Growing up my siblings and I were required to do cooking 4-H which meant preparing a meal in front of judges. It sounds terrifying (and it was) but obviously was empowering and taught a lot of skills (I made a mean clam chowder and sweet and sour meatballs which I’m pretty sure required actual MSG as an active ingredient). We had to follow the recipe precisely, using knives to level off the measuring spoons, and were required to set the table perfectly without hesitation. I think we all know that kids these days need more life skills (including our generation – changing tires, mending clothes, etc) especially those of us in cities. Well, I’m trying so hard during this time, where we are shut in with these almost humans for 24 hours a day, to have them learn how to cook (and clean and do all the things that we as parents have to do to run a house). Guys, its hard now, but its actually a GREAT parenting hack. Here are the real benefits of then learning how to cook (that I see, but I’m not a parenting expert).
- Less work for me (at some point, RIGHT??). Why should I cook their meals when they can?? Of course, it increases my workload right now, but I hope it will eventually pay off and they’ll do it by themselves. They get to choose from a couple different recipes or if they are inspired of course they can do something else. (As a reminder our kids are 5 and almost 7).
- They don’t battle doing the dishes as much when THEY make the mess. Here’s the psychology – they know that they have to clean up their messes, so by making this mess themselves they feel more ownership over it. It’s screwed up, but if we make their meals I’ve heard them say ‘But, I didn’t make that mess’, which is SO ANNOYING, to say the least, so this way they can get their head around cleaning up a bit more.
- It’s good for their confidence and they feel so empowered. Some days have been fun, others its a total struggle (with one of my kids, my other kid LOVES IT) but ultimately they have both been SO PROUD of themselves afterwards and Birdie even says ‘it tastes so much better when I make it’ and I’m like yeah because you put two tablespoons of mayonnaise on each piece of bread.
- They practice reading. Charlie is ‘the head chef’ and he walks us through the recipe as he is a new reader. This definitely slows it down (which is why I normally try to start an hour before lunch time) but it’s just so awesome to see him lead us through the recipe by reading.
- They explore basic fractions, science/physics, and safety (not to mention better motor skills). We aren’t great “teachers”, but through this process I can see they are learning all sorts of good things that is also WAY more fun for me to teach.
- It’s ‘home schooling’ in a way that is actually fun for me (and hopefully them). Remember, that since we opted out of distance learning in favor for home school we actually are in charge of teaching them ‘stuff’ and not all of it is fun for us. This is.
But there is a hole in the market
There is a hole in the market and if I weren’t in a ‘stop pitching ideas that will just make you over-scheduled’ mode I would 100% pitch a kids cookbook. Not because i’m a great cook, but for kids stuff I haven’t found a book that hasn’t made me super frustrated. I’ve now ordered 10 kids cookbooks and while there are a handful of recipes that we have used in each, for the most part they are flawed. Now, to be clear, I think that our kids are very young so these books are I think for the 8 – 12 year old demographic, but for our kids ages (4 and 6) there isn’t a book.
Here are the problems that I’ve found with the kids cookbooks out there:
- Most of the cookbooks are visually too hard to read for my kids age with an ingredient list on the side, steps on the other page and then the font is FAR too small for them (and me) and way too many graphics that distract them rather than help them.
- There are too many recipes that kids just won’t eat, taking up space in the book. Listen, I know that eventually they’ll eat curry veggie wraps, but with so many of these books there are only like 4 recipes that they actually want to put in their mouth for lunch.
Here’s what I would like (and what I might start doing): hack these recipes and rewrite them for kids. What does that mean? It’s a step by step that includes the portion amount within the steps so they don’t have to reference the ingredient list instead only focusing on one sentence, and one step at a time. In the perfect cookbook there would be an appealing to children photo (skip the green garnishes okay?) and then a paragraph for parents with some tips or common errors, etc. But one whole page would be step by step in large font, including the ingredient amounts within the copy. There could be a couple picture steps IF NEEDED – maybe for older kids who aren’t being helped by parents, but for us I just want a one page for them to read, follow and own, without trying to also follow picture steps.
I get that eventually they’ll need to learn how to follow a real recipe (with an ingredient list, etc) but right now we need to boil it down to the basic instructions that THEY can follow, to make simple food THEY get excited to eat. Now I know what you are thinking…
Do they cook themselves vegetables??
HAHAHAHAAH. We’ve de-prioritized veggies on the meals that they cook because there is just no way that a 5 and 7 year old are going to voluntarily make themselves a veggie wrap. Right now I just want them excited about cooking and feeling independant and autonomous (especially these days where they are around us 24/7 – how are these kids going to figure out that they are their own person?). Of course I want them to have vegetables but they eat tons of fruit, carrots and avocado and we do smoothies on occasion (not enough). But no, they don’t eat enough vegetables – they can barely handle if an herb touches their plate – but we are picking our battles and letting that one slide if they make and clean up their own lunch. We need this to be fun until it becomes a daily habit/less of a battle, then we’ll start mixing in the veggies….
Our Favorite Kids-Friendly Tools
A quick caveat – at 5 and almost 7 our kids are old enough to use most grown up cooking stuff, but I do know that having ‘their own’ might get them excited. It’s up to you. I personally don’t want more garbage in my drawers so they have some dedicated kids stuff, but its not like they need their own cutting board – they’ll use it for a week then it becomes landfill.
Metal glove for cutting – This glove is actually GREAT if you want them to cut with an actually sharp knife or use a mandolin.
Kids Kitchen Tool Set: This one is so cute but pretty expensive. Generally they can use a normal peeler but these are designed to help prevent cuts so if you are concerned they might be a great bet (plus they are very cute)
Cutting board: Every time I go to chop anything all I want to use is THIS cutting board so of course the kids use it too. And so does Brian. It’s extremely lightweight but durable. The cut marks don’t look super scratchy, and the black really works in our kitchen so it’s not like it stands out
Ninja Blender: If they need to blend something we like this one because it’s super easy for them to use.
Kids Kitchen Step Stool: This is the stool that we had until the kids were about 4 and were confidant on a normal stepladder. This one was great, didn’t slip but still slid easily to move it around the kitchen (from cutting board to doing dishes) but it does take up a lot of real estate – she big (they are all big and clunky).
Unicorn Apron: Oh I know that you want them to wear a cute canvas and leather stripe apron from Hedley and Bennet, but this is where the exception to wanting to ‘act grownup’ fails. Birdie insists on putting on her unicorn apron (2 for $11) every single day.
Two favorite cookbooks for our kids’ ages (so far):
Good Housekeeping Kids Cook! | Cooking Class: 57 Fun Recipes Kids Will Love to Make (and Eat!)
Again, I wish these cookbooks were a little more user friendly, but there are a few recipes in these books that the kids really LOVE making themselves (Popcorn Chicken, Chicken Salad Sandwich, Peanut Butter and Jelly Pockets, Green Eggs and Ham’which, etc).
Now I just found this kids recipe subscription box that says is great for emerging readers. Has anyone tried this? I’m VERY interested.
If you want to dive it and get them excited, maybe this kids cooking tool kit would be cool? I’m super hesitant to buy it though because I’m fearful that it will just end up clutter up my drawers or worse – end up in the landfill. Plus, I’ve found that part of this “empowering” is kids feeling like a grownup and using grownup tools. Birdie insists on tying her apron herself and she wants no help with the peeler. So, I think my advice is skip the kids version and just teach them how to use your tools. BUT if you are looking to entice them or if you want to give someone a gift (or if you are nervous about your tools), I do think that a cooking set will get them initially excited (it just might wane, almost immediately).
They really just want to make themselves pb and J, almost every single day and its not like we don’t (we probably have 2 a week at least) but the point is we are TRYING to transfer this responsibility (and autonomy/control/power) to them. Realistically this whole ‘reading a recipe thing’ happens 3 meals a week and it does take more time, we are priviliged to have that time. Remember that we are also home schooling so they can take a LONG lunch break. Brian thinks i’m nuts because what would take us 15 minutes is now an hour chore (plus eating and cleaning), and again THERE ARE BATTLES, but while we have this time they will learn skills with the hope that in 4 years they’ll be cooking family dinner for all of us. I think of Tieghan of HalfBaked Harvest and how incredible she was/is as such a young self-taught chef and now makes meals for her huge family all day every day and i’m like YES, THAT IS THE GOAL.
If you are considering trying this with little ones you should know a few things.
- Lower your expectations in every way. They will make a disaster in the kitchen. They will not do the best job chopping. Just be cool.
- Let them choose the recipes (which is why i like having the physical cookbooks with pictures). They take turns (with requisite fighting and complaining). I need to be better about planning in advance (to get ingredients ) and just choosing two in which they can choose between.
- Tackle 2-4 a week MAX (including breakfast/lunch/dinner). Even if its just pancakes on the weekends, make then read the recipe and be the ‘lead chef’ and you’ll feel like you accomplished something.
- Do NOT leave them unsupervised, especially with pots of boiling water, but know that they will likely burn themselves a bit or accidentally peel off some skin when peeling carrots – so I guess you have to be okay with that.
So if you guys know of any recipe blogs for KIDS where I can print out easy to read/follow recipes for early readers let me know, or cookbooks for that matter that I may have not found. In the meantime, head to my Instagram stories if you want to see how its going IRL. 🙂
Love this topic and goal! imo the hour+ activity instead of 15 min seems like a great trade. I think we tend to look at what kids spend time on from an adult perspective of “man I wish I didn’t have to keep doing chores everyday and could just be creative and play as my only responsibilities” but I do think the Montessori idea that children have their own “work” they want to do really has something to it. Harness that intrinsic motivation to be independent and do things for themselves now, when it’s easier than when they get older! My kids are younger (oldest is 3) so we’re not at the point of cooking a full meal together, but we do a lot of a breakfast muffins for the week. Happy Kids Kitchen has been a good resource. I wrote a blog post with other tools I’ve gotten for toddler-age participation in cooking: http://kwugirl.blogspot.com/2020/03/maternity-for-engineers-cooking-with.html The large font idea for a kids cookbook sounds awesome. Because my method is to try to prep what’s needed for the recipe ahead of time, I’ve rewritten recipes so that the ingredients list is ordered in a way that groups together things that are… Read more »
oh this is so helpful. i’m going to check out that post. I also love smitten kitten and didn’t know she had a 5 ingredient section. that’s awesome. and I know that I would love montessori in every way… xx
YOU would totally love Montessori!!!
I like the site cookingforengineers.com for well done recipe layout. You can print all of his recipes in a card format and stick them in a cheap photo album pocket. I don’t even know how to explain it exactly, but it is designed to be clear horizontally as well as vertically, and the ingredients are integrated with the steps while still being recognizable for mis en place. He has plenty of simple recipes with fewer ingredients.
Also, his biscuits are the absolute best.
My kids are 7 and 5 and also into cooking in the pandemic. I agree that kids cookbooks suck. The 5 year old’s favorite is anything with pictures, like “Dinner Made Simple”. The 7 year old’s is Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything” because at 7, the promise of actually being about to cook everything keeps him motivated! It’s a little hard to read but we are making our way through it and he can make pancakes and eggs by himself now. What also helps that Bittman’s book is HIS book (I got it off a buy nothing group and he claimed it) so there’s some agency there. Good luck, cooking with kids is one of my blessings of this pandemic.
My kids liked these 2 cookbooks:
1. Honest Pretzels, by Mollie Katzen
2. The Kids Cookbook (a William-Sonoma book).
My daughter recently graduated from college and still makes the mac-and-cheese recipe out of The Kids Cookbook. Ha! But both of them have simple instructions and illustrations.
oh putting in my cart now. thank you!
Yes to all of Mollie Katzen’s books: Honest Pretzyl, Pretend Soup, and Salad People.
On the veggie front, I think it’s best to give them veggies to try as an option but not be uptight if they refuse. I had one friend who was nuts about her kid eating his vegetables and would (in the middle of a party) make this 6 year old kid sit there for 60 minutes (long after the other kids had left the table) until he finished every dang carrot. It was insane. And guess what? That kid learned to lie about eating and hate vegetables. Another mom (we used to call her the Food Nazi) was equally obsessive, and policed her children’s diets constantly. Funny thing is: When her kids were over for a playdate and she wasn’t around, it was her kids who would pilfer my snack drawer and eat gobs of chips and candy when no one was looking. It’s a really bad idea to treat food as punishment or force kids to eat things they don’t want to eat. So I think you’re right not to sweat it.
Consider buying an air fryer for crispy veggies. My kids eat veggies so I can’t compare exactly, but crispy green beans with salt and butter are way more appealing than the plain steamed green beans that we used to serve them.
You can cook an entire meal in an air fryer so it could also be a good tool when they are ready for more oven cooking. It does not need to pre-heat and turns itself off automatically so you don’t risk things getting burned or overcooked. It’s awesome!
Steam 5 minutes
Add Red Potato cubes
Steam additional 5 minutes
Change setting to air crisp
Add Green Beans, small amount of olive oil, powdered parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, garlic and onion powder.
Stir every 5-7 minutes until crispy.
My thought on salt…
Its easier for you to add it than for me to take it out. My grandmother and father had high blood pressure. So I grew up on a low salt diet. Herbs, spices, onion and garlic adds all types of flavinoids. Savory foods should be salt optional.
In baking, keep the salt and sugar exactly as in the recipe. Different Chemistry Happens in the Oven.
yes to molly katzen. pretend soup is another kids cookbook by her. my daughter loves it.
My boys are eight and ten. We are past the battle stage at this point, and let me tell you, the battles and extended time were worth it. My eight year old came downstairs the other day, and without saying a word, made himself a PBN (Nutella) and cleaned everything up! These are such great tips. I love the part about when they help make the mess they are less likely to fight about cleaning the mess. We do still battle about cleaning up when the don’t cook.
” It’s a step by step that includes the portion amount within the steps so they don’t have to reference the ingredient list instead only focusing on one sentence, and one step at a time” – uh, its not just kids, i need this for every single baking recipe! Why cant you say combine 1 cup flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder and 1 teaspoon of salt in the actual method? That would be so helpful instead of flicking back and forth between the ingredient list and the method! Would buy your recipe book if you wrote it this way for sure! 🙂
AGREED. you constantly have to reference another part of the page and that’s where I get distracted by something and put in 2 tblsp instead of 2 tsp.
most of Joy of Cooking is written this way! it’s not great for kids bc the font is tiny and doesn’t have pictures – but maybe good for you and Em!
I used to write recipes for a meal kit company (out of business now) but we would write ALL the recipes this way. Makes so much sense!
Personally I like when it’s separate because I can multiply or divide the recipe in the margin next to the list and avoid getting tripped up having to remember that I’m actually using 12 tablespoons of butter if the instructions say “blend in your eight tablespoons of butter.” It’s also a good cue if they DO mention amounts in the instructions that you aren’t using the entire volume and need to save some of the ingredient for use elsewhere in the recipe.
If I were cooking with a kid I’d set up mise en place for them just like I do for myself and maybe label with post its to avoid mixups if they are using ingredients they aren’t already familiar with. I also annotate cookbooks pretty freely in general, and have even re-typed recipe instructions I find particularly annoying or unhelpful! Gotta make it work any way you can!
I have heard many strategies for getting kids to eat vegetables. We followed a lot of them for both kids. Our first son (now 8) is not at all picky and will chow down on a kale salad, no joke. He’s always been this way. So we thought, wow, all of these strategies work! We are such good parents! Then our second son (now 4) came along and steadfastly refuses all veggies. None of our methods worked on him at all. They are just different kids. Anyhow, I currently put riced or puréed cauliflower in everything I can hide it in. Mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, lasagna, anything like that. He knows it’s in there, I’m not trying to trick him, but he’ll eat it if he can’t taste it or see it. We still serve him vegetables alongside this as well, I’m just not bent out of shape if he doesn’t eat them. They both love to cook with me, my husband also thinks this is crazy bc it is still way more work. Lately I’ve been sending the 8 year old in to make things on his own. I’ve been cooking with him for his whole life at… Read more »
that’s so awesome re your 8 year old and pizza dough. Brian does a great job of blending up carrots and broccoli for every meat sauce, quesadilla, etc and they’ll eat salad with a LOT of ranch on it … basically we just put cheese or butter on them and they’ll eat them. in fact I should try to find a really great cheezy brocollizi recipe for them to cook …. (broccoli and cheese)…
I managed my children to eat all kind of vegetables: I boil them (brocoli, carrots, cauliflower, zucchini, whatever
) and then, after draining, put them in the Thermomix (food procesor used in Europe) either with bechamel sauce or (zucchini) with cheese portions like La vache qui rit, better non fat.
For zucchini, I add 6 portions per kilogram.
They never complained because it was tasty and creamy. I think kids do not like the texture of vegetables.
Now they are grown ups and they like vegetables, and also love fish, which they hated years ago.
Kids are the same everywhere.
will they eat it if it’s fried in fritters
or will they eat pesto? https://smittenkitