It’s that lovely season of late summer. The garden is pumping out produce, we started our homeschool curriculum, and we are still making time to enjoy the last of the wonderful sunny days of summer before the long winter. How about you? Are you thinking of starting GAPS with the family? Wondering how to get your kids to eat GAPS foods? Feeling overwhelmed by the amount of cooking or food prep for GAPS?
As a mom, it’s so easy to go into autopilot and try to do everything ourselves. But getting our kids involved and helping is good for us and for them! GAPS kids can cook! And what better life skill to teach our children than how to prepare and enjoy real, nourishing, gut-healing food? So let’s dive in!
Why Have GAPS Kids Cook?
Reason #1: Get the family out of disconnected survival mode and thrive together instead.
It happens to all of us! In times of stress or transition, or as a response to a trauma, we default to survival mode. Sometimes it seems easier at first to just do a task ourselves and train our children to leave us alone to do it (“go play outside”, anyone?). That’s because it IS easier! At first…
As parents we can get into survival mode and forget to look forward. As a former single mom, I truly understand. It took my future husband to tell me: “That boy needs some chores!” before I realized I was trying to do it all myself despite having a perfectly capable helper.
Families are designed to work together and to help one another to accomplish important tasks. It feels better to everyone when all members are working towards common goals, preferably working side by side when possible.
Reason #2: Build self-confidence and self-esteem in your children.
When we tell kids to go play outside because we are busy, we are communicating that:
a) they do not need to help us with tasks and,
b) we don’t think that they are able to help us.
This erodes confidence. Kids and adults alike need to feel that they are an integral part of their family community, that they have valuable skills, and that they are needed and useful.
Reason #3: Make amazing memories.
You will spend more time with your kids, and once they are grown you will treasure those moments!
Reason #4: GAPS Kids can cook!
It’s a win-win! Once the kids learn how to cook- they learn useful life skills and you don’t have as much cooking to do!
Reason #5: Kids are more invested in GAPS when they help.
When kids prepare and cook nutritious food for themselves and the family, they are more likely to eat and enjoy those foods. They are also more appreciative of the work that goes into preparing real food from scratch. For more tips on picky eating, see “Picky Eating on the GAPS Diet.”
OK, those are all good reasons to have GAPS kids cook. But how to get started? And how to get through the difficult moments?
GAPS Kids Can Cook: Tips To Make Things Easier
- Try it on a “good” day. You know those days. Perhaps you’re just not feeling your best or you don’t have much time. Or perhaps your child is struggling or tired. That’s ok! Just let that be a day when you make things as easy as possible on yourself and your kids. Try new things like GAPS cooking another day. Definitely wait until you as the parent are feeling patient and positive.
- Start with something easy and yummy! For the first time cooking together, choose a couple of recipes that you know your child will enjoy eating and be able to help with, then let your child make the final selection of which one to make.
- Consider skill level. Every child is different, and you know your children best! When choosing tasks for kids, choose things that may be challenging, but you are fairly sure they will be able to do with your help.
- Manage your reactions. It’s normal to feel frustrated when egg shells end up in the batter or eggs fall on the floor. Or your 2 year old turns on the blender before you get the lid on. But one of our goals is to help our kids build confidence and to enjoy cooking. Here are some ideas to keep the experience positive:
- Expect messes and mistakes.
- Take a quick bathroom break if needed to calm down, then come back ready to reteach whatever it is your child struggled with.
- Let your kids help clean up, too! Then they won’t feel so bad about making a mess, because they know that they can also clean it up. They also learn that when you make a mess, you help clean it up.
- Focus more on the experience with your kids and give less importance to the outcome or goal.
- Tell the kids that you’re both learning and you don’t expect that it will always be perfect. My son and I both struggle with perfectionism, learning things together is a good opportunity to notice and change these habits.
- Be honest (age appropriately) about the things you are working on yourself, whether it’s cooking skills, keeping your workspace organized, or your own perfectionist tendencies.
- Try saying things like: “It’s ok, everyone makes mistakes, let’s get this cleaned up together,” “I’m sorry I got so upset, you didn’t deserve that,” “We both make mistakes and we’re both working on learning together,” “I always love you, even when you make mistakes,” “You sure are getting better at this!” “I’m proud of you,” “It’s fun to cook with you,” and “Thanks for being a good helper!” Keep your praise genuine, but don’t forget to say encouraging words at the right times. Keep your tone patient and reassuring (try recording yourself if you’re not sure).
- Be careful about how you re-tell your cooking adventures to others, being sensitive to your child’s possible embarrassment and focusing on the positive aspects of your time together.
- Hugs and laughter make everything better 🙂
Great Recipes that GAPS Kids Can Cook
These delicious and simple favorites quickly become dishes that kids can cook for themselves or the whole family!
- Scrambled eggs
- Fresh pressed juice- Juicing 101
- Smoothies– Try the GAPS Banana Milkshake at the end of this post, or our Pink Power Milkshake.
- GAPS Pancakes! For a simpler version, just mash cooked squash (drier squashes like kabocha and acorn work best) with a fork into eggs with a pinch of salt until it is a thick consistency and cook small dollops slowly on low heat in a buttered skillet until the edges are set, then flip.
