Getting Your Kids Cooking During Quarantine | Guest Post

By Nara Sandberg, Partnerships Associate, The Monday Campaigns

How do you get kids cooking enthusiastically? First introduce them to the concept, then invite them to the kitchen and encourage them to participate (even if they may make a mess). Above all, create a fun atmosphere that will inspire curiosity and creativity. This is the approach of ChopChop Magazine—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 and parents who eat family dinners have better health outcomes, and it helps reinforce what kids are learning in school, whether it’s math through measuring ingredients, science behind cooking or baking, or the other academic skills reinforced through cooking.

With kids stuck in the house, keeping them engaged can be a challenge. Why not invite them to help, prep, and cook family meals?

For parents or other family members taking care of kids, this is the time to get them cooking and learning to appreciate delicious, nutritious food.

Cooking together provides a simple way to understand nutrition, as well as the impact that food choices have on the environment. The more children develop cooking skills and interact with healthy foods, the more likely they are to make good nutritious choices in the future.

What is the best day to get kids cooking healthy meals? Research points to Monday. Studies show that people are more likely to use Monday as a “fresh start” and opt for healthier options more often than any other day of the week. Engaging in healthy behaviors on Monday helps people sustain these behaviors throughout the week. Thus, Monday is an effective day to start the habit of cooking and eating together as a family. Schools that have used The Kids Cook Monday to engage students and families in cooking have found an enthusiastic audience. For example, at Public School (P.S.) 32 in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, Camille Casaretti, a parent and the school’s PTA Wellness Chair organized quarterly Family Cooking Nights, where parents and students prepared and ate a tasty, nutritious meal together. Camille shared Kids Cook Monday resources with participants so that they could continue the tradition of cooking and eating together each week at home.

For families looking to start the tradition of cooking together, below are some tips from Camille:

  1. Come up with a few go-to recipes. Make healthier versions of your family’s favorite dishes: If your family loves pizza, add fresh veggies. Burritos with beans, veggies, and guacamole are another great option.
  2. Involve your children in meal planning. When planning meals based on what you have at home, involve your children in the discussion. Let them help choose meals each week, encouraging them to choose healthy options.
  3. Give your children jobs in the kitchen. Chopping, mixing, and measuring ingredients; setting the table; and cleaning up after (rinsing dishes, clearing the table, discarding trash)—your kids should be helping with this stuff. Involve them in the preparation and clean up.

Veggie Lo Mein

This recipe for Veggie Lo Mein is quick, easy, and delicious! If you can make spaghetti, you can make lo mein! This recipe comes together easily and is much faster than ordering takeout. Once your family masters the technique, try substituting different seasonal veggies to see what you like best. This recipe comes to us from Karen of Our Blessed Adventures.

Give it a try for your next #KidsCookMonday!

Ingredients:
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 cups broccoli slaw
2 small squash (green and/or yellow), chopped
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
8 oz. whole wheat spaghetti
2 tsp. ground ginger
2 tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
salt and pepper, to taste

Adult: Chop onions and garlic.

Kid: Chop squash and mushrooms. Measure broccoli slaw and spaghetti.

Adult: Cook noodles according to package directions.

Together: Heat olive oil in a large pan. Add veggies to the pan in order of what takes the longest to cook: onions, squash, garlic, slaw, mushrooms. Season according to taste and saute until cooked, about 10 minutes.

Together: Once the noodles are cooked, drain and toss in with vegetables.

Together: Add ginger and soy sauce and continue to cook several more minutes until the flavors come together.

For more recipes and additional Kids Cook Monday free resources, check out https://www.thekidscookmonday.org/.