For children, cooking is a very special activity. First and foremost it enables them to directly render devotional service to Krishna. It is also an extremely sensory experience – the mixing and rolling, shaping with their hands, feeling the smoothness of batter or the rough texture of sugar, the smell of vanilla and the varied colours of fruits…enthralling! It is extremely messy – so adds to the fun quotient. This activity also allows us to easily integrate counting, measuring and estimation – mathematical concepts into daily life. It gives children a sense of what goes on in the process of making food and encourages learning on nutrition and health as well.
However to set up a successful cooking experience can be quite challenging for adults. One needs to be extremely careful of safety – in terms of knives, fire etc. Finding recipes that allow children to participate and can be done in a group is tricky. Also, while arranging the experience one really needs to plan out how the ingredients will be supplied to the children, because you really dont want a child to knock over a bottle of oil or a box of salt everywhere.
At Kanhas, I try to do cooking at least twice a month. I mostly go for baking recipes because there is a lot more involvement of the children in terms of mixing etc and very safe. We have also done salads, where I did the chopping beforehand. I choose recipes which our healthy – less refined flour, butter, sugar – more whole grains, cereals, fruits and nuts.
People are often curious about what the children do in cooking. After all they are just 3 and 4!. Well, we have a very simple policy. I set up the table with all the ingredients on it. The children are not allowed to touch anything until everything is set up. I keep the recipe in the middle – visible to the kids too – (mainly to model a very practical application of reading) We then start mixing the ingredients. I use separate bowls for the dry and wet ingredients. We go around the table in turns with each child adding in one ingredient. Along the way we discuss ingredient names, talk about them, perhaps smell them. Of course we are careful not to taste anything as it has to be offered first! Every child gets at least 2 turns because I pick recipes which require lots of ingredients!
|Cooking for Krishna|
Once all the ingredients are added, we take turns mixing everything up. Then children may roll out the dough into different shapes if the recipe requires that (eg cookies or chocolate balls). I then handle the baking.
We also do the post activity clean up together – because cleaning is a part of cooking and the children need to learn that.
|Cleaning up together|
|I am picking up all the little crumbs from the floor|
Once the bhoga is ready, it is offering time! We all offer together with the children saying the prayers together and ringing the bell. The (im)patient wait for Krishna to eat is followed by a yummy feast!
|Feeding salad to all of Vrindavan!|
Some vegan/vegetarian super-healthy recipes for cooking with children: