UPDATE 1/21/16: This post was originally written in 2013. While it should still give you a great idea of the overall experience, it is also possible that some information may be outdated. We encourage you to check out Stew Leonard’s Press Room Page on their website (and look for the release concerning the latest cooking class offerings; here it is for Jan-Mar 2016) for the most up to date information, especially for details like class offerings, schedules, and pricing. If you notice something in this post that needs to be updated, please feel free to leave a comment with the updated information, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to make the updates. Hey, it takes a village, right? 🙂
Thanks to Stew Leonard’s for providing us with complimentary admission to their toddler cooking class! All opinions are 100% my own.
Today we have some BREAKING NEWS here at OAAM. Okay, so maybe it’s not CNN-worthy, but we think it’s a scoop 🙂
Just last week Mandy and I took the kiddos to try out the BRAND NEW toddler cooking class at Stew Leonard’s in Newington, CT. So how did it go having a dozen 2 to 5-year-old kids running the kitchen?! You’ll just have to read on to find out…
In case you weren’t aware, Stew Leonard’s has offered children’s cooking classes for kids as young as 5 years old for some time now. But the addition of classes for the 2-5 crowd is totally new (and very exciting!). Just like the classes for older kids, each toddler class has its own unique theme, which changes for each session. This class was entitled Cooking with Toddlers: Easy Eats. Here’s the description:
Come join your little one and cook the morning away! We will make vegetable samosas, fun spaghetti hotdogs and Queen of Heart tarts. Kids ages 2-5 are welcome and registration is $15 per child.
The classes run about an hour and a half (yes, I know that sounds like a loooong time to hold the attention of a bunch of toddlers, but it really does work!) and they are held in Stew Leonard’s Executive Kitchen, which is located upstairs in the loft area of the store. UPDATE 10/7/13: Looks like the classes have been shortened to 1 hour so that Stew’s can accommodate the large demand (yay!) and add another class session–we don’t think the time change will significantly affect how the classes are structured.) There is plenty of signage to help you navigate your way up the stairs (to the left as you enter the store) and towards the back of the loft space where you’ll find the kitchen/classroom.
The classroom is huge, with lots of room to spread out and different “stations” for the kids’ activities. Not to mention the GORGEOUS kitchen at the very front. Seriously, I want this kitchen in my home!
Upon entering the room, each child was given a name tag, and then invited to color fun Stew Leonard’s paper placements at a long table in the center of the room while waiting for everyone to arrive and get settled. A toddler-friendly diversion right off the bat–perfect! You can also see the horseshoe-shaped table arrangement set up for the cooking adventures.
When everyone had arrived (okay, I admit it, Boo and I were the very last ones to get there–but only 5 minutes late; that’s not bad for us!), our two cheerful instructors let us know that it was time to head on over to the front tables. Here, we found all sorts of gear for our wee ones–an apron, a chef’s cap, a pair of pint-sized plastic gloves, and a towel. We had such a laugh getting the kids all decked out. They looked too adorable!
Future Iron Chefs:
Once everyone was appropriately outfitted (or close enough anyway), the lovely ladies leading the class presented us with some simple instructions and started to pass out materials for the first recipe: Queen of Heart Tarts.
For this one we received two heart-shaped sections of dough, plus a larger piece of dough, which the kids cut circles from using what appeared to be the lid of a frosting container. Genius! I’m filing that one away for future baking adventures at home.
Next, the kiddos pressed their dough circles into a muffin tin to form the crust for their tarts.
Then, they spooned in the cherry filling and finished the tart off by placing their heart-shaped pieces of dough on top of the filling. As you can see, the instructors were very helpful and hands-on.
Cherry tarts in just four easy, totally toddler-friendly steps. I could tell already that some serious planning and preparation had gone into the design of this class. I couldn’t wait to see what was up next!
Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait too long. This class moves along at a pretty good clip, which is great news because we all know what happens when toddlers have too much free time on their hands, right? Chaos 🙂
The next recipe was vegetable samosas. This time, our ingredients arrived in two containers: one with the dough and one with the vegetables.
