Guest Blog: In the Family Kitchen – Blogs from The Kids Cook Monday Initiative

How to get your kids into cooking … First, get them dirty.

Camille Casaretti and her kids, Sofia and Matteo, prepping ingredients for a Kids Cook Monday cooking class at PS32 in Brooklyn.

By Cherry Dumaual, Partnerships Director, The Monday Campaigns

How do you get kids cooking enthusiastically? First introduce them to the concept, then invite them to the kitchen, warmly welcome their participation and encourage fun in learning. This is the approach of ChopChop – one that inspires our initiative, The Kids Cook Monday.

Like ChopChop, our goal is to highlight the benefits of families getting together to prep, cook and dine together. Families reap benefits because research shows that kids who eat family dinners get better grades in school, develop better communication skills and are less likely to try drugs. The American Academy of Pediatrics found kids who ate dinner with their family regularly were less likely to be obese. Cooking also reinforces skills to help kids succeed like math, teamwork and following instructions.

But how, in today’s hectic, tech-focused world, can parents find time to involve their children in the family cooking ritual? Our nonprofit initiative, The Kids Cook Monday, developed with Pam Koch, EdD, RD, Executive Director and Research Associate Professor of Nutrition Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, offers families one solution. Set aside the first night of every week to prep, cook and eat together as a family. Call it your Family Dinner Date.

Why Monday? Because evidence shows that Monday is the day people are receptive to health messages and are motivated to get on a healthier track. Kids Cook Monday helps make it easier for families to dine together on Mondays with the free Family Dinner Date newsletter. It provides a recipe with an ingredient list, including steps broken down for kids, parents and what families can do together. It’s delivered each Friday to give parents plenty of time to pick up the necessary ingredients and get their family excited about their upcoming cooking get-together. 

But, first things first. How do you introduce kids to cooking? We spoke with Camille Casaretti, a parent of two, who brought Kids Cook Monday cooking classes to families at Public School (PS) 32 in Brooklyn, NY. Camille is a parent member of the School Leadership Team. We asked her to share effective ways to introduce kids to the cooking experience. Here are her easy-to-follow tips.

• First, get your kids dirty. Before stepping foot in the kitchen, get their hands dirty by growing food together! Engaging children in gardening is an excellent way to connect them with the natural environment, help them develop an appreciation for where their food comes from, and increase their fruit and vegetable consumption (because most kids will, in fact, eat food that they had a hand in growing!).

• Involve kids in meal planning.  Allow your child to participate in the process by suggesting a food that he or she would like to cook, or let them choose from several healthy menu ideas that you suggest. Try designing a fun-themed dinner and discuss ways to make it healthy, including a variety of colors and textures.

• Make it a total experience by shopping for ingredients together, too. Bring a list of ingredients with you to the supermarket and allow your child to help you find everything you need. Use this as an opportunity to show children how to read labels and how to choose the healthiest options. You can even let kids pick a new fruit or vegetable to try as a family adventure!

Want more tips and resources? Visit www.kidscookmonday.org where you’ll find weekly recipes, downloadable graphics, and other fun materials to get your family excited about cooking and dining together.