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Ideas for a cooking demonstration for kids?

My stepdaughter has asked me to do a food demonstration for her class of 6 and 7 year old girls. She has about 20 students. I'd like to make this fun and entertaining, yet try and teach something about cooking. I will not have access to a cooktop or oven unless I bring portable equipment.

This would take place mid- to late-afternoon so I don't want to do something that will ruin their dinner appetite. Some ideas I have:

~ make cookies or cupcakes up to the point they need to be baked, and then passing out pre-baked goodies to each child to decorate and take home with them

~ grilled sandwiches (I have a panini grill I could bring)

~ pizza (if I had an oven!) Has anyone tried to cook a pizza on a panini grill?

~ quesadillas

~ anything else?

Besides salads, salsa or pbj sandwiches, can you think of any non-cooking foods that might capture a child's attention for at least an hour? I've searched through the Chow boards and tried googling cooking with/for kids but not coming up with the right combination. I also have to consider possible food and nut allergies.

Any suggestions or ideas will be greatly appreciated. Thanks for your help!

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  1. FoodNetwork.com has some good ideas. Just do a topic search for "cooking with kids". Emeril did a segment on making pinwheels with kids. It looked easy and fun. I believe he also did a fruit smoothie to go with the pinwheels.

    1. We do latkes, or potatoe pancakes for both of our kids classes ever year. There is a lot for them to grasp the sound, smell and crunch of the latkes. I would not be concerned about ruining dinner appts, there is plenty of time between school and dinner time.

      You can call them hash browns instead of latkes.

      Good luck.

      1 Reply
      1. re: normalheightsfoodie

        This may or may not be appropriate for your group, but just in case... My daughter did a demonstration at school when she was 8...the kids loved it. It's completely "unchow", but actually pretty tasty. It's a mock torte, using chocolate graham crackers and cool-whip topping. You basically spread a layer of cool-whip between grahams, sticking them together and placing them on a plate (once you have two or three crackers, they'll stand upright). Add as many crackers as you want to make a cake, frost with more cool-ship, and top with crushed candy canes, chocolate curls, sprinkles, or toasted nuts. Let it sit for several hours, and slice. The coolwhip absords into the crackers and makes it very cake-like. She made one in class, and then served one she made at home the day before.

      2. Trifles are fun with that age. Kids love to watch whipped cream being beaten. They can cut their own fruit, strawberries, etc. You can use pudding and some kind of cake, either poundcake, lady fingers (we did it with girl scout trefoils which were good) and have the kids cut that. They can either make their own or make one big one and scoop. I thought scooping worked well. If they make individual ones, bring Glad press and seal and they can take home dessert and that won't spoil their appetites.

        1. Choclate fondue?? You can whip up the choclate in advance and re-warm with hot plate. Pre slice strawberries, kiwi fruit, oranges, dried apricots, angel food or pound cake, pretzel rods, etc. and have kids dip them in, let set and eat. Although the parents may not talk to you for a while because of the mess. You will be remembered for a long time very fondly by the kids though.

          1. Pancakes would be fun if you have an electric griddle or pan to take. Make icing and decorate pre-made muffins. Make a fruit salad. S'mores. Make pita pockets.

            1. Most times I have demo'd in elementary schools the only surfaces available were very low tables. Keep that in mind when planning - very hard on the back trying to cut, shred, etc. at that level. The attention span is short at that age. I have had good luck having some paper work for them too. (I've never had other adults to assist, so I try to have a lot of ways to keep them on focus.) They love being able to fill in pages for their own little cook book. I have also had them make charts to use for taste testing. For ex: apples (this was in a region where this was a big cash crop, so did a whole kids class on cooking with apples) I brought 4 varieties and we tasted each separately. Each child jotted down the name of the apple, we discussed the history of the names and we all contributed descriptive words and compared. Which was juicer, which was crisper, which turned brown first...Comparing and being able to express their opinion is important for this age. Word searches can be made on line and are popular with them too.

              Sushi rolls are probably the most popular one I have done - many vegetable options. You can also involve them and let them make a variety of dipping sauces. The kids love anything finger foodish. Truffles are popular, lots of options to roll them in and the children can roll their own too. The latkes are definitely a huge crowd pleaser! Crepes are quick and exciting too. Wraps are very versitile too, easy to cut into portions & easy to eat. Dips & such made with a food processor or blender are a big hit - I think they just love the noise! I would advise against the idea of sending them home with the uncooked treats. Many will eat it raw or open it and make a mess on the bus.

