Growing up with renowned chef David Burtka as one of their dads, it’s no surprise that Neil Patrick Harris’s kids Harper and Gideon are used to fine dining. You definitely won’t find fast or processed foods in the their kitchen, even though Harris says he ate “so much McDonald’s” growing up.
“I realize that our kids have never eaten McDonald’s,” he tells Prevention.com. “As you can imagine, living with a chef who is an advocate of not eating prepared foods has a lot to do with that.”
Because the Harris-Burtka family lives in a city where there are farms nearby, they love to pick up fresh produce at local farmer’s markets. “We have salad bar options at home all the time, and we want our kids to be able to have long-term energy, not just short-term fixes,” he says.
Though Harris says he doesn’t pack his twins’ lunches, he says they get fresh lunch every day at school, and he and Burkta encourage them to choose healthy options. He says their kids love them and were stoked to start third grade this September.
Here’s how Harris got his kids ready for the new school year.
He created a homework room.
Harris, who recently partnered with Quaker Chewy for their Adopt A Classroom initiative, was shocked that his kids were starting third grade. “First day of third grade?!? How did it…… when did they….. what in the…… #timeflies #stooppic #proudpapa,” he captioned a back-to-school Instagram post.
He did, however, get everything prepped to help Harper and Gideon feel ready to take on more homework. “Our kids are now reading independently, and they’re just learning how to do math skills,” he says. “They actually know how to calculate. It’s going to be a pretty good year.”
“I’ve organized a place in our brownstone that’s going to be more classroom-based,” he continues. “It’s going to be for them to do independent study, because I think starting in the third grade, they’re going to have a little bit of homework and they’re going to need to be more focused.” He also put together little bins of pens and pencils and their favorite school supplies so when it’s time to focus, they’ll be ready to go.
He limits screen time.
In 2019, many younger children have grown up with phones in their hands, but in the Harris-Burkta household, the twins will have to wait a bit longer for cellphones.
“They want phones, but they don’t have phones yet,” Harris says. “They barter for screen time, but I have my own ideas on what type of things they can watch.”
Harris says his kids can watch YouTube Kids because it has its own restrictions, and they can play certain types of video and computer games. “I’m not into games where the goal is to destroy,” he says. “I’m more into games where the goal is to solve or to create.”
But when it comes to how much screen time is allowed, he and Burkta try to keep it pretty limited. “It’s so easy to just let them play games while you accomplish other things, but I notice a difference in the way our kids’ brains work after they’ve been playing on screen for a little while,” he says. “It seems less effective than if they were building things with blocks or cutting up a cardboard box, things that seem more innately imaginative. Screen-time is also very isolating.”
He prioritizes family time.
If anyone’s busy, it’s Neil Patrick Harris. In addition to raising twins, the actor and comedian just released his new book The Magic of Misfits and is reportedly working on his own smart TV app.
But no matter where the star is jetting off too, he always makes time for family, especially around mealtime. “We try to prioritize family dinners over a lot of things, so I would rather us be able to sit and have a meal together at home or at a restaurant, with no phones, no distractions and just reconnect,” he says. “Meal connection is a really strong one.”
“We want to spend so much time with them. There’s only a few years left before they’ll really hate us!” he jokes. Though he was only kidding, Harris doesn’t play around when it comes to embarrassing his kids.
I mean as a dad and a comedian, it’s practically his job! “I’m just a big fan of puns and dad jokes, so they’re already rolling their eyes and embarrassed about my comedy,” he says. “And that makes me very happy. I’m embarrassing by choice.”