Friday, September 13, 2013

Look Out....Toddlers in the Kitchen!

Lately Madison has been very into "homemaker" type tasks (which is lucky for me, since naps are going away and I'll need some help!) She'll still fight you on picking up her toys, but she'll jump right in to wash dishes, sweep, or mop the floor. She loves wiping down the table and clearing the plates. And lately she loves anything she can do to help me cook.

I've been letting her help for a while now - she can dump ingredients and stir. Recently I took the advice of a friend and found some "kid friendly" knives on Amazon. They sort of remind me of those knives you get in a pumpkin carving kit. Serrated blade, so she can't really cut herself, but she can cut fruit and vegetables, and it gives her something to use until I can trust her with something else. We made soup and bread together the other day, and she was so proud that she chopped the carrots all by herself!

So it was perfect timing when Stew Leonard's - a CT/New York based grocery store that features farm fresh foods - offered me a chance to attend a toddler cooking class! I'm always looking for things to do with the girls, and a cooking class was something I hadn't seen before. Plus we don't go to Stew's often, but it's a very family friendly store with a lot to keep kids occupied, and Madison loves it. She is always happy to make the trip there.

I had no idea they offered classes, and I was excited to hear it. For kids 5-12, they do a two hour drop off class in the evening where the kids do some real cooking and baking, but this class was a chance for the littlest chefs to get their hands dirty - as long as you are 2 and your parent is with you, you are welcome to sign up.

I have to admit - I was a bit disappointed that both girls couldn't participate (Reagan is still a bit too young), but she's accompanied us to classes before and I was prepared. I had things for her to do, and I had a feeling she'd be able to "assist" Madison if she was itching to get her hands in there.

By the way, had she wanted to, she could have. They didn't have a station for her, but she could have helped stir, add ingredients, and sort of "share" Madison's turn. That didn't end up happening - turns out she had other plans.

Things started off beautifully. I had no idea that there was a gourmet kitchen on the second floor! They were ready for these toddlers with a table with coloring pages and markers, and more importantly, coffee for the parents. Once all the little chefs had arrived, they moved to their workspace where they were issued an apron, a towel, and gloves. It was ridiculously adorable to see a class of little guys all decked out and ready to cook.

Ready for the chefs!

I would LOVE this to be my kitchen!

Occupied right from the start!
The theme of the series we attended was "cooking through the alphabet", and today the focus was the letter G. The kids were making green beans, grapefruit juice, fruit dip for grapes (that was made of Greek yogurt and granola) and (I missed how this was connected, but they were delicious so I'm letting it go) crepes.

They had it set up beautifully. There were nine toddlers and they worked in groups of three. When they made the green beans, one added the oil, one the salt, and one the pepper. Then they each took a turn tossing them before spreading them on a cookie sheet for baking. When they made the dip, each child added a spoonful of each ingredient, then took turns stirring. They were each issued half a grapefruit, and took turns using the juicer. No one had to wait too long for a turn, everyone got to actively participate, and everything was on their level. Finally they were able to fill and roll their crepes individually while everything was finalized and they had their plates prepared. Madison had a great time. She cooperated, enjoyed her tasks, and was polite and kind. She wrinkled her nose (as did all the kids) at the juice, but scarfed down her crepes.

Grinding pepper..

Scooping yogurt..

Adding granola!

First time juicing!

Look what I made!

Spreading Nutella...mmmm...

Blackberry jam...more mmmm


A plate of G (and c?)

Remember when I said I missed the reason for the crepes? There's a good reason.

Poor Reagan, who has thrown herself into toddler-hood with alarming enthusiasm, ended up having a tantrum that lasted about 35 minutes...of a 60 minute class.

Happy, happy, happy.

She started off so happy for the first 15 minutes. She just kept coloring with markers (which she doesn't get to do at home). When the kids moved up to the cooking space, she didn't try to join them. She colored on her own and I happily took pictures of Madison while keeping an eye on her. Perfect.

Then she got wiggly and started to go toward the coffee table, then run for the door. And I made a fatal mistake. I put her back on her chair. She strongly disagreed with my decision and thrashed her way right off and fell. Not a big fall, no harm done, but it set her off into scream mode. She was mad. And nothing, not a lollipop, not a cuddle with mom, not a new marker, not her cup, not even the iPad, was going to stop her.

I hate, hate, hate public tantrums like that. We've all been there - moms get it and most of the time all they are thinking is that they are grateful it isn't them - but it is just awful. It also drove home just how hard it is to balance the needs of two little ones at once, who are at either end of the toddler spectrum. If I'd been one on one with Madison, it would have been just a relaxing, fun experience.If I'd just had Reagan, I would have cut our losses once she didn't bounce back in the first few minutes and we would have gone home. But Madison was happy and really enjoying the class, and I didn't want to pull her out.  Balancing Reagan, who spent a good portion of time in the I don't even remember why I'm crying but I'm still really upset and I want you but I don't want you and I don't know what I want but you need to figure it out mode was exhausting. And embarrassing. And reminded me how happy I am that now that Madison is three, most of her classes are drop off and I'm not in the position of trying to participate as Madison's mom and keep Reagan, who is incredibly interested and active but isn't officially participating, happy. Sometimes that is just impossible. There were two moms there with babies in carriers, and I was so jealous of those tiny babies who just snuggled up while mom focused on the older one.

But the best part? The silver lining? Madison carried on and had an awesome time. The teachers were so good that she wasn't bothered at all. I walked Reagan out in the hallway a few times (both to get her to a calmer place and to let the other class members actually hear the teachers) and Madison just kept cooking. When she finished sampling her plate (and Reagan had finally calmed down and was sitting, sweaty and exhausted, in her stroller) she gave all the teachers a big hug before bouncing out of the room and begging to go back down and explore the store.

So we did ....

Our first stop is always to watch the show.

The chickens cluck and sing in the meat aisles.

It's the Cow Cam - you see the dairy cows on the farm. That's one of the things that Madison loves to see right now - where HER milk comes from!

And our last stop is always at the wishing well.

Oh, and before we left, I made sure to stop in the wine area.

Availability to purchase wine without leaving the building after my experience with two toddlers? Now THAT is a winning class.

Stew Leonard's offered me the chance to experience this class free of charge. I was not compensated in any other way (with the exception of kind and encouraging words while Reagan screamed - which were definitely worth something for my sanity). For information on other classes being offered this fall, check out the schedule!
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