Kidchen is a food venture by Sanaa and Jalaja that teaches children, 3 years and up, how to cook and introduce them to the wonderful world of honest flavours, real ingredients, and good food.
They conduct introductory workshops and regular classes covering various kitchen skills and techniques, and enabling them with a life skill that promotes a healthy attitude towards food.
Tell us about yourself and your family
Sanaa: I am an ex-advertising professional, writer, storyteller to a 5-year-old boy.
Jalaja: I’m a writer, baker and biker who loves to explore new places, music, culture, books, recipes and experiences.
What made you think of starting a food venture for kids
Tell us about your journey from conceptualizing to actually setting up
We started with test workshops at home where we invited our friends’ kids for cooking play dates. We were pleasantly surprised at the equal level of curiosity and interest across ages.And all the parents told us that they have never seen their children eat their meals as enthusiastically. We then slowly moved to weekend classes, and workshops on special occasions like Christmas, Valentine’s day etc.
What do you find to be the biggest challenges when cooking with kids? And, how do you work to minimize these challenges when cooking with your kids or in classes?
Some children come with a pre-conceived notions about certain vegetables being yucky. We try to tackle it by getting each class to try ingredients with a newly-educated palate.
The other is their attention span – keeping them engaged when there are breaks in the cooking process. There are breaks when the dough has to rise, or some dish has to get baked, cool or set. We developed modules after considering such intervals by engaging them in activities like science experiments, story sessions etc.
Although every child is different, generally speaking, at what age do you think it’s best and most realistic to get kids involved in the kitchen?
If they are old enough to eat, they are old enough to learn about where their food comes from and what goes into each meal. That’s what we believe at Kidchen.
As an adult, we like sugar in our coffee, or salt in our lassi because our mums gave us sugar in our milk at the age of 2 or 3 – decisions we didn’t make for ourselves. These childhood habits aren’t easy to break. Many of our our unhealthy habits go back to that young age. We feel – the earlier the better. At an year and a half, they can start by helping with simple tasks like stirring ingredients, sprinkling and mashing. At Kidchen, we start with 3-year old children.
Do you have any other tips for parents to get them involved in the kitchen or to engage with food in a positive way, other than just eating? What about picky eaters
Kids enjoy being part of the process. Involve them in the simplest of things, and you will see a difference.
Baby steps. First, letting them touch and feel ingredients as part of sensory play at the age of 1.
Introduce them to flavours individually, and not mashed up.
Let them have a say in what vegetable is bought for the day’s dinner at the market. Kids feel proud about it and hence express delight when they see it on their plate.
Choose one meal a day that they can prepare. Even if it is a simple snack or a smoothie.
Aren’t we all picky about our food? How sweet/salty/spicy/pungent we like our chicken or our desserts? Don’t we all have favourite flavours and some things we never want to eat again? Why wouldn’t children be any different? Let them choose what they love. The ones they reject, find alternative sources of similar vitamins. Eg: Milk is not the only source of calcium. They can get the same nutrition from spinach, broccoli, almonds, or good ol’ yogurt.
Do you incorporate other learning opportunities for your kids (and other children) when cooking with them?
That’s what is amazing about food. It gives you opportunities to do a lot more than just share recipes. You learn where food comes from through our gardening sessions. You learn which leaves are edible. You learn shapes with the various cookie cutters. You learn chemistry when liquid batter becomes solid cake, fractions from when you divide measurements amongst the students, and so on. There is also a lot of love and charm in food as well. Story sessions about superheroes who get their power from walnuts. The tale of the breadmaker who puts emotions into the dough he kneads. We teach just about everything possible in our classes. From subjects taught at school, to subjects that ought to be taught at school like gender roles, and cleaning up after yourselves, fire safety, and first aid.
Can you give us one tip for balancing entrepreneurship with parenthood? What is a day in a life of you like?
Prioritise. It isn’t easy, and it requires some discipline and practice, but that is the only way you can balance all your interests without feeling guilty or without having to sacrifice anything.