              Be really prepared. If you need electricity, bring extension cords and tape to keep the cords from being tripped over. Bring extra towels, trash bags to put your dirty stuff into for transporting home. Lots of ziplocks too!

              Have fun! It can be rewarding. One of my students upon tasting our first dish said: "I don't like it....I LOVE IT!" Made my aching back and frazzled brain worth it!

              1. Devilled eggs? You could bring in hard boiled eggs and have each child peel and cut half (plastic knives) one egg and scoop out the yolks (plastic spoons). Then you would mash all the yolks with mustard, mayo & spices and each child would spoon filling into her egg halves. You could talk about spices and have a little international interest that might tie in with some of the kids backgrounds.Paprika is interesting as is curry or cumin. You could do more than one filling.

                1. do a blind folded taste test and offer a variety of foods.(nothing to strange though) see how good the palates are. also you can make homemade marshmallows and follow up with smores. or how about a free form tart. let them roll out the dough, mix the filling and package it up to bake at home. homemade applesauce, letting the kids cut the apples, smash, season, (does she have a microwave?) etc..wow I could really have fun with this thread.

                  1. You could probably do a lot with eggs - show the variety. Too bad you don't have an oven.. but you could bring in pre-made meringue shells. All you'd need would be a portable skillet or one of those water kettles to boil water..fried, hard boiled, custard.. lots to do..

                    Maybe something they could relate to - make your own peanut butter perhaps? Just need a food processor.. of course, make sure no one is allergic, so you don't put some poor kid into anaphylactic shock. In fact, check with the teacher to make sure no one is a Type I diabetic either.. or devout Kosher/Halal..

                    I like the dipping sauce ideas above.. these kids aren't going to learn to cook, but they might start to appreciate the variety of flavors and understand what cooking means. A variety of flavors - oils, milk, cheese, honey, shrimp (if they are daring) could be fun..

                    1. -Can you have them knead bread? Like you could have them in groups of 4 or 5 or something, and each group measures and mixes. Then you can either have them take turns kneading, or split the dough into 4 or 5 and have each person knead. Then if you bring things like nuts, raisins, seeds, they can also add those things if they like. You can talk about the gluten, the rising, the role of the kneading, etc.

                      -Another idea (similar to the sushi, but fun)-- make your own spring rolls (I mean the fresh Vietnamese variety). You might have to pre-chop the ingredients in advance (unless the kids can handle chopping, b/c you want lots of thinly sliced veggies), but then after that, all you need is the rice wrapper, maybe 2 or 3 different sauces (I typically have a fish sauce based tangy sauce and a peanut sauce), and an assortment of veggies, pork, some herbs (cilantro, thai basil, mint) and a basin of water to dip the wrapper in to make it soft and pliable. They make nice appetizers.)

                      My mom used to make us help her make gyoza (potstickers), which might be kindof fun.

                      1. Also, if a child comes up to you and goes "My parents tell me that eating meat is bad," respond to them that "Dora the Explorer eats tons of meat..didn't you see the episode where she was wolfing down ham hocks? And how do you think Clifford got so big!"

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: grant.cook

                          You are a funny guy, I almost fell out of my chair on the book idea.

                        2. I agree along the line of "rolls" as there are some "actions" that the children can be involved without using equipments or heat or fire (and not even knives).

                          Just prepare different trays of fillings, like cheese, guacomole, salsa, sour cream, shredded lettuce, beans, some meat (chicken or shredded pork or such) and of course, store-bought tortillas. Then just show them how to pick different ingredients and roll it into a burritos. It will also be a good education to teach them to add more vegetables and beans and such which are good for health!

                          Oh by the way, I think the Vietnamese Spring rolls idea is great but probably better for older kids because it is a bit tricky to get the rice paper soft with water without mushing it together. I can foresee a lot of water puddles on the floor!

                          1. If you can bring a hot plate, teach them how to make tortillas. We do it with masa (or masa harina) but you can also make flour tortillas if that is your style. Bring beans, cheese (they can shred it), cooked chicken - again they can shred it, make a quick salsa, make quacamole - all sorts of possibilities to keep them busy and then they can create their own. If you want to make it different, make sopes. Similar idea if you have a hot hot plate - they just cook longer.

                            1. Thank you EVERYONE! You have all given me so many wonderful ideas that I may ask my daughter about doing a cooking series for her class!