Mess Makin' In the Kitchen
June 28, 2016 5:03 PM   Subscribe

I am teaching a cooking class to smallish children at a summer camp next week. Help me figure out what do/make with with time constraints and young children!

I'm looking for recipes for a Mess Makin' in the Kitchen Class I have to lead! I have 1 hour for the workshop. The kids are 5, 6 7 (so rising kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd graders.)

(I've been doing nature art the past few weeks, but they need someone to fill in for this class.) When I agreed to do it it sounded fun, but now I'm a little overwhelmed!

The workshop is for 1 hour, and then I do another one just after for another hour with another group of kids.

(So, 2, 1 hour "cooking" classes, back-to-back for 5 days.) There could be as many as 10-12 kids in each class.

So I need ideas on what to do with them where we can basically make the food, and eat it. I will probably have to do some prep, which is fine, but I'm still trying to figure out simple, fun things to make that will involve them. (An hour goes by really fast, so nothing too crazy or complicated! Overall, we are going for healthy food, but 1 or 2 sweet dishes are fine too.

And it would be nice if I didn't have to clean up for a long time after the classes.)

I need to go a shop for pretty much everything ahead of time (though I can pick up stuff through out the week.)

Things I have though of:

Tacos/quesadillas -
Banana Splits ( make them healthy-ish?)
Pizza (bring in pre-made dough, they can put the toppings on, and we can bake
Sushi (making the rice at home, and just putting veggie stuff in them)
Pasta of some kind(?)

We can also make PlayDough one day (so they wouldn't eat it, but make it and take some home!)

All ideas and recipes most welcome!!
posted by Rocket26 to Home & Garden (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
you have an oven, it sounds like? Mini muffins are easy, bake quickly and you can add grated zucchini or carrot.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:20 PM on June 28, 2016

When I was a kid, one of my cookbooks had a recipe for a jelly roll up sandwich:

Cut crusts off sandwich bread. Flatten bread with a rolling pin. Spread with jelly/jam and/or peanut butter. Roll up tightly, and eat.
posted by hydra77 at 5:26 PM on June 28, 2016

English muffin pizzas
Tortilla roll ups
Fruit salad

Really it's about either having a small dish each kid can make OR having a dish with enough ingredients/ steps that kid can do something.
posted by Ftsqg at 5:30 PM on June 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Instead of, or in addition to the tacos, you can also do a large plate of nachos for the group.

You can do any sort of pinwheel/wraps. Flour tortilla, spread with cream cheese. Add various veggies, lunchmeat if desired, and roll up tightly. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate if you have time, then slice into pinwheels and enjoy!
posted by hydra77 at 5:30 PM on June 28, 2016

Banana Splits ( make them healthy-ish?)

Yogurt banana boat: split the banana, top with strawberry yogurt, granola, and berries.

For the pasta, you can either bring in jar sauce or you could make a pasta salad with cucumbers and cherry tomatoes and then either shake up your own Italian dressing or make mayonnaise dressing with a stick blender.

Beanie weenie, totally camp food.

Edible playdough.

The plastic wrap method of making onigiri balls.

Pigs in a blanket.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:37 PM on June 28, 2016

Ice Cream in a Bag (Or a coffee can)
Rice Cooker Chocolate cake
Classics like ants on a log work too
posted by FakePalindrome at 5:39 PM on June 28, 2016

In the sweet-but-not-healthy category:
Armpit fudge - very popular with the 6-year-olds I've known

cheddar cheese fudge - We used to make this in Girl Scouts. It tastes like normal fudge as long as you mix thoroughly. Kids always thought it was pretty neat how the cheese would vanish and turn into candy as you mixed.

Ice cream in a can was also lots of fun.
posted by belladonna at 6:12 PM on June 28, 2016

I remember being able to make shortbread on my own when I was ridiculously young, probably by first grade. It was fun to mix it up with my hands. Also fun, if tiring: shaking cream to make butter.
posted by phantom powered at 6:14 PM on June 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Prepared pancake mix + mini muffin tray + lots of chopped fruit + oven = "fruit muffins." This is a nice recipe for kids because if it's the 'just add water' pancake mix, they can make it themselves quite easily. (You can also stuff them with marshmallows and chocolate chips and so on, but don't tell them that...)

I must have had what was a weirdly 70s version of hydra77's cookbook -- my jellyroll sandwiches were whole wheat with Cheez Whiz and alfalfa sprouts. Bizarre, but I loved them. Of course you can start the sprouts with the kids and use your own sprouts for added interest.

Devilled eggs -- give the kids the yolk and mayo in a zip-lock to squeeze around and cut the corner off of and squish out? No-flour few-ingredient peanut butter cookies?

Some of the littler ones will have trouble with real knives by my daughter always thrilled to making her own salads in those years. Ripping up leaves is reasonably fun, so's crumbling feta.

(Re.: ants on a log. In my experience that is a horror story you tell a 2016 kid so you can watch their eyes grow wide while they ask "But why? Why would anybody have done that?" They have, thankfully, fallen quite out of fashion, at least in these parts. The modern-day equivalent is bento box stuff, where you make cute faces etc out of the food even if the foods don't quite go together all that well.)
posted by kmennie at 6:40 PM on June 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Whatever you decide to do, test run it with a kid of the same age. I recently did a 'cooking' night with my 7yr old and we tried spaghetti with jarred marinara and steamed zucchini- sounds simple, right? Uh, not so much. She cut her finger AND got spattered by boiling water. Not my finest mothering moment. So my advice is pick something that can be prepared without stovetop heat or sharp knives and do a test run. (I love the pizza idea, btw.)
posted by PorcineWithMe at 6:41 PM on June 28, 2016

I made hummus with a bunch of kids in a cooking class- we mashed chickpeas and tahini with potato mashers.
posted by momochan at 7:07 PM on June 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

I was just idly thinking about this more, and the model of "kids assemble a thing and then it gets cooked" like pigs in blankets also reminded me that you can make little tarts or galettes from pie crust or biscuit or crescent roll dough (or puff pastry, if you have a good budget). Either savory or sweet, and they generally cook in 20ish minutes.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:23 PM on June 28, 2016

Definitely loved doing English muffin pizzas at that age.
posted by radioamy at 8:02 PM on June 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you can, check ahead to make sure that the kids don't have food allergies to plan around, especially for these peanut and dairy-containing suggestions.
posted by Andrhia at 8:07 PM on June 28, 2016

Pigs in a blanket.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:11 PM on June 28, 2016

I think it's a great idea to teach children, even in small scale, how food gets from the farm to the table. Maybe do 1-2 items that transform and build off of one another?

Butter: Have them taste cream (splurge for organic), churn it, wash/salt it, then have them taste the finished butter *and* the buttermilk. Maybe taste it compared to store bought butter to see if they can tell the difference? You could use the buttermilk to make biscuits or pancakes the next day (although it will be lean and not actually sour), then serve with the churned butter, for instance.

You could make Creme Fraiche to serve with quesadillas later in the week (you'll need some cultured buttermilk for this - the buttermilk from churning the butter won't work).

If it's going to be warm, you can do lacto fermented pickles in 5 days (will probably be more like a half sour, which should go over well with the kids).

Have the kids wash and prep some veggies to eat with the hummus, but don't be surprised if some kids haven't tasted certain veggies. The good news is that if they help make the food, they are more likely to give it a taste...

They can also make 3-2-1 pastry dough and then make little galettes / fruit tarts.

Let me know if you need any recipes...

it's possible I do this for a living, albeit with slightly more grown up folks.
posted by jenquat at 9:25 PM on June 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

Tie-dye rice. Cook a lot of white rice. Give kids 3 or 4 small bowls of white rice and some food coloring. Mix up separate colors in each bowl then mix together including some white rice and you end up with some goofy looking but great tasting rice. (Also works well with mashed potatoes.)

Generally fun with food coloring works well. Also, green eggs and ham/bacon. Mix up eggs. Add green food coloring. Cut up precooked bacon. Pour all into a cake pan. Bake for about 15 minutes. While baking read the book, Green Eggs and Ham (natch).

I also found that things they can make with their hands like shaping mini meatballs went over well. Also, if you are looking for a fun messy thing, use flour. It will get everywhere. Goofy things too like how to make the perfect ketchup sandwich. Also, a tasting of some sort where they can try in succession various flavors such as sweet, sour, spicy, etc.
posted by AugustWest at 9:27 PM on June 28, 2016

Bread. Use a soda bread recipe so you don't need to prove it. Get them to make large round loaves and then turn them into faces. They can be baked after the sesion ends. There is a wonderful 'reveal' when they come out of the oven and the faces have become gorgeously grotesque!
I have done this at summer camp and it was amazing.
posted by Heloise9 at 11:25 PM on June 28, 2016

I think Popsicles are a good idea-can you have two batches frozen and ready to go for the first day's classes to eat, but let them make batches to freeze for day 2's classes to eat (and so on for the rest of the week)?

You're right that an hour will go FAST, and trying to make anything that takes even 20 minutes to bake will be challenging if you have another class to clean and prep for right afterward. Do you have access to a stovetop as well? How about something super easy like scrambled eggs, maybe with toppings kids can prep/choose (shredded cheese, crumbled cooked bacon, salsa, etc)? They can break eggs and beat them, but you can actually do the cooking part?

Pizzas are also a great idea, especially if you can somehow let each kid make their own (a la the English muffin pizza idea upthread). Individual sundaes or banana splits might be easy, and kids could help prep toppings?

Fruit salad is usually popular with kids, and could include some seasonal fruits ,which might be a chance to talk to kids a little about the idea of seasonal produce and what foods are in season at different times of year in your area. A salad of cantaloupe, watermelon, blueberries, kiwi, pineapple and blackberries could be dressed very simply with a 1:4 lime juice/honey mixture and would be an edible rainbow.

Good luck!
posted by little mouth at 6:36 PM on June 29, 2016

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