife Technique Handout (PDF).
Questions:   Nutrition Services Division | HHFKA@cde.ca.gov | 800-952-5609
Last Reviewed: Friday, September 13, 2019
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