The Joys of Cooking

Teaching Our Children Organization, Part 4

Learning our way around a kitchen is a necessary skill for basic survival, really. While no one needs to become a gourmet cook, learning basic cooking skills and proper nutrition is a valid use of one’s time. This can begin at an early age. When my children were about 3 years old, I had them help in the kitchen. Stirring the batter for cake or brownies (and then licking the spoon afterward sometimes) and allowing them to see something go from essentially “goo” to a yummy treat was almost as good as a magic show for them.

Juli Shulem

I remember my son’s fascination and love at age 5 of juicing oranges. He would get his little apron on, and after I cut the oranges in half for him, he would juice all the fruit using my electric juicer. It made for some really cute photos I still enjoy looking at. Well, now that son is 19, and he can cook for himself! And my daughter, who resisted while I taught her until she was 22, now finds fun in the kitchen. She did, however, learn proper nutrition and has been good at creating menus, making shopping lists, and grocery shopping since she could drive.

So, what have you done to teach your children how to master this very important “survival skill” of feeding themselves?

Here are some steps that you can establish and build upon over the course of years; cooking will become so natural that they won’t feel like they have to stop and learn something — they will simply “know.”

• Take them grocery shopping — teach how to read labels so they learn the nutritional value in the foods they are purchasing and later consuming.

• Ask them to help with meal plans: “What would you like to go with the chicken tomorrow night?” Now, if they say “ice cream,” you have some more work ahead of you. Teach about balanced diets.

• Show how to make a shopping list. This is an area that some don’t see the importance of until they find themselves going to the grocery store multiple times a week. That is a complete waste of time. Efficiency and time-management skills come into play here by determining when to shop and how to get what you need in the correct order by thinking about perishability and scheduling. Planning is required.

• Reduce waste by only buying what is going to be consumed. Again, this comes back to planning ahead with menus, shopping lists, and proper shopping skills. Don’t buy things that will perish when you may not even be around to consume the foods. Thinking ahead will prevent this.

• Teach to put foods away, and schedule time to do that after shopping. Also cleaning and preparing vegetables is wise so that you save time later when you may not have it to spare.

Each age and stage of a person’s life offers different levels of learning. By high school age, a child should be comfortable doing all of the above. In my coaching work, I have had far too many college students unable to plan a simple meal and execute it for themselves. Knowing when and how to grocery shop was a mystery to many of them.

Part of growing up and being on one’s own is learning these skills to create that independence. If they leave home only knowing how to open a bag of chips, there could be some more serious issues down the line. These are the people keeping the fast-food industry in business!

This column is adapted from my speech “Helping Children Succeed” for parents of students. Do you have questions for this column? Email questions to Coach Juli, PCC, ADHD Productivity Coach, at, and put “question for column” in the subject line. They will be answered right here — your name is not used. My column is published every other week. Please enjoy the back issues, as well, should you have missed something that might inspire you.

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