For this one, the steps required a little more attention (for both the toddlers and the parents!). First step: take the peas out of the pods. This did require a bit of adult assistance, but I was surprised how well the kiddos managed the task. And they sure loved tearing those pea pods apart! 🙂
Step 2: divide the peas and the other vegetables between the two squares of dough.
The next step involved squishing a couple little lumps of pre-cooked mashed potatoes between their fingers and then spreading it on top of the vegetables. You can imagine how much they loved the squishing part! This was some real, hands-on cooking.
And finally, we helped them fold over the dough into triangular pockets and press the edges together to seal them.
And all the pockets went onto a baking sheet. Not bad for a bunch of toddlers and preschoolers, huh?
The third and final recipe for the day was spaghetti hotdogs. Now, I have to admit that when I saw that printed in the class description, I could not in a million years figure out what the heck a “spaghetti hotdog” could be. I had these visions of spaghetti and meatballs served up in a hotdog bun. Seriously, I had no idea what to expect. But when our instructors started explaining how the recipe worked, I knew this was going to be the most fun, if not the most culinary in nature.
Basically, the kids received several two-inch pieces of uncooked hotdogs and a bunch of uncooked spaghetti. The object was simply to spear one end of the hotdog with several stands of spaghetti. The kids loved this!
When the hotdogs and the spaghetti cooked together, the spaghetti was cooked right into the hotdog, so they looked like little squid. Now that is a pretty nifty trick. Who says you shouldn’t play with your food?! 🙂
Speaking of things being cooked, that’s what happened next. Of course, the instructors handled all that in the kitchen while we brought the kiddos back to the coloring table and let them finish their artistic pursuits while enjoying some fruit punch. (Mandy and I couldn’t help wishing that there had been some coffee for the mommies too. You know how we love our coffee 🙂 )
We didn’t have to wait too long before the food started coming out. First, we sampled the tarts. No complaints from the kiddos on those!
Next the samosas and then the spaghetti hotdogs.
It was a lot of food! Fortunately, there were to-go containers available.
By this point, it was about 10:45 a.m., the kids were done eating and over coloring, and things started to deteriorate quickly, as you can imagine. (Think Boo and Bruiser running full-speed laps around the room and pounding on a shiny, golden wall-mounted sculpture of Clover the Cow. Yikes.) So Mandy ushered her kiddos downstairs to do a little grocery shopping (hooray for double carts!) punctuated with puppet entertainment (if you aren’t familiar with Stew Leonard’s unique blend of grocery store meets It’s a Small World, make sure you read my previous post here).
And Boo and I did a little investigating into a loft dining area that one of our readers had told us about.
Oh, but first: the restroom situation. There are restrooms up in the loft area somewhat near to the classroom. They are around that corner and down that little hallway past all the tables. I did not see a baby changing station in the women’s room, however it might have been in the handicap stall, which was occupied at the time.
However, I know for certain that there is a changing station in the downstairs restroom, which also happens to be near the elevator (if you need to, you can also take the elevator up into the loft dining area–pics of that in a minute–and walk through to the hallway leading to the cooking class).
Now, back to the loft dining area. As I mentioned in my previous post, Stew Leonard’s has lots of yummy prepared foods. What I didn’t know then, was that Stew’s also has a great space to sit and eat your purchased meal. It has lots of tables, booths, and high chairs too. It looks just like a restaurant!
Since we had just eaten a three course meal at cooking class, we weren’t dining that day. But I am definitely going to keep this in mind for future visits!
So what did we think of Stew Leonard’s NEW toddler cooking class? Well, let’s see–unique culinary creations thoughtfully broken down into toddler-friendly steps, plenty of über organized hands-on action for the little ones, a fast-paced curriculum to hold even the shortest of attention spans, and real, tasty, totally edible food that our kids could be proud to have cooked “themselves.” I’d say that’s a recipe for success 🙂
NOTE: The next toddler class is scheduled for June 21st, 2013 from 9:30 a.m.-11:00 a.m., but unfortunately this class is already full. HOWEVER, Stew’s has started a waiting list for an additional class to take place on June 20th (same time and agenda). If six or more children sign up for that class, Stew’s will add it to the schedule (currently there is already one child on the waiting list; call 860.760.8100 to add your child to the list). Click here to see the list of May/June classes including the class description for the June 21st toddler class. See Momsense for more details about how to sign up for classes.
p.s. As Memorial Day weekend approaches and many pools and other water activities open for the season, please take a moment to read the note in the Momsense section below about Stew Leonard III Children’s Charities and water safety.
Want even more information? As part of our series with Better Connecticut, we had a chance to share why we enjoy the toddler cooking classes at Stew Leonard’s. Check out our segment below!
Stew Leonard’s Toddler Cooking Class
Stew Leonard’s Store, 3475 Berlin Turnpike, Newington, CT 06111
Store phone (customer service desk): 860.760.8100
Follow them on Facebook!
Get directions here:
Hours & Cost:
Store hours: Sunday-Thursday 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.; Friday & Saturday 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Click here to see more information including a map and driving directions.
Cooking class hours vary depending on the class, but currently the toddler classes seem to be scheduled on Fridays from 9:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. UPDATE 10/7/13: Classes are now 1 hour long and there are two back-to-back sessions available for each toddler class: 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Click here to see the November 2013-January 2014 schedule.
Registration fee for toddler cooking class: $15 for each “couple” (child and caregiver). Registration can be done in person at the Customer Service Desk or over the phone. In either case, payment is needed to secure a spot. (They will take a credit card over the phone.)
Tips & Things to Bring:
- The toddler classes have been very popular, so to secure a spot your best bet is to sign up as soon as the next schedule is released. To be added to the email list for notification when a new schedule is published, please email Jenn at email@example.com.
- Can’t get in for June? No worries! Stew’s will definitely be adding more toddler classes to the line-up for July and August. (But get yourself on that email list now!)
- You must pre-register for a class by paying the fee in advance either in person at the Customer Service Desk or over the phone by credit card. This is not a drop-in activity.
- This is also not a drop-off activity. A parent or caregiver must stay with the child at all times. (However, classes for older kids are drop-off classes.)
- This is a very hands-on class for the parent/caregiver. Expect to be helping your child with the various tasks.
- Given that this class requires a lot of adult involvement, it is recommended that you not bring other children who are not participating (such as your new baby in a carrier) with you. Trust me, you are better off that way if you don’t want to turn around from rocking your infant to find that your toddler has dumped cherry sauce on his head 🙂
- Dress for a mess. Aprons are provided for the kiddos, but cooking can still be a messy business. Why ruin the fun by worrying about if you will ruin your clothes? 🙂
- Stew Leonard’s offers lots of other fun activities for children all year round, including special holiday and seasonal events.
- If you need to bring a stroller with you or cannot take the stairs for another reason, you can access the loft area where the cooking class is held via the elevator that you’ll find near the checkout area.
- Restroom will baby changing station available on first floor (near checkout area).
- Don’t forget your grocery list and do a little shopping while you’re there.
- A word about Stew Leonard III Children’s Charities. Stew Leonard, Jr. and his wife Kim lost their 21-month old son, Stewie, in a tragic accidental drowning incident over 20 years ago. Since then, they have worked tirelessly to spread the word about water safety to other parents across the country so that they may avoid the same tragedy that struck their family. Their efforts include an illustrated book entitled Stewie the Duck Learns to Swim, which is written for children ages 2 to 6 and tells the story of Stewie the Duck while imparting wisdom and tips about water safety to both children and adults (available for purchase at Stew Leonard’s stores), and more recently a FREE Stewie the Duck iTunes app, available for download here. Drowning is the most common cause of death in children under five years old. As Memorial Day weekend approaches, and many pools and other water activities open for the summer, please consider sharing these important resources with your family so that you can have an enjoyable and, most importantly, safe season.
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