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Kid Companions- Chewelry: Jan 10, 2011

January 10, 2011

Meet Gabrielle Kaplan-Maher ~ Writer, Cooking Instructor and Educator

Gabrielle Kaplan-Maher author of The Kitchen Classroom: 32 GFCF Recipes to Boost Developmental Skills  was our guest on The Coffee Klatch. Gabrielle is a freelance writer, educator, and cooking instructor based in Philadelphia. She is the author of several nonfiction books for adults, including Insulin Pump Therapy Demystified, Bar/Bat Mitzvah Planner, and The Creative Jewish Wedding Book.

 Hope you enjoy our Tweetchat interview between Pierrette and Gabrielle with its 140 character limitations. A few of the questions and comments that were pertinent to this post come from others who joined us. We wish to thank Gabrielle and all who dropped by for an absolutely, cool session!

The Kitchen Classroom is a special project for you. Can you explain a bit about this book?

*"The Kitchen Classroom" is a GFCF cookbook for kids but is also a guide for parents/teachers about connection and communication.
*I started writing it about four years ago when I started cooking with my son, George, who has autism. He was 4 years old then.
*My son is about to turn 8 and my daughter is 5. For both kids, cooking together has been a way that we connect.
*Cooking was one of the best ways that I found for us to enjoy time together and to work on communicating together.
*Because my son is on a GFCF diet, I started creating recipes that he would like that are GFCF.
*Cooking together has been very grounding for us.
*For my son, cooking is very organizing and he looks forward to our cooking time.
*During the week, when we are all busy, we might do something simple, like he will help me chop up fruit for a fruit salad for dinner

What did you find as you applied this with your son? I believe cooking is indeed a large part of your professional life as well?
*Yes, I teach cooking to teenagers and work with kids with various disabilities--autism, down syndrome, intellectual disabilities.
*I discovered that my son felt really competent being in the kitchen with me. It was easy to engage him. We got to work on developmental skills while getting dinner made!

What do you mean: "Parents don't need to be "perfect chefs" or have special cooking background--everyone can cook"
*Absolutely! We live in a "celebrity chef" culture so some people are intimidated to cook. My recipes are very basic with good, fresh ingredients.
*It is not just for kids with special needs. My neurotypical daughter is 5 and has been cooking with me since 18 mos.
*With the teens, whom I teach, many don't know any basic cooking skills like chopping.
*Everyone needs to know these skills to prepare healthy food for themselves and it's better if kids are taught as they're growing up,
*If people don't learn to cook, they may rely on fast foods more.
*Cooking together and sharing meals together should be a vital part of home life!
*Clearly there is a connection between the rise of obesity and people not spending time in their home kitchens.

What do you have to say about ingredients to parents? I live in a rural area but can still find basic healthy items.
*That's great...look for fruits and veggies at farmer's market. If you can't find GF flours, order at Amazon. Good prices!
How has cooking helped with Sensory issues?
*I have an extensive section in the book about cooking and sensory issues because my son is a sensory seeker.
*Simple things like tearing lettuce leaves, breaking celery or pounding pizza dough give him the input that he's seeking.

Do you have any tips or tricks for parents with kids that find cooking hard? How would one start?
*Start with basics and keep in mind your child may have a short attention span and that's okay.
*In the book, I have my recipes labeled "easy" to "hardest" so you can pick an easy one to start out.
*Maybe your first cooking experience is just washing some fruit or veggies together.
*Maybe the next day you wash and then peel.
*The next day you wash, peel and pull grapes off the stem and pluck them into a bowl.
*Within a week you're making a beautiful fruit salad!

Any tips on engaging a tween? Our 11 old daughter seems to like feeling in charge. She has special "spices" for her carrot "recipe".
*Cool! Yes, that feeling in charge feeling is so important at that age! He/she can help you make the grocery list.
*For engaging a tween, you want the child to feel like he/she has an important role.
*Give him/her some choices: if you're making cookies, let him/her compare the smell of different spices and choose what he/she likes.
*He/she can help you find the ingredients at the store or if you're ordering at Amazon can help you search for the items.
*Learning to cook can be both nutritionally beneficial in keeping away from fast foods. And at the same time good family fun.
*Cooking together and sharing meals together should be a vital part of home life!
*Cooking also incorporates reading, math, science, and sometimes social studies and writing.

In your book, can all kids, readers and nonreaders, follow along?
*It includes a book for parents and teachers with 32 quick and tasty gluten-free (GF) and casein-free (CF) recipes.
*It has specific teaching tips and a color photo of each finished dish.
*Oh yes! The book comes with a CD-Rom with all 32 recipes with step by step instructions for the kids.
*CD has 500 color photos illustrating the process of each recipe in detail.
*You can use the photos on a laptop, print them out, put them in a binder, whatever you prefer!

Can you speak a bit about your website,  ? I see it ties well with the book. I see there are lots or interactions possible. Even recipe of the week :-)
*I set up my website to create a place for ongoing conversation like this one.
*Visit me at , share your stories and pictures, and ask me any questions!
*Yes, a recipe of the week and you can sign up for my monthly e-news with more tips and ideas.

Teaching teens must have its' challenges. What lessons have you learned that transfer to all settings?
*On my web site, I have a link to a podcast of one of my teen cooking classes--check it out!
*There's some "immediate gratification" for TEENS too!
*(I have always cooked with my kids. They each pick a menu and shop for and prepare it each week. Easier on Mom, too!)
*Oh yes, teens love to taste what they've cooked!
*(It translates well into my work with developmentally disabled adults. The confidence boost is awesome!)

Any GFCF tips you'd like to share for parents feeling a bit nervous?
*Sure, I include extensive resources in the book, like links to the taca plan for removing gluten/casein over 14 weeks.
*That's how we did it. One of the best things is to slowly introduce GF foods as you begin to remove gluten-based foods.
*GFCF Tip: think outside the box, literally. real food like fruits and veggies are GFCF and are cheap.

You follow the Relationship Development Intervention (RDI) model for autism - tell us about it.
*We've been doing RDI for about 4 years. It teaches parents how to work with their kids to work on developmental milestones.
*RDI is about "framing" experiences for success. That means as a parent I am thinking about setting up an activity for optimal success.
*I discovered that when I clear my kitchen counters, there was no visual distraction for my son and he could focus on cooking.
*RDI is all about that kind of thought--it's very common sense, which I love.
*I write extensively about framing in the book (which includes a long intro for parents).
*(Spending time doing enjoyable Experience Sharing activities like cooking would be it.)
*Yes! Experience sharing is one of RDI's foundations. When we cook together, I often take pictures so we can go back and remember the experience together.

You do workshops, can you speak about that?
*Yes! I love doing workshops for parents or parents/kids and can come to your community.
*I do a demo focusing on everything we talked about this morning--how to begin, framing, roles for kids, following recipes.
*Just email me if you want more info on a workshop.
*I live in Philly and will post local events here; I’m happy to come to your communities.

Once again The Coffee Klatch has been instrumental in introducing you to another great resource. Now your family can have the satisfaction and fun of making meals together and building healthy eating habits for life.
We are delighted Gabrielle Kaplan-Maher shared her book The Kitchen Classroom (Woodbine House).  You can check out The Kitchen Classroom at  or at her sight,

Tell us about your experience cooking with your child/children.

Related Posts:
About The Eating Game and Jean Nicol, the Inventor
Why Is Your  Overweight Child Eating When He Is Not Hungry

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My Child Does Not Like Sports or Any Physical Activity ~ Now What?

Whether your child is completely well or you  have a special needs child with a visible disability, like Cerebral Palsy or Down Syndrome, or an 'invisible' disability like Autism or Asperger’s, chances are you're constantly advocating for doors to open to a better life. A fit child has the odds stacked in his favor for a better life. Also physical activity is important because usually inactive children are likely to become inactive adults. Parents can be role models for an active lifestyle. Lead by example, make it a family affair and best of all play and have fun!

What if your child thinks nothing about physical activities is FUN?

So your child finds no form of sports or physical exercises interesting. You know the many benefits being physically fit would bring to your child; therefore, you must disguise physical activities in another form. Promote other activities that involve moving/movements that will have the same end results. The following come to mind and many are great for all the family and relatively inexpensive. Can you add others in the comment box?

* Collecting rocks, leaves, flowers, insects…

*Photographing the objects others would collect or different balconies, unique door knockers, various signs, windows, roofs, birds…

*, herbs, vegetables, fruit trees, berry bushes, small green house...

*Watching birds, squirrels, bugs, frogs….

*Playing with games like the interactive Wii games.(see note below) 

*Playing catch with a dog, throwing a ball back and forth with a friend.

* Sitting on huge balls and keeping your balance.

*Learning to juggle, stacking cups, arm wrestling...

*Flying kites, making huge soap bubbles...

*Using hula hoops, gymnastic ribbons, dancing,

*Skipping ropes, hop scotch games, playing hide and seek.

*Bowling, table tennis, swimming pool games.

*Enjoying a playground, playing in your back yard on swings, slides...

*Sledding, building snowmen, snow forts, snow houses, snow shovelling.

* Making homemade eductional games that involve moving. Indoor Hopscotch, replace number with math or words-Make learning fun!

Physical, mental and social benefits derived from sports participation or any physical activity for all ages and abilities are widely accepted. Also, “Play builds the kind of free-and-easy, try-it-out, do-it-yourself character that our future needs.” ~ J. L. Hymes Jr. The above activities are Fun, Fascinating and Easy to do for everyone. Enjoy!


* WiiFit yoga and balance games

*Dance Dance Revolution, abbreviated DDR, is a music video game series produced by Konami. Players dance and hit colored arrows laid out in a cross with their feet to musical and visual cu
es. DDR is generally considered the first "machine dance" game, followed by games such as Pump It Up by Andamiro and In the Groove by Roxor. DDR celebrated its 10th anniversary on November 21, 2008.

Please add, in our comment box, to our list of fun, physical activities for kids. 

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