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Spring Cooking with Kids

focus shot of kids in cooking class

Looking to put some “spring” into your home cooking routine? We asked the head chef at a kids’ cooking school to share handy tips and a delicious recipe.

By Wendy Chou

Cooking for kids can feel like a thankless task. When kids reject new foods and haven’t got a clue how much effort went into prepping a meal, it’s easy to get frustrated. Now consider cooking with kids. Having your kid help in the kitchen can break down some of their prejudices and teach them to appreciate where real food comes from. ActivityHero talked with Chef Cindy Roberts of the popular Bay Area-based “La Toque De Cindy” cooking school to hear how an expert helps kids learn to cook. 

Cooking is Fun… and Practical

Each of Roberts’ weekly summer camps showcases a different type of cooking: chocolate, world cuisine, and handmade pizzas and pastas are just some of the tempting offerings this year. She likes to emphasize the joy and creativity inherent in cooking. Cindy Roberts started cooking at the age of 3 and believes cooking can inspire as well as educate. “I focus on the “fun” aspect of cooking,” Roberts points out, “but it’s my sneaky way to teach them the health, cost and taste benefits of home cooking.” 

Getting Kids to Try New Things

Roberts knows one way parents can broaden the palette of picky eaters: give them a say. “Have them taste test something… and suggest improvements,” advises Roberts. In her cooking classes, asking the kids to experiment directly with ingredients “gets even the most finicky eaters trying out what we made and giving it a second chance.” In other words, the more they know about how a dish is put together, the more they can keep an open mind, even about foods they weren’t keen on at the outset.

> > Find cooking camps and classes near me   

Amazed by Their Own Potential

When asked what the kids in her classes find most surprising about cooking, Roberts says that young chefs are completely “surprised at how easy it is to make some of the products they buy packaged at the grocery store,” including basics like chicken stock and mayonnaise. The homemade versions wind up being fresher and better-tasting. Empowerment and self-confidence: these two ingredients are welcome on any family menu.

Try It at Home

Here’s a savory spring-inspired recipe for you to try at home with your kids. The kid chefs at La Toque loved it (and ate their vegetables)!  

Photo by Flickr user Lollyknit

Leek and Olive Tart

  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Serves 6-8
  • Adapted by Cindy Roberts from Field of Greens cookbook

Ingredients

TART DOUGH 

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 2/3 teaspoons salt
  • 4 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 ½ tablespoons vegetable shortening
  • 2 ½ – 3 tablespoons cold water

FILLING

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 medium sized leeks, white part only, cut in half then thinly sliced
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 small whole olives, pitted and chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped Italian parsley
  • 3 or 4 eggs (use fewer if using jumbo eggs)
  • 1 ½ cup half and half
  • ½ teaspoon minced lemon zest (optional)
  • 2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese, about 2/3 cup

Instructions

  1. MAKE THE SHELL: Mix flour, salt, butter and shortening until mixture has the appearance of small peas.
  2. Add water a little at a time until dough holds together.  Press into greased quiche pan (or pie pan).
  3. MAKE THE FILLING: Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan.  Saute the leeks for a few minutes until starting to wilt with ½ teaspoon salt and a few pinches of pepper.  Add the garlic, cover and sweat for about 7 minutes. Remove the lid and sauté 2 minutes more.
  4. Mix leeks in a bowl with olives, thyme and parsley.
  5. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  6. Beat the eggs with the half and half.  Add ½ teaspoon salt, a pinch of pepper and optional lemon zest.
  7. Spread the cheese over the bottom of the tart dough, followed by the leek mixture.  Pour the cream mixture over. Bake for 40 minutes until set.

Chef Cindy’s Tip:

The amount of participation is easy to modify depending on age. “Kids as young as 4 could assemble. At age 8, kids could make the crust themselves. By age 10 they could make it all on their own!”  

Ready to explore more cooking? Find cooking camps and classes near you by visiting ActivityHero.com.  

