Kids Cook… And Gain Lifelong Skills

By Daniel Hammond, Director of Pali Adventures

When you think about sleepaway camp, you probably think about activities in nature, getting dirty, or lounging by the lake.  With more sophisticated kids and a constant need to raise the bar on unique activities, you may be surprised to hear that the specialty in highest demand at Pali Adventures Overnight Camp for summer 2017 is Culinary.

With the rise in popularity of Food Network shows featuring kids as chefs and the availability of global foods for young palates, youngsters are clamoring to the kitchen.  And the benefits are lifelong.

Basic Learning.  Cooking is a great way for children to watch math in action: measuring and counting involves basic math skills.  Recipes introduce vocabulary not found on spelling tests. And working through the steps of a recipe involves logic and sequencing skills.

Enthusiasm from Success.  Every child can find success through Culinary Arts.  From young children through teenagers, everyone can participate in cooking through age appropriate tasks.  Simple mixing, washing, and adding ingredients for the youngest cooks; measuring and following a recipe for elementary aged chefs; independent menu preparation and knife skills for teens.  Every child can feel a sense of accomplishment and gain confidence through cooking.  And every masterpiece – even if not picture perfect – can be celebrated and showcased.

Basically, we want to make sure that each recipe is simple enough for most children to be able to follow, delicious enough for children to sample, and containing ingredients that are likely to be found in a typical household pantry.

Try Something New.  Even picky eaters are more willing to try new foods when they participate in meal preparation.  The Chez Panisse Foundation reports that youngsters are more willing to eat foods that they grow or cook themselves.  And opportunities to expose children to the cooking process expands their palate and exposes their senses to the touch, taste and smell of ingredients that might otherwise not be tasted if they don’t participate in their preparation.

Travel the World.  Food is a way for children to experience their world through different cuisines.  At Pali, we try to include recipes from all over the world and have themed days based on where the cuisine comes from (Mexican, Italian, Chinese). The camp Culinary program also includes Baking, Desserts, and BBQ, and each week ends with an Iron Chef inspired cooking challenge that allows campers to compete against each other and put the skills they have learned to the test.

Bottom Line.  We hope to inspire a love of food and cooking in our campers with the hope that by being familiar with different types of food and cooking techniques they will be better prepared to make informed decisions when it comes to their own dietary choices.

A favorite Pali Camper Recipe:  Brownies.

  • 1cup Chocolate Chips
  • 2/3 cup granulated Sugar
  • 1/3 cup Butter
  • 2 Tablespoon Water
  • 2 Eggs
  • 3/4 cup All Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan.
  3. In a medium saucepan, combine the chocolate chips, sugar, butter and water.
  4. Place over low heat and cook, stirring consistently, just until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth.
  5. Remove from heat and let cool for a couple of minutes.
  6. Add the eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until smooth.
  7. Add the flour, baking powder and vanilla, and stir just until the dry ingredients have been incorporated into mix.
  8. Pour mixture into the prepared baking pan, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes – until a toothpick poked into the middle of the pan comes out nearly clean. Better to undercook slightly then overcook – so if you’re not quite sure, then they’re done.

About the Author:

Daniel Hammond is the Director of Pali Adventures. Pali Adventures provides a unique overnight summer camp experience for kids ages 8-16.  Campers choose from one of 22 specialties and over 70 electives to design a personalized adventure.  Our campers follow their dreams, try incredible new things, and gain lifelong friends in a safe and supportive environment. For more information visit

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