Weather Forecast


Kids create art with food

Arianna Halverson tastes her creation during Cooking with Kids Story Time at the

Rice cakes, dried cranberries, grapes and bananas got their work-out Monday as children used their imaginations to create faces or other art masterpieces with their food during the Brainerd Public Library’s Cooking with Kids Story Time.

More than 20 children — who created and wore their own chef hats and aprons — attended the event sponsored by the Brainerd Lakes Area Early Childhood Coalition with their parents.

Tammy Filippi, coordinator of the Brainerd coalition, said the group has been partnering with the library on the Cooking with Kids Story Time for about five years. Filippi said the event is always held in March and it has three goals: To build family relationships, encourage healthy food choices and to promote success in school.

Darcy Dwyer, Brainerd children’s librarian, said the children’s ages vary at the event from 2 to 12, but it is geared for preschool children. Dwyer said the event is for families to come together to have fun and to be creative with food. Dwyer said the children get the food, create their masterpieces and then they have to draw what they made.

Five-year-old Isabella Simota, the daughter of Jennifer Simota of Brainerd, was having fun and said, “I love to read and I love to cook.”

Isabella said she likes to make chocolate chip cookies with her mother.

Jennifer Simota has brought Isabella to the event for the past three to four years, as well as her younger daughter, Arianna, 2. Simota said they enjoy the story time at the library every Monday night.

“I like to bring the girls here because I love to read and I want my girls to love to read too,” said Simota. “I like the story times because they are so laid back, they’re not strict.”

Krystal Halverson of Brainerd brought her two girls, Arianna Halverson, 5, and Katrina Villella, 3, to the cooking event for the first time. Halverson said they’ve attended story time at the library five to six times in the last few months and when they arrived at the library Monday, they learned that story time was part of the cooking event.

“It’s fun,” said Halverson. “I’m glad it’s at 6:30 p.m. because then working moms can bring their kids to something fun. ... It gets them out of the house in the winter and it gives them a chance to interact with other kids who they don’t see at school.”

Arianna doesn’t like cream cheese, but she still plans to eat her art creation. She said she loves to cook and she helps her parents make pancakes that are either Mickey Mouse- or circle- shaped.

Millie Gagliano of Baxter brought her 6-year-old daughter Julia to the cooking event, for the first time. Gagliano said she attended a recent writing workshop at the library and saw a flyer on the event and thought it’d be fun to take her daughter.

“Julia loves to cook and she calls her dad ‘Chef Daddy,’” said Gagliano.

Julia said she cooks “lots of things” with her dad, including pasta and broccoli.

Gagliano said the cooking event is a good experience for children who are picky eaters. She said it helps them try new, healthier things.

“It gives kids a different perspective,” said Gagliano.

Rachel Carpenter and her 2-year-old son Gavin of Brainerd, who attend several library events, were having fun making his food creation. The grapes on Gavin’s creation didn’t last long, as he gobbled them up fast, leaving the remaining ingredients on his rice cake.

Carpenter, who is expecting her second child in three weeks, said she is trying to do many fun things with Gavin before the baby arrives.

After the families made the art creations, Lindsey Sorenson, from the library, read the children two books: “Gregory The Terrible Eater” and “Baby Pie,” while the parents listened to Mickey Feyder of the University of Minnesota Extension Service and Lowell Johnson, a coalition volunteer, speak about healthier eating choices, nutrition and literacy.

JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at or 855-5851. Follow me on Twitter at