5 Top Tips to Get Kids Cooking

By Jennifer Bright

June 23, 2020 6 min read

Like many Americans, my family and I haven't seen the inside of a restaurant since mid-March. We've only picked up curbside food a handful of times. I've cooked — a lot.

Now that our sons are home from school for summer, I asked them to take a turn each week helping — and learning — to cook. I feel it's a huge responsibility of mine to prepare them to be healthy, independent young adults and not rely on a family member, girlfriend or any other person to cook for them — certainly not Colonel Sanders, Papa John or Popeye.

One son volunteered to cook Sunday brunch, and the others will each help with Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday suppers. They seem to enjoy it, and I cherish the time with them!

Here's what our mommy M.D.s — doctors who are also mothers — do to get their children cooking.

"My kids are all pretty good eaters," says Brooke A. Jackson, M.D., a mom of twin girls and a son, a dermatologist, founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology Associates in Durham, North Carolina, and author of the forthcoming book "Skincare for Runners." "I think that it helps that since our kids were toddlers, my husband and I have engaged them in the preparation of food and let them taste it as we cooked."

"We have found ourselves in a unique situation with both our boys back from college doing online classes, virtual graduation and an online internship this summer," says Leena Shrivastava Dev, M.D., a mom of two sons and a general pediatrician in Maryland. "Another college student came along with them due to the parents living in an area of a high rate of cases of COVID-19. So, we now have five adults living in the home of what used to be empty nesters. We have actually done quite well and only ordered out about five times in 12 weeks. We have found that making food at home is satisfying and healthy and actually delicious! Sometimes we make Indian food for dinner, sometimes pasta, lentils, burgers, pizza, breakfast for dinner and, of course, the all-encompassing — clean the fridge — leftover night! We do ask these now-adults-but-still-college-students to help out with the cooking and even pick a night where they will do the cooking. They are pretty good with soft tacos, avocado tuna melts and shepherd's pie. Being at home together, they have learned how to make butter chicken and even a swimming pool cake. We will never have this time again with our adult boys, so we are using it to get to know them again while giving them lessons in healthy cooking and healthy eating."

"When my daughters were toddlers, I gave them age-appropriate jobs in the kitchen, such as pouring measured ingredients into bowls, spooning cupcake batter into the cups and even cleanup duties," says Marra S. Francis, M.D., a mom of six children and an OB-GYN in Helotes, Texas. "With teaching kids to cook comes the importance of teaching kids to cook safely. All of my knives have black handles. I taught my daughters very early on not to touch black handles so they wouldn't accidentally grab a sharp knife."

"I encouraged my toddlers to hop on the stool and help me in the kitchen," says Hana R. Solomon, M.D., a mom of four and grandmother of eight, a pediatrician and the author of "Clearing the Air One Nose at a Time: Caring for Your Personal Filter" in Columbia, Missouri. "If I was cutting tofu, I would give a small piece to my toddlers and allow them to use a butter knife to cut their piece. If I was washing spinach, their hands were in the sink along with mine.

"When tasting, I would allow the kids to taste and make appropriate noises, such as 'yummy' or 'blow first, hot,'" Solomon continues. "We also would make pictures with veggie pieces and then eat the drawings. Another fun toddler task was blending smoothies. My toddler would help pour the milk into the blender, drop the berries in and press the button. This was a great opportunity to repeat single words to increase vocabulary. Cooking with kids is a schoolroom opportunity in your kitchen. I feel like I accomplished my goal of encouraging my kids to eat well. My adult kids now ask for tofu when they come home, for example."

"In the past, I didn't like cooking and always resisted my mother's attempts to teach me," says Cheryl Wu, M.D., a solo pediatrician in downtown Manhattan at Amaranth Pediatrics. "But I realized that my picky toddler would always eat his grandmother's Asian dishes. So, I said to myself, 'Well, I guess I now need to learn how to make Chinese food!' After a year of cooking at least three days a week and subjecting my son and myself to charred food and, at times, nauseating culinary experiences, I became a pretty good cook. And a pretty great thing happened along the way: I now actually enjoy cooking!

"Since my son was about 2 years old, I've let him help me prepare meals," Wu continues. "For example, he could cut tofu with a butter knife. It's really not that much different than cutting Play-Doh! It helped him with his hand-eye coordination, and it also kept him busy. By the age of 4, he was quite proficient at peeling garlic. It must have something to do with those little fingers. (I keep joking that working at a garlic factory could be his fallback career.) He also helped me by snapping green beans, squeezing lemon juice and beating eggs. I can't wait until he can finally cook by himself. That way, I get to ask him what's for dinner!"

Jennifer Bright is a mom of four sons, co-founder and CEO of family- and veteran- owned custom publisher Momosa Publishing, co-founder of the Mommy MD Guides team of 150+ mommy M.D.s, and co-author of "The Mommy MD Guide to the Toddler Years." She lives in Hellertown, Pennsylvania. To find out more about Jennifer Bright and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Photo credit: congerdesign at Pixabay

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