- Homemade Sausage – Use as an opportunity to teach safe handling of raw ground meat.
- Cut fresh fruit– Opportunity to teach safe knife skills.
- Homemade Yogurt– add crispy nuts, shredded coconut, dried or fresh fruit, chia seeds, etc. if tolerated.
- Pumpkin Raisin Muffins
- Easy Egg drop soup– heat meat stock with crushed ginger, garlic, and scallion. Add spinach until wilted. Use a fork to scramble an egg in a measuring cup, then pour slowly into simmering meat stock as you whisk.
- Burgers- Form into patties and pan fry
- Cut fresh veggies (crudites) with probiotic ranch dressing
- Hard boiled eggs
- Big Salad– Lots of veggies with toppings like hard boiled eggs, crispy nuts or seeds, cubed cheese, tuna fish, leftover meat from meat stock or dinner, Sea Seasonings (for iodine), avocado, leftover roasted or sauteed vegetables, etc.
- Download our free kids school lunch menu plan here!
- 100 GAPS Diet Snacks– We’ve pretty much compiled every snack we can think of in this post. Let us know which are your favorites in the comments!
- GAPS Pizza– Super fun with kids, and you can customize toppings!
- Grilled chicken with GAPS BBQ Sauce
- Broccoli Bacon Salad
- Mediterranean Meatballs (Kids love to use the food processor and shape the little meatballs!)
- Rockin’ Taco Salad
- Squash Sausage Soup
- Cauliflower “Mac” n’ Cheese
- Easy Russian Custard
- Easy Avocado Pudding– use a food processor to mix ripe avocado, honey, pinch of salt, dash of vanilla, and sour cream, yogurt, or kefir into puree. Add cocoa powder for chocolate pudding.
- GAPS Strawberry Ice Cream
- GAPS Strawberry Cake
- GAPS Chocolate Cupcakes
- Plum-Apple Crisp
Start with foods your child likes to eat (most kids like yogurt, sour cream, and crispy nuts or nut butter). Eventually, you’ll want your kids to be helping make GAPS staples like meat stock and vegetable ferments.
- Easiest ferment- Beet Kvass
- GAPS Dairy Kefir
- GAPS Sour Cream
- GAPS Yogurt
- GAPS Fermented Veggies
- Rainbow Ferment
- GAPS Bone Broth and Meat Stock– recipes at the bottom
- How to make crispy nuts
- Nutbutter– put the crispy nuts in the food processor and let your kids process with the s-blade until a butter-like texture is achieved (first it will resemble flour, keep processing. For drier nuts, you may want to add melted coconut oil, ghee, or olive oil to get the texture you like).
GAPS Kids Can Cook- Homeschool Curriculum and Project Ideas
Family Cookbook Project
For a project the whole family can do together, I recommend making or buying a blank cookbook such as this one on Amazon:
Fill the book with all your family’s favorite recipes. Let your kids put some of their own creations in there, you will all enjoy remembering their favorite inventions in the years to come!
How to Make your Own Homeschool Curriculum
- Decide on the appropriate skills for your child’s age that you want them to learn and make a list. For example: how to crack eggs, how to flip a pancake, knife safety, meat handling, stovetop safety, how to properly prepare nuts and beans, baking principles, nutrition facts, detoxifying foods (juices) vs. nourishing foods (eggs, meat, fats), food storage, etc. Also, include proper clean-up skills!
- Turn each skill into a lesson and tie it to a recipe. For example, for teaching knife skills you might choose to make fresh-cut veggies or fruit with ranch dip (recipes above), peanut butter, or a yogurt + cinnamon+honey dip. If you want to teach how to crack eggs, Russian Custard is a perfect recipe. For flipping, spatula use, and stovetop safety- GAPS Pancakes. Preparing nuts and beans- make nut butter from crispy nuts or taco salad with soaked beans. Baking- GAPS Strawberry Cake.
- Divide the skills over the course of your school year. Some skills will merit more than one lesson. Give yourself and your child some room for extra lessons and missed lessons as needed. Have the child record what they learn in a notebook if they are old enough.
- Fermenting can be a bit of a science experiment– you can have your child track changes in the jar, such as bubble formation, and taste changes (careful as you open and close ferments as this increases the chances of mold formation and stalls the anaerobic process, but that’s part of the learning too!), the tautness of the lid (if using a regular mason lid), color of the brine and veggies, etc. For older kids, temperature variation and length of time to ferment might be a good thing to explore. Or, differences in results when using regular mason lids vs. an airlock system such as the Perfect Pickler. Another experiment could be trying different starters and noting differences. Make graphs if desired.
- Meat stock and bone-broth making can be more fun by adding challenges such as having the family judge which meat stock tastes best, how to get more gel in the stock or broth, and adding fun spices and flavors.
Other Educational Options
The Kids Cook Real Food ECourse is an option if you don’t have time to create your own cooking curriculum. Though many of her recipes are not GAPS, most could easily substitute GAPS-friendly recipes.
What do you think? How have you included your kids in cooking? Tell us all about it in the comments!