 

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Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged Parenting Resources

Parenting Tips for Raising Self-Reliant Kids

Many parents understand the importance of always being there for their kids. But what about the flip side–learning to let go gracefully so kids can develop their own identity?

Julie Lythcott-Haims, a mother of two, former dean at Stanford University, and author of How to Raise an Adult, explains that parents can set their kids up for success by knowing when to step aside.

By Wendy Chou

Make “pitching in” an early habit

Kids age 4-7 often enjoy doing things for themselves and feeling helpful. Give them simple opportunities to contribute around the house by putting away toys, making a snack, and choosing clothes they’ll wear in the morning. (A side benefit: these things fall off your to-do list!) Practicing completing tasks now will prepare them well for more challenging expectations later in life.

Allow time for critical thinking

When a child talks about a problem she’s having, a normal parenting reaction is to quickly offer a solution. This might be efficient in the short run, but in the long-term the child won’t ever have the chance to problem-solve for herself. Also, allow kids moments to discuss current events or even a book or movie you just shared together to help them find their own voice.

Discover the pursuits that matter to your kids

Teach kids that hard work, grit, and dedication really pay off when it comes to excelling at sports, music, and other activities. But make sure you’re enabling their dreams, not yours. According to Lythcott-Haims, it’s best to offer lots of choices in activities, then step back and let kids lead with their own passions. Ask your kids what they love to do, and be supportive of those interests and hobbies.

Find Kids’ Activities Near You

Seek growth, not perfection

Making a mistake is a fundamental life experience that can lead to growth. Lythcott-Haims lists several milestones that we shouldn’t shield a child from, including “being blamed for something he didn’t do”, “coming in last at something”, and “regretting saying something she can’t take back”. These kinds of mistakes can be very painful, but also represent opportunities to become more resilient.

As parents we all wish for our children’s ultimate success. Over-managing children, however, is probably counter-productive to this goal. The best definition of successful parenting, according to Lythcott-Haims, is when our children develop into individuals who can look out for themselves, without us needing to hold their hands.

Reference: Julie Lythcott-Haims, How to Raise an Adult

Find Kids’ Activities Near You

ActivityHero is an online resource that helps parents find great camps and after-school activities for kids.

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Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged Parenting Resources Sports Super Activities for Super Kids

Summer Camps for Teens

Discover summer camp options (and alternatives) that are perfect for teenagers. From sports camps to robot camps, volunteering to leadership training, there’s lots to consider! Here, tips to make an amazing summer for your teen.

By Sarah Antrim

summer_camps_for_teensThe transition from childhood into the teenage years presents a lot of changes–changing bodies, attitudes, and of course, changing interests.

Things that your kids might have found interesting before are no longer “cool” to teenagers which may leave parents at a loss as to how to fill up their teens’ free time, especially during the summer.

So how do you find productive activities for teens during the summer?

1. Explore Summer Day Camps for Teens

Many camps have been designed specifically with teens in mind. Below are just a few selections which have multiple locations across the U.S.

See all teen day camps near you >>

Digital Media Academy – Coding, video production, photographic, graphic design, game design and other technical topics are available for teens.   

Gamebreaker Lacrosse Camps for Teens

Gamebreaker Lacrosse Camp – Play lacrosse and get specialized training from college coaches.

 

Adidas Tennis Camps – Learn from college tennis coaches.

See all teen day camps near you >>

2. Consider Overnight Camps for Teens

As teens develop more independence, they may be ready to travel to an overnight camp, ranging from academic to adventurous. Be sure to check out our tips to help you find the right overnight camp.

See all overnight camps for teens >

3. Counselor/Leader Training Programs

One of the most popular option for summer camps for teens is a counselor-in-training (CIT) or leader-in-training (LIT) program. Many camps offer these training programs to teens as an unpaid position or at a low fee to parents, sort of like an apprenticeship or internship on the road to becoming a camp counselor. Best of all, once they finish the required training, your teenager will have a job opportunity lined up for them!

