How to improve holidays with children

Guess what, mum, pasta doesn't grow in packets!

Holidays are all about getting away from the drudgery of everyday life, right? So when I saw an advert for a family cookery holiday, I thought someone must be having a laugh. But apparently they really do exist - and you can go on them for whole weeks at a time, if you're a glutton for punishment. What will they think of next - washing and ironing mini-breaks?

I seem to spend most of my life in the kitchen - and it's not something I relish. My attempts to cook with the kids only ever end in tears, with frazzled fairy cakes and tempers to match. Admittedly, I'm not a great role model - I only need to boil an egg (Delia Smith's recipe is best for this) and suddenly the place looks like a bomb has hit it. Forget Hell's Kitchen - the only thing that would impress Mr Ramsay about my culinary skills is the colourful language I use in the process.

So why would I want to go and do it all again on holiday, especially with two kids in tow? Well, there are many reasons, according to the increasing number of companies offering these intriguing activities. For a start, a family cookery holiday is an "ideal way to spend time being creative with your children". Thanks, but I reckon my boys are creative enough with their food - they can both write rude words with their Alphabetti Spaghetti.

But book a break with Toscana Mia (01227 276390); creativitytravel .com), for example, and you'll get a rather different angle on the whole creative thing. The owners promise a wonderful learning adventure for anyone over the age of three who wants to discover more about Italian cooking. Staying in an alluring old Tuscan farmhouse in the Chianti hills, you and your kids will be let in on all sorts of Italian culinary secrets, including the fact that pasta doesn't grow in packets.

Luckily, parent participation isn't compulsory on these mini-masterchef boot camps. If you like, you can leave your budding Nigella or Jamie to do the hard work while you go and soak up some sun and culture (now we're talking). Check out flavoursholidays.co.uk (0131-625 7002), which features kids' cookery courses in Lazio, or Swinton Park in Cumbria (01765 680900; swintonpark.com), a castle with its own cookery school.

But for out-and-out luxury, why not go the whole hog and book into the Manoir aux Quat' Saisons? Your little darlings can pick up a tip or three from Raymond Blanc while you enjoy the Michelin-starred ambience in peace (01844 278881; manoir.com). La Petite Ecole promises "fast and furious fun" as well as the secret to making the "perfect soufflé". (What more could any child ask for?)

Sadly, my boys are showing not a hint of interest in what a soufflé looks like, let alone how to make one. But I'm rather tempted by the idea of having two mini sous-chefs to cater to my every whim, so they'd better watch out - next time they burn the fairy cakes I'll be booking them in to a cordon bleu school before they can say smiley-faced potato waffle. But until then, it looks like the chef's hat is staying firmly on my head. Alphabetti Spaghetti, anyone?

Katy's Top Tip

* If you're visiting Rome, take your little pasta fanatics to the Museo Delle Pasta (00 39 06 69 91 120; museodellapasta.it) where they'll learn everything they need to know (and more) about the history and production of Italy's favourite food.

Katy Holland is deputy editor of 'Mother and Baby' and motherand babymagazine.com. She has written several books on childcare

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