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Learn how the Akron Area YMCA is getting kids excited about helping out in the kitchen through their Aspiring Chefs program.

According to the Guelph Family Health Study, 70% of families cooked more during the pandemic, and 60% made more meals from scratch. Half of the parents surveyed are involving their kids in cooking more often, while 55% of families are eating with their children more regularly. All of these statistics are good news for the families who can enjoy all the benefits of cooking and eating together.

The Akron Area YMCA in Akron, Ohio, is hoping to carry on this trend of children helping in the kitchen through their Aspiring Chefs program. 

The program has been around for two years, despite taking a small break during the COVID-19 pandemic. Aspiring chefs chop, grate, measure, stir and whisk their way through a culinary journey. Not only do children learn an important life skill, but cooking also helps improve concentration, fine motor skills and coordination. 

Paiton Hosey, the program director for the Wadsworth YMCA, a branch of the Akron Area YMCA, said the program was developed so the Y could offer programming outside of the sports realm. “This program seemed like a perfect fit,” she explained. “It really gained popularity quickly and was filling up within minutes of registration opening.”

A typical Aspiring Chefs class starts out with a quick lesson on the country in which the meal they are focusing on is from. Participants typically view the country on a map, share a few quick facts and go over their menu for the day. 

“The kiddos are then split off into pairs or groups and given the recipe,” said Hosey. “Then the cooking begins with instruction and guidance from the instructor. Once the cooking is finished, they all taste and share their meals with their families and then help with all of the clean up and dishes. They also get to keep a copy of their recipe to take home.”

This program benefits the participants by giving them something to practice and a skill they can use to help out at home. Cooking and learning about where your food comes from is a great thing for kids to know not only for their future but also their present. Additionally, Aspiring Chefs benefits the Akron Area community because it gives kids uninterested in the typical sports something new to try and share within their families and community.

Hosey said the program has also helped children create great relationships, not only with other kids, but also with healthy food.

“What makes this program unique is the fact they are developing a new skill that benefits more than just themselves,” said Hosey. “They are also able to try new foods they maybe wouldn’t have tried if they didn’t make it themselves. We have seen many relationships and friendships begin in this class among the participants.” 


Cooking with Kids: LG Coaching Kids in the Kitchen National Survey Statistics

  • 63% of parents feel children as young as four can help in the kitchen, but you don’t want to let meal preparation seem like a chore at such an early age. The more excited you are to cook with your kids, the more excited they will be, too.
  • 62% of parents engage their children in cooking to help keep their minds sharp and occupied during summer months.
  • 40% of parents state the most important reason they cook with their kids is to teach them an important life skill.
  • 42% of parents cook with their children to spend quality time together.
Taylor Brown

Taylor Brown is the assistant editor of Community Rec Magazine. She can be reached at taylor@peakemedia.com.

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