See teen counselor/leader training programs near you >>

4. Look for Volunteering Programs

Summer is a great time for kids to learn about community service. Not sure where to get started? Check out our blog post with 6 tips to help you find volunteering opportunities for tweens & teens.

Teen Boys at Summer Camp

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Adventure/Outdoors Play/Outdoor

Where to Dig for Buried Treasure in the United States

Little boy wearing pirate costumeWhat kid doesn’t dream about becoming a pirate and digging up buried treasure to fill their chest? You may not be able to sail the bounding seas on your summer vacation, but you and your kids can enjoy nature while digging for buried treasure across the U.S. From gold and gems to actual dinosaur fossils, if it fascinates your kids, there’s a spot where they can discover it. These top-notch treasure spots are guaranteed to give your kids a great time and might even provide a valuable piece of treasure for a souvenir.

Hiddenite, North Carolina

Nestled in the hills of North Carolina, the Emerald Hollow Mine is the destination for thousands of gems seekers each year. Set in one of the most interesting geological areas in the country, Emerald Hollow Mine has produced dozens of types of gems, including amethyst, topaz, sapphires and valuable green emeralds. Your little treasure hunters might happen upon one of the 63 different types of gems that have been found here and they can turn any of their finds into cut stones or jewelry with the onsite lapidary shop.

Murfreesboro, Arkansas

geography for kids
photo by Flickr user artstreamstudios

In Crater of Diamonds State Park, diamonds can be found literally sitting on top of the soil, ready for treasure hunting kids to pick up. Sitting on top of an ancient volcano field, this diamond field produces already-smoothed stones in white, brown, and yellow colors. There are three different diamond-searching methods used here:

  1. Walk the fields and, using a sharp eye, find stones laying on top of the soil
  2. Dig shallow areas and sift the soil, digging through resulting gravel by hand
  3. Dig deep holes, concentrating the resulting soil into a likely gravel mix

The first method is obviously the simplest, and has actually produced gemstone-sized diamonds for lucky visitors. Bring your own tools or rent them at the park. Rangers are prepared to identify diamonds from your pile of rocks, but leave the valuation up to your local jeweler.

Deming, New Mexico

In the desert lands of Rock Hound State Park, thousands of people have found geodes, also known as thunder eggs. These stones just look like plain rocks when you pick them up, but once you crack them open the insides show off lovely crystals in amethyst, hematite, or rose quartz. Make this treasure hunting outing a part of your camping or RV trip in the Western part of the country. Geodes can be found in washed-out piles of rocks or lying against wind-swept hills. Bring along small hammers to tap the rocks open to discover what’s inside the best of them.

Devil Hills, South Dakota

The Badlands region of South Dakota is prime dinosaur-fossil hunting land. Kids who are dino-lovers will eagerly spend their days sifting through piles of rock and soil just to find a hint of dinosaur history. Gigantic pieces of bone from over 145 million years ago have been discovered here, and young hunters have had as much luck as older, more experienced explorers. If you find fossils in this area you have to report them to the authorities and leave them where you found them, but pictures with the fossil make a great souvenir. Besides, how many kids can brag about personally discovering their own dinosaur and have the pictures to prove it?

Central Florida Coast

Photo by Flickr user  David Dawson Photography
Photo by Flickr user David Dawson Photography

11 Spanish galleons sunk off the Florida coast in 1715, dropping tons of gold coins, jewels, and other relics into the sea. The ocean waves have been washing this treasure up for the past 300 years onto the beaches between Cape Canaveral and Stuart. People have been finding treasure almost daily, even today, and the finds are so simple they’re great for kids to work on. Look on the high tide line, especially after a thunderstorm creates big waves and on the sand that’s still damp from the tide going out. Treasure has been found by looking with the naked eye but you may want to invest in a simple metal detector to find treasure buried in the sand. The entire eastern coast of central Florida provides abundant lodging for visitors so pick a small town for your best bet and look for your very own pirate treasure.

When you go treasure hunting with your kids, you’ll build memories and give them experiences none of their friends will ever have.