If you have a growing gourmet, a culinary camp may be the ideal summer adventure. Depending upon the camp, kids as young as 7 can learn to cook, while more advanced programs are available for pre-teens and teens. Both day camps and sleep away summer camps provide time in the kitchen, learning to make a variety of dishes.
Culinary camps for kids range from short, three-hour programs each day over 3 to 5 days, to longer and more intensive, residential camp sessions. Day camps often have themes, like Asian cooking, baking, or pasta, allowing kids to explore just a few dishes. Residential camps typically run 1 to 2-week sessions and teach advanced cooking skills. Campers may also have the opportunity to tend chickens, work in the garden, and learn about how their food is grown and sourced.
Choosing a Camp
Younger children may enjoy a local cooking day camp program, like Camp Culinary Creations in San Diego, California. You can check with your local community college, child care center, or children’s museum for summer camp or cooking class options for kids. Some may offer full day care for working parents. Pre-teens and teens can consider camps like the Kids Culinary Summer Camp of Vermont. Some residential camps allow campers in the local area to attend during the day while sleeping at home. If a residential culinary camp is out of your budget, teens are often welcome in adult culinary classes.
Kids headed for a culinary sleep-away camp should be comfortable with separation and travel, but also need the coordination for serious cooking. Knife skills, meat preparation and pastry making all require excellent fine motor skills. Younger children should understand kitchen safety and be able to pay attention and follow directions. If you have concerns about knives, graters, peelers, or the stove and oven, talk to the camp administrators to find out their policies.
Cooking day camps will not teach your child the fundamentals of cooking, but may help him to understand kitchen safety and how to make a few fun dishes, with help in the kitchen from an adult. Culinary camps for teens teach a variety of cooking methods, knife skills, meat and poultry preparation, kitchen hygiene and pastry skills. If your teen is considering culinary school or a career in the hospitality industry, a culinary camp can be the ideal start to her future plans.
Cooking day camps for younger children are comparable in cost to other summer programs including those in sports or dance. Serious culinary camp programs are substantially more expensive, ranging from $1200 for a week as a non-residential camper to almost $5000 for two full weeks of residential culinary camp. Additional weeks may be discounted.