How do you cultivate the joy of cooking? 7 Ideas to Help Raise a Kid that Cooks.

Cultivating the Joy of Cooking, 7 Ideas to Raise a Kid Who Cooks at

Q: Wow, Dale cooks. How did you do that?

How do you teach your kid to cook so they love it an keep on cooking?

I get this question a lot. Especially from folks who have seen Dale happily take a turn cooking at a gathering, hosting a dinner party,  or posting a photo of something he just cooked. Parents of teens, especially teen boys,  or new parents thinking ahead, often ask what did you do? What can I do?

A: Have fun and get creative with cooking. Establish the routine of cooking together. Make it delicious and joyful and heartfelt.

Mealtimes offer daily powerful times to connect and build communion and celebration of everyday life and expressing gratitude.  You can choose to make meals and meal preparation and adventure.  Meals made with love and laughter and fresh ingredients taste better.

How and when did we start to cultivate the joy of cooking?

dale-learn-by-doing-cookingAs soon as Dale was born, he was in the snugli or perched beside us when we cooked. Even though he was too young to actively participate, I chatted about the food, tastes and smells. I talked about how delicious it would be, and how much daddy, or guests, would love the meal. 

Dale’s internal alarm clock went off around 4:30 am. It was cold and dark. We were trying to let Daddy get a little more sleep before heading off to work, so what could we do? We cooked breakfast.

We baked to warm up the house and to create something delicious and beautiful.

We figured out what to make with the ingredients on hand in the amount of time we had so that Pierre would be able to eat before driving off to work. We met the challenge of doing everything quietly in our open, echoing kitchen.  We experimented and set the table to make it beautiful.

I know you are thinking,  she’s crazy! Table decoration at the crack of dawn?  

Why bother?

Because, when you are a sleep deprived grumpy mama who does not want to poison the atmosphere and ruin the day by complaining, if you focus on making love visible and getting the creative juices flowing, you can often flip the switch from grumpy to gratitude.

Instead of grumbling I could be grateful for:

  • quality time together to connect.
  • quiet moments to share my love and values with my child.
  • a roof over our heads, our working oven, and food on the table.
  • my ability to choose to enjoy a cooking adventure


Cooking and creativity: Cultivating Joy of Cooking with Kids www.lisanalbone.comCooking and Creativity: Inventing, Improvising and Problem Solving

First we turned on the oven. Then we grabbed a cookbook or two and snuggled on the couch. What should we make?  We would turn the pages looking for inspiration. We use recipes not as a formula, but as a starting point for creating and improvising.

Once we had the idea we moved back into the kitchen, put on our aprons, yes aprons for both of us, I love aprons, and set out the ingredients. If we were missing something we talked about how to compensate. Sometimes we just wanted to experiment – how about if we add _______? What will happen if we _____________? We are out of eggs, what can we use instead? What do you think? Let’s see!

Dale either sat on the counter or stood beside me on a stool. He loved dipping into the flour jar with the measuring cups and pouring the ingredients into the mixing bowl. Managing the measuring spoons was trickier, trying to get just the right amount of baking powder in the spoon and smoothing it off with a dull knife.  Often we got too much of something in the bowl, no big deal. If I was really concerned about a recipe being exact, then I had Dale measure into a smaller container first, before adding the ingredient to the main bowl. Stressing about exact amounts and mess can spoil the camaraderie which is just not worth it.

Stirring, pounding, rolling, greasing the pans, getting the dough into the muffin tins or cutting the scones to size were all things a child can do.  Was it messy? Yes. Could I have done it faster by myself? Yes. Did that matter? No.

What mattered was learning that you can have fun making your own food and food for someone you love.

We slid the pans into the oven.  Is it time to wake Daddy? Not yet. Let’s get the table ready. Hmm, how do we want to make it look today? Another potential “lesson” in creating atmosphere and ambience.

If it was a holiday, well, then we went with whatever the special day was. We would find or make something to decorate the center of the table and then choose which dishes, napkins or glasses to use according to our mood and design. Just for clarification, it’s not that we had lots of different sets of dishes, just that we had an eclectic collection of crockery found in thrift stores or received as wedding gifts.

We squeezed juice from our oranges and put it into fancy wine glasses. Or we made hot cocoa and used the crockery mugs. If it was summer, and there was a hint of light we went into the yard to gather a bouquet or berries if they were ripe.

We tried to make our world even more beautiful than it already was.

“MMMMM’ smells good. Now it’s time to wake Daddy! We put the butter, homemade jam, and other supplies on the table.  By now our mouths were watering. 

Once everything was one the table and we were all sitting together we sometimes took a moment for a blessing or to give thanks. We toasted with our juice or mugs: Cheers! Here is to a wonderful day.

After we ate, we all cleared our places and got to work. Pierre made his lunch and headed out the door. Dale and I put on the tunes danced as we cleaned up our cooking mess.

This is how our cooking together started. It wasn’t just breakfast and it wasn’t always ceremonial, but it was always a celebration of creativity, sustenance, and love.

7  Ideas to Help You Raise a Kid Who Cooks

Cooking is a creative process. And creativity is often improved with constraints. So we had the constant constraints of our budget and what was ripe in the garden.

What else can you do to help?

1. Play with your food! Be silly with the food on the plates, food as table decorations and presentation.

2. Have contests and games to see how many new ways you can cook a  __________.

3. Use cook books and recipes as ideas starters rather than missals that had to be followed exactly. Invent new recipes name them, and write them down. 

4. Check out new cookbooks from the library for inspiration.

5. Try new foods, flavors and recipes from different cultures.

6. Let kids cook with you and learn new cooking skills together.

7. Let kids cook and create on their own.

One year my mom gave us a subscription to the magazine Family Fun. It had a monthly column called “Kids Cooking Class” that was set up for the child to independently follow the directions and learn how to cook meals. Once it was a recipe for calzones, another time crepes, another time Chinese beef. Dale looked forward to trying each new recipe and his confidence with cooking soared. He eagerly awaited the magazine and turned directly to the Kid’s Cooking Class recipe. Then he would check for ingredients and make a shopping list. I had to remind myself not to interfere, and let him do it himself.

Pierre usually took  over cooking on camping trips, took over the BBQ and was always part of preparing meals for holidays and guests. So Dale had plenty of time to cook with Dad, too.

In fifth grade Dale was responsible for preparing one dinner a week. He decided what he wanted to make and took care of the process from start to finish.  On Sunday evenings we talked about our schedule for the week, and roughly planned out the meals. Everyone had a chance to offer suggestions or hankerings. We tried not to get in too much of a rut.  Dale cooked on the night that was best for him, the crock pot meal was slotted on the busiest day, and leftover party was near the end of the week. Planning included checking for ingredients so shopping could happen once. I am not a fan of extra trips to the store.

Dale often made his favorite, homemade macaroni and cheese with 3 cheeses, with sides of tomatoes, broccoli and salad. This recipe is still a hit and what we all consider comfort food.

Dale loved socializing, and food was always the  centerpiece of gatherings with friends or family. We typically cooked our own meals for holiday celebrations, casually inviting people to dinner, and even for our wedding and large anniversary parties. Figuring out affordable, delicious, sanity saving food prep for more than 100 was another creative cooking challenge.

Learn how to cook, Julia Child Quote at

Key Takeaways:

Cooking together on a daily basis was a habit that helped our budget and provided connection and a jumping off point for many areas of learning.

Raising a young adult who cooks started with spreading the joy of sharing and preparing meals for those you love, and continued by forming the habit of cooking.

Let the kids cook. Don’t stress about mess or mistakes.

Make it a habit and make it fun. Enjoy the whole experience because meals made with love and laughter and fresh ingredients taste better.

Do you cook with your kids? Do you have favorite blogs, books or resources you use for cooking?

I would love to hear your ideas to add to the list in the comments, Lisa.


Cookbooks We Loved:

Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer and  Marion Rombauer Becker

Williams Sonoma,  Holiday Cooking with Kids

Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at home by the Moosewood Collective

Celebrate by Sheila Lukins

195 Recipes From Every Country In The World – 195 Signature Dishes – Julie Hatfield

Websites new to me that look great:  CookSmarts. com with printable infographics and video tutorials

Here is the page with infographics

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Book Review: InsightOut by Tina Seelig

Have you ever attended an author talk as part of a book launch?

The energy and excitement is palpable as you are experiencing the reality of someone getting their ideas out of their head an into the world. Lucky me, I got to head to Palo Alto a few weeks ago to a Kepler’s Book speaker series and listen to and meet Tina Seelig who was launching her latest book InsightOut. 


If the book is excellent, the author is an enthusiastic speaker, the audience asks provocative questions, and there are lovely refreshments to support conversation and connection after the talk, the energy and inspiration multiply. 

Book Review:Insight Out Get Ideas by Tina Seelig

Tina Seelig, a professor at Stanfor University,  also wrote What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 and InGenious: A Crash Course on Creativity.  Building on the ideas in her previous books,  Seelig defines and clarifies terminology in order to articulate a process she calls the invention cycle that can be replicated, practiced and taught. Likewise, you can look at the invention cycle and think about how you can use it for yourself and your children.  Seelig’s writing is very personable and she uses a wide variety of examples that can be adapted to other situations. She brings her work from the classroom with grad students, experience from interactions and research in Silicon Valley and around the world, and personal experience together to define an invention cycle and the attitudes and actions necessary to use and teach a process of how we can get our ideas out of our heads and into the world.

I loved the quote from her department at Stanford that she refers to in the letter to readers:

Entrepreneurs do much more than imaginable with much less than seems possible

from page xii-xiii

As this message communicates, entrepreneurship isn’t just about starting companies. It’s about starting anything! Entrepreneurship involves building the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to see problems as opportunities and to leverage resources to bring ideas to fruition. This is just as relevant to those who are starting a rock band or planning at rip around the world as it is to those who are launching a company. The book presents a frameowrk for bringing your ideas to life-whatever those ideas might be.

Yes, or any creative mom!  Or engaged, active person! I describe what we are hoping to help our children be and do by allowing them the freedom to unschool and initiate projects in a similar fashion, but I had never defined it as entrepreneurship. 

As an unschooler and a K-12 educator, many of the lessons she describes are similar to activities I used in my classroom or with Dale and groups of home schoolers. I lacked the overarching well defined to explain to students and parents what I was aiming for. Her examples from her classroom and her interviews are very broad and show how each of the concepts can be applied in different settings. Most examples are related to business but can be extrapolated to working with younger students, your children or yourself. Each chapter ends with a project to practice putting the concept into action.

Certainly we should be helping our children learn these attitudes and actions long before they hit grad school.  When questioned during the talk, Tin said she hoped her book and work would help K-12 educators more easily incorporate the invention cycle in their classrooms and help make the shift in education that we need. More than a single lesson,or one time unit, using the invention cycle as a basis, we can give students the vocabulary and skills and practice using the mindsets and actions for how to approach solving problems and creating opportunities for the rest of their lives.

From pages 185-6

“ As described in previous chapters, there is an effective pathway through this process, from inspiration to implementation, with a requisite set of attitudes and actions:

imagination requires acitve engagement and the ability to envision alternatives

creativity requires motivation and experimentation to address challenges

innovation requires focusing and reframing to generate unique solutions

entrepreneurship requires persistence and the ability to inspire others

It is important to keep in mind that your attitudes are impotent unless you develop behaviors that bring those thoughts to fruition; and your actions are doomed to fail unless they are paired with the proper mind-set. By braiding together your attitudes and actions, you prepare yourself to do much more than is imaginable with much less than seems possible, not matter your objective.”

Read InsightOut and start using the invention cycle to help you and your kids get your ideas into the world.

Over to you:

What ideas are you trying to get out of your head and into the world?

What process do you use to go from imagination to implementation?

How do you define the words: imagination, creativity,innovation and entrepreneurship?

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7 Ways to Use Math Everyday: Tips and Resources

Q: How did you approach math with Dale? What programs did your husband want Dale to use as the math became more advanced?

A: Find ways to use math everyday and make math meaningful and fun!  Here is a sampling of  things we did while Dale was growing up and when we were homschooling.

7 Ways to Use Math Everyday: Tips and Resources to Make Math Meaningful and Fun

7 wasy to use math everyday and make math meaningful and fun: Tips and Resources

Avoiding Math Anxiety

Pierre and I liked to approach math as a problem solving process and an interesting puzzle. Pierre is much quicker at math and more advanced and accurate in math skills than me. So he brought the knowledge and application to the table.

I believe one of my saving graces is being curious about learning new topics and viewing learning, difficult learning, as a challenge that helps me grow rather than a yoke of shame about what I’m not naturally good at.  My self-esteem wasn’t ruined because I’m much better at grasping the concepts than getting the right answer. Thank goodness my high school calculus teacher gave credit for showing my work.  I could add my sense of enjoying math even though I’m no whiz.

I’ve worked with a lot of people with math phobia and knew we didn’t want to create math fear. I’d seen that using math in real, meaningful situations to accomplish something a child wants to do is extremely helpful for cementing concepts and connections, sometimes allowing the aha moment for something a child struggles with on paper or pencil. Even before we began homeschooling my husband and I tried to do lots of hands on things with Dale that used math. We didn’t spoil the fun with a lecture, but we might notice and talk about the math involved. We tried to make math fun, a game and social which had worked for me when math was difficult to grasp. I have very fond memories of making art and silliness out of calculus homework with my  wonderful group of nerdy high school friends.

We are nerdy. Kinda like characters in Big Bang. We always enjoyed doing activities together, being curious about how things work, and learning new things for fun. My husband and I enjoy math and see the math and science that are embedded in so many activities of everyday life. We gave Dale numerous positive natural, applied math experiences before looking at math from a formal learning standpoint.

7 Ways to Use Math Everyday:

Art:  Drawing, Painting, sculpting. Proportion, geometry, there are so many ways math is embedded in making art. When planning an art project there are often many math applications that will be needed, Dale framed and sold his photos, figuring out proportions for displays and what would look good.

Carpentry:Dale helped his Dad build a play house in the backyard that we wanted, build small projects like a birdhouse, make gifts out of wood. Of course this required measuring, fractions, computing as needed to calculate materials needs and using algebra concepts.

Cooking and Gardening: We cooked and altered recipes everyday, halving, multiplying, lots of different forms of measuring and conversions from metric to our system, depending on the recipe we were using. Weighing, measuring, planning, bed sizes, nutrient needs, harvest.

Games: We used logic puzzles, strategy games and brain teasers for fun. We had puzzle and books  and games that sat near the dining table and we often played/solved as a family or more often, Dale and Pierre as an activity after or even with dinner. Pierre is not a big talker, so he loved to play games at a meal. Pierre liked to play mental math games when they were driving in the car together.

Money: Using real money to pay at the store, make change, pay bills, calculate  percentages and discounts, figuring out savings for a wanted item, budgeting, learning about finance and investing and interest. Since we often did not have enough money for everything we wanted, Dale became interested in earning money for things he wanted that we couldn’t afford. He used his math skills when calculating profits/loss, materials costs, how much he should charge and keeping track of his earnings.

Music: Getting your body dancing and fingers playing an instrument is a great way help the brain develop pathways that will assist math understanding.  Rhythm, tempo, note values, harmonics.

Quilting and Sewing: I enjoy quilting and we used fabric to make gifts or things we needed. Dale decided he wanted to make a quilt for his room. Sewing and quilting are fun, creative and offer lots of opportunities for using geometry, fractions, measurement and algebra.

Tips on a Few Math Resources We Used

Math Curriculum:

When Dale was in fourth grade, at about 9 -10 years old, he attended a very small private school for one year where they used CPM’s foundations of algebra course Dale loved it’s concept, and application activity driven approach. The lessons gave the big picture reasons behind WHY you would want to learn a concept, problems related to real world examples and incorporated group talking, discovering and playing with concepts.

Since Dale loved it and wanted to continue, when we began homeschooling we went to a used curriculum shop to find the books. We also found the website and resources. The tricky part was creating a group of learners interested in learning pre- algebra and then algebra and get together on a regular basis, since this particular curriculum was devised to have kids work together and discuss as they learned concepts. Dale liked the social aspect but got frustrated when the other kids weren’t as interested in moving through the curriculum. When Dale wanted to learn something he liked to go as fast as he could. We ended up skipping the group and having me act as the partner in the activities. I  had to work hard to allow him to discover and not turn into a teacher.

I offered a math games group one summer and invited kids interested in math to come to the house for a couple of hours once a week. The Family Math Books are a great resource.

We looked for more programs with a focus on concepts and real world application. My husband and Dale liked the Harold Jacobs books Geometry, and  Math a Human Endeavor. Here is a link to some reviews I saw.

Key Curriculum Press has easy format one-concept-at-a-time series of workbooks, called “Keys to “ that Dale liked for review and that I used with students I tutored.

One homeschool Dad in our group offered a Trigonometry class and a Calculus class for a small group of kids. Since his children were participating in a school based homeschooling program he used text books provided by the school provided and added lots of discussion and hands-on, application activities that made it interesting to Dale. Dale really enjoyed the social time and snacks that were part of the math group.


I’ve already written about how much I love museums.  And making tricky math (or science) concepts visible and interactive is something museums do really well. The Lawrence Hall of Science, the Exploratorium,  The Tech and the MIT Museum and Boston Science Museum the had outstanding displays for stimulating math learning.


Other people  are a great resource!

It is good to remember that our child’s approach to learning may at times be very different than our own and there is nothing wrong with seeking outside help or searching for the right kind of teacher that is a good fit for an individual.

My husband is very strong in math/engineering  and very accurate and meticulous. It wasn’t always easy for him to accept that Dale was not as strong as dad in this area and was not always as patient as he could be. Pierre prefers to learn on his own from reading a book. He has no trouble grasping even very spatial concepts from reading text and viewing a two-dimensional diagram. Dale learns more with wrestling with concepts in a social setting, talking, and often needs to see or work with physical objects.

One homeschool Dad in our group offered a Trigonometry class and a Calculus class for a small group of kids. Since his children were participating in a school based homeschooling program he used text books provided by the school provided and added lots of discussion and hands-on, application activities that made it interesting to Dale. Dale really enjoyed the social time and snacks that were part of the math group.

Even though Pierre had the knowledge, Dale preferred going to the other homeschool dad for the advanced math instruction because it was more fun for him and suited his learning style better. 

Remember to play to your strengths, whatever they may be. When Dale wanted to take the exams, called the SAT and ACT, for applying to college, he and Pierre went to a book store and selected some test preparation books. Pierre was a perfect SAT math scored kinda guy. Dale was not. Dale worked through the books, asking for help when needed, and took the practice tests. He took both exams and found that he performed better on the ACT. He decided to maximize his score on that exam.

Math Mantra and Growth Mindset

Math is FUN! I can learn what I want to and need to if I am willing to do the work.

It helped a lot that at my first homeschool conference I attended a session with a panel of grown unschoolers and their parents. It was amazing how many math worry questions were asked. One mom told a story of her child doing no formal, traditional math until age 16 when he became fascinated with a science topic and wanted to enroll science program being offered that had several higher math pre-requisites. He was ready, he had his interest and a goal. He packed 12 years of traditional public school math into 4 weeks of intense learning and passed the entrance test to be allowed into the program. Okay, I thought, we can do this.

Overall, reduce anxiety, use math naturally in many ways each day, lead with interest and curiosity and approach math as a wide open learning adventure.  Explore lots of creative options and resources.

Over to you: What resources do you love for learning and enjoying math?

Some other people’s articles you might find interesting:

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Choosing the Adventure Mindset

twitter size choosing the adventure mindset

It’s not all about the bass, it’s all about the mindset. 

Choosing your mindset, or mindsets make a huge difference. In learning. In loving. In life.

I’ve mentioned before 5 mindsets that  I use and can help when you are choosing to rethink your approach to learning. 

There is another mindset that I find really helpful in approaching everyday challenges, big or little. I call it the Adventure Mindset.   If you are old enough, you might remember a radical book series called “Choose Your Own Adventure.”  I can remember teachers and parents reacting to them aghast!

How dare they let children be so, so, so ……………….as to get to choose! Well!

Choose the Adventure Mindset

Choosing the Adventure Mndset: My life is my adventure and Dr. Uke and Laughter are my sidekicks. Photo credit J.Pierre Stephens
Dr. Uke and Laughter are my sidekicks. Thanks for the photo Pierre!

It got me thinking, yeah, choose my own adventure.

I like that.

My life is my adventure.

As a learner, as a parent, as a child.

Dang, I’m not the victim.


I’m the explorer, the leader, the hero.

I can choose to see my life as an adventure.

Not just on vacations. Not when I save up enough for an African Safari or an around the world trip, everyday, today.

Sometimes, most of the time, you will have to keep checking in with yourself, and take an honest look at how you are operating. What mindset is dominant and guiding your thinking, feelings, actions and reactions?

How is that working for you? How is it affecting your relationships with ……?

What mindsets do you see your kids adopting and working from?

Choosing the adventure mindset  helps me shift from victim to victor and has helped me get through a lot of stuff in my life.

So whether you don a pith helmet, a microphone, a cape, or a ukulele or two, you have the power to choose your mindset and see your life as an adventure that you are leading.

Maybe you’d like to give it a try?

What adventure are you starting today?

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12 Motivation Makers

We can’t make someone else, like our kids, be motivated and we can’t motivate them.  We can help them develop their own intrinsic motivation muscle that they can call on to build confidence and independence.  We might also want to strengthen our own motivation muscle. So what can we do?

We can work on creating the conditions that make intrinsic motivation grow and flourish. Banish the motivation killers, and plan to put these motivation makers in their place.

12 Motivation Makers at

12 Motivation Makers

1.  A full Cup:  Good health habits for hydration, nutrition, exercise, rest, play and sleep.

2.  Mindsets: Growth – I can learn and do what I put effort into and overcome obstacles, and Yes I will do it!

3.  Choice-Agency-Options: I have options to pursue my interests and the power to choose. I can decide what to try. 

4.  Meaning and Purpose: I know exactly what I want to do and why I want to do it! I set my goals.

5.  Clarity and Focus: I know what step to take next and when I will take it. I know my timeline for meeting my goals.

6.  Mastery/Challenge:  Finding the Goldilocks just right  level of challenge in your zpd (zone of proximal development) and  “getting it,” whatever it might be. Nobody feels motivated if bored by things that are too easy or overwhelmed by difficulty.

7.  Movement:  Plenty of  daily physical movement and monitoring/reflecting so you can appreciate your progress.

8.  Creativity Culture: Encourages trying new things, making things, arts, cross connections. 

9.  Meditation/Nature: Accessing a renewable source of stillness, energy, inspiration and grounding. ( You will find me with my feet in the grass and heading into my garden every morning. What can you do?)

10. Community:  I am not alone and I know folks who care when I say, “Look what I’m working on, what are you working on.”

11. Mentoring/Support:  I can  ask  ________________  for help and/or feedback.

12. Completion and Celebration: I did it! I met my goals. I accomplished ___________. I learned ________.


12 Motivation Makers pinterest pinHow do you create the conditions for motivation makers in your family?


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