COVID-19 has changed the world in ways we never could have imagined. Plans for 2020 had to be abandoned, many parents had to adjust to working from home while taking care of their children, and normal afterschool activities for kids vanished overnight. But some programs are still finding a way to engage kids safely, and parents are taking notice.
We chatted with Kitsilano stay-at-home mom Desirea Kolthof about her decision to put her 8-year-old daughter Riley into an after school cooking program at Little Kitchen Academy (LKA) despite her anxiety around the current pandemic.
Desirea describes her daughter as “a master negotiator, full of energy, interested in tennis, ballet, baking, art, and obsessed with fall and Halloween.”
We discussed fears and feelings, as well as activities and how to maintain that all-important balance between staying safe and keeping active—creatively, mentally, and physically.
How would you describe your feelings around COVID?
When it comes to COVID, we are definitely on the concerned side. We canceled all family vacations and group gatherings this summer, and are trying to do our part in keeping the numbers down. I remember seeing those first people wearing masks and thinking, ‘what weirdos!’ Fast forward six months and now the people not wearing the masks seem weird. And how about that mask selection?! Now we have masks in the car, masks hanging off the key rack, matching masks, and day of the week masks.
What activities has your daughter been enrolled in since the pandemic hit?
The only activities Riley was enrolled in the summer were 4Cats (an arts program) and Little Kitchen Academy.
We were keen on LKA because, even before COVID, I really admired their cleanliness. Not only do you the kids learn to cook but they learn about keeping their environment clean and germ-free.
We love extracurricular activities, as long as Riley wants to go. She always gets to choose. Navigating through the challenges with schooling and extracurricular activities was infuriating at first. We feared Riley might lose her spot or fall behind. But then the severity of the situation kicked in, and we realized the entire world is in this together. This is a pandemic, something our generation has never seen before. Missing classes became the least of our worries. Schools will understand; activities can wait. We will get through this together.
What made you decide to send Riley to Little Kitchen Academy?
Riley and I have been baking together since before she could walk! When LKA came along I thought what a genius extracurricular program to offer. Food nutrition and preparation is such an amazing and important life lesson. It all ties into living a healthy lifestyle, and it’s super fun. Riley had lost a little interest in baking with me in the past year or two but after a couple of classes at LKA, she was 100% back into it again. I am grateful to LKA for that.
Describe some of the reasons you feel safe having Riley go to LKA?
LKA was spic and span before COVID even started. The day before the world was shut down, due to COVID, I had actually told LKA “this is the only place I feel safe sending my daughter.” As the world started to open up again, we were looking for some socialization and stimulation for Riley, and LKA was my top choice.
LKA is doing everything right. Masks, freshly cleaned chef coats, one-person work stations. They even changed how the children share their meals together, moving away from the community table to having each child sit at their own workstation. And even though the environment is always clean and sanitary, it always feels warm, cozy and inviting—much like home!
What are the benefits of having Riley at Little Kitchen Academy?
I think teaching children how to cook and how to take responsibility for cleaning up is super important at a young age. As parents, we don’t always have the time or patience to take this on ourselves.
LKA teaches children more than just cooking and baking. They also encourage proper nutrition and choosing ingredients that are in season. I love seeing the look on Riley‘s face when we take a bite of her Little Kitchen Academy meal that she made from scratch. She is so proud.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I always try to find one positive in a negative situation. COVID really made us aware of the simple things and brought us back to our roots. Vancouver family life is fast-paced; running around between activities, birthday parties, playdates, school, and family events. We didn’t realize how crazy our lives were until COVID forced us to slow down. We are a family that loves being at home together, and a huge part of that is cooking meals, baking treats, and sitting down together at a nicely set table. I am so proud and grateful for Riley‘s passion in the kitchen. I think, that as families, we should all try to reserve one night a week to prepare a delicious meal together, set a beautiful table, and chat the night away 🙂
This post is sponsored by Little Kitchen Academy
Encouraging children and teenagers to take a mindful and sustainable approach to food preparation is the driving force behind Little Kitchen Academy. We are changing lives from scratch and people are taking notice! www.LittleKitchenAcademy.com
Harriet Fancott is the Editor and Social Media Manager for Vancouver Mom. She has over 20 years experience in the arts, tech and mom-based blogging arenas. She lives in East Vancouver with her husband and son where they enjoy exploring all that Vancouver has to offer from festivals and events to playgrounds and beaches to sushi and ice cream (although not together).