Truth: Big time memories that stick around for a lifetime are made when littles spend time in the kitchen. Kids love getting in there and learning the tricks of the trade — it’s like one big science experiment for them. Why not arm them with skills that’ll take their helper skills to the next level during this quality family time? Read on for our picks for classes that help kids build confidence and learn to just roll with it in the kitchen.

photo: The Kids’ Table

The Kids’ Table
Parents can sign kids up for weekly classes, each exploring new tastes and techniques that involve the season’s favorite ingredients. From the Babies Can Cook series starting at 18 months to the Teens Can Cook programming that takes them to age 14, kids will start with gaining an appreciation for good food by first smelling, touching and tasting as babies and walk out as pre-adults who have the confidence to work independently in the kitchen.

The whole gang can get in on the meal-time action with Family Dinners. Your crew will have hands-fun learning a new recipe and sitting down to enjoy a delicious and meal created together.

Good to know: Everyone deserves a night out every once in a while, especially the munchkins! Kids Nite Out gives parents a little free time in the no-kid zone while the instructors at The Kids’ Table help your little ones make dinner and enjoy a post-food-coma activity like food-themed crafts, games or a movie. Kids have a day off school? Sign them up for a Day-Off Camp and they’ll stay busy cooking, eating and playing from 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

2337 W. North Ave., Wicker Park & 2864 N. Lincoln Ave., Lakeview. Online: kids-table.com

photo: Oui Chef

Oui Chef Chicago
Oui Chef’s owner, Laura Ragano, got her start teaching Pastry Chef wannabes at The French Pastry School in Chicago. She figured out a way to marry her professional life with her parenting life by creating a business that focuses on arming kids, ages 18 months to 18 years, with real culinary skills. Classes are broken into 2 groupings, one for 18 mos.-4 years and the other for ages 5 & up. The classes for the littlest chefs focus on teaching adults helpful methods to get kids interested in cooking time and teaching students about food and food preparation. Older kids participate in a 75-minute weekly class with a core topic that rotates every 10-15 weeks. For example, in the Tools of the Trade series, a specific tool will be demonstrated and a delicious recipe will be prepared. The goal is to teach proper use of kitchen equipment that will result in a better final product and a safer cooking environment . . . skills they can take into adulthood.

For those who can’t make recurring classes work in their schedule, there are one-off opportunities for ages 2-5 on Wednesdays (10:45 a.m.-11:45 a.m.). These one-hour classes explore various culinary preparations and skills that span from the sweet to the savory.

Good to know: Kids ages 5 and under participating in a class must be accompanied by an adult. Although they can’t guarantee that the ingredients used are prepared in nut-free facilities, Oui Chef is a nut-free environment and their core curriculum is also meat-free to ensure they are as inclusive as possible.

2622 N. Halsted St., Lincoln Park. Online: ouichefchicago.com

photo: Sur la Table, credit Josh Grenier via Flickr

Sur la Table
While Sur la Table definitely focuses on classes for the grownups, they give kids a fair shake at opportunities to wash-up and dig into the culinary scene.

Good to know: Whenever a big holiday rolls around, be sure to check their online calendar for classes. They’re almost always hosting something special for the kids that coordinates with the day, like cupcake making or gingerbread building.

Locations in Naperville, Old Orchard Mall, Northbrook Court & 900 N. Michigan. Online: surlatable.com

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Chopping Block
Class details: This is another one that caters to the adults, but sneaks in a class or two for the littles every now and again. Surrounding holidays they offer themed activities, as well as summer camps to combat boredom.  Be sure to check their calendar for opportunities.

Good to know: Looking for a unique birthday party idea? Search no more! The Chopping Block will host your 2- to 2.5-hour gig for kids ages 6 to 16. During that block of time, your group will make a meal together while learning about ingredients, kitchen safety and organization.

The Merchandise Mart Plaza, Ste. 107, River North & 4747 N. Lincoln, Lincoln Square. Online: thechoppingblock.com

— Maria Chambers

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