Cooking with Your Kids: Setting a Foundation for Life

The Kitchen ClassroomTo spread awareness about Jewish Disabilities Awareness Month, we invited Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer to write a post about her important book The Kitchen Classroom: 32 Visual GFCF Recipes to Boost Developmental Skills. It even includes recipes for Jewish holidays, including latkes and hamantaschen.
 Professional cooking teacher and parent of a son with autism, Gabrielle wrote this book to show parents how to use cooking experiences to help kids needing extra help with sensory integration, motor, language, communication, and attention skills.

 By Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer

Every parent wants the very best that the world has to offer for our children. We imagine them growing up into happy, productive adults with full, meaningful lives. But as a cooking instructor, I see one foundational step towards optimal health that many parents overlook: teaching their children how to prepare food.

Why teaching your kids to cook is important

Many teens who enter my cooking classes have never picked up a knife to chop a vegetable. They aren’t confident reading and following a recipe on their own.

Without teaching our children some basic skills, they will grow into adults who rely on heavily processed canned or frozen food or fast food for their daily meals.  For families who are already gardening, cooking together with fresh produce from the backyard is the perfect opportunity to practice some basic culinary skills.

Kitchen connections beyond food   

Here are a few tips to focus on having fun while making simple recipes with your children:

  • Start young: Your child doesn’t need to be reading or even talking to start helping you prep in the kitchen. Toddlers and preschool age children can have lots of fun dumping ingredients into a bowl, stirring with a large spoon or washing fruit or those garden veggies with you.
  • Focus on connection: The kitchen is a place to not only share food, but to share stories. Talk about favorite recipes, holiday gatherings that you remember from your childhood and exciting meals that you’ll be cooking together.
  • Work on skills: If your child needs support with reading or math, work on those skills in the kitchen (My cookbook The Kitchen Classroom has lots of ideas for boosting developmental skills through cooking).
  • Make cooking a fun experience: One way that I got my children excited to eat more fruits and vegetables was by introducing a ‘letter of the week’ and we’d try fruits & veggies to match that letter. They learned how to cut open a pomegranate, kumquat, quince and other produce we might not have normally purchased! You can try our recipes in my ebook ABC Fruits & Veggies 4 Me! Do a little bit at a time.  Just look for little opportunities to engage them as you prepare food. Maybe they can peel carrots one night and snap green beans another. Over time, if you think about involving them in food prep, they will turn into adults who have wonderful cooking skills!

Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer is a Jewish educator, cooking instructor and mom. Visit her at

Do you have a favorite recipe you make with your kids?

Follow us on Pinterest

Other posts you might like:

Hanukkah Cupcake Decorating Party      Jewish Cooking and Reading with your Kids 


  1. says

    I’m so grateful to Gabby for this wonderful post! I especially like the idea of buying pomegranate, kumquat, and quince for letter-of-the-week learning. We have posted about using trips to the grocery store as a way to enhance celebrations of first fruits of the season.

    • Ellen says

      I’m beyond tickled that you responded, Belinda! Now, I’ve discovered your blog and signed up to get it. We must be kindred souls – cooking to the Big Chill soundtrack? Doing collaborative creative projects? I’ll bet we could talk for hours. Thanks for raising your hand so that we got to meet 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *