Sarah Judd
Little Books Little Cooks instructor Donna Jones (far right) works with preschoolers and parents, teaching them about healthy eating.

Little Books Little Cooks is a program provided for preschool age children ranging from 3-5 years old accompanied by their parents. The program in Alamo runs on Thursdays from June 15 to July 27 from 2 to 3:30 p.m. at the senior center. Caliente meets on Wednesdays from 1:30 – 3 p.m. at the elementary school.

They meet once a week for seven weeks for an hour and a half. The program is free and runs through the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. Donna Jones is the instructor and she went to Las Vegas to be trained for the program. According to their class description, the students are taught “healthy eating and nutrition to families while developing positive parent-child interaction through reading and cooking together. Children also learn and practice school readiness skills.”

The course starts with food and class safety rules and how to wash your hands when handling food. Parents filled out a questionnaire. Each week, the kids are introduced to new concepts like the different food groups, cooking with kids, cultural foods, hunger and fullness, picky eating as well as fruits and vegetables. They read a book and learn about the topic while making food. They also have a take home activity which involves reading another book and making another food dish.

Participants are provided aprons to use, bowls, measuring utensils and other instruments needed to make the food as well as the ingredients needed for such activities. They have a stack of books to use for the stories linked to the lessons. The second week, the kids were given their own food group plates to use at home.

At the end of the seven week period, the students graduate and are awarded a certificate along with their own apron, chef’s hat and their own set of measuring cups. There are eighteen children participating – nine in Alamo and nine in Caliente.

Evie Collier and her mom Jana attend the one in Alamo and Jana expressed, “I like that they really want the kids to participate and do everything and be a part of what they eat. Evie likes to cook and be in the middle of everything. The pamphlets we take home help me learn to be a healthier cook and adding more vegetables and fruits in my cooking. They are more in depth than what we learned in the class.”

Amanda Harless and her daughter Cassidy, 4, and son Jayden, 3, are also in the class in Alamo. Amanda explained, “My kids love school and learning. What better way to help them learn eating healthy. I like that it reiterates getting your kids in the kitchen.”

Sasha Orr and her daughter Penny, 3, attends the Caliente class and added, “I love that it is something fun to do with her. She loves to cook and it gives her an environment to learn to do that and it teaches me how to help and include her in the kitchen.”

Amanda Anderson brings her daughter Aaliyah Shoup, 4, to the Caliente class and related, “I think the class has been really fun. Aaliyah enjoys Donna and the aids who teach her. I enjoy that they encourage the kids to do everything that they can. I really like the side activities we do at home once a week. We get to read a book and do a recipe together as homework.”

The third week, the kids were making pumpkin cranberry pancakes to eat in class. They learned about using a spatula and an electric griddle. When talking to Donna Jones about what she likes the most in teaching this class, she expounded, “I like watching the kids learn new things and see them get it. They are learning so much and don’t even know it. I love when they make their own stuff and get that excited look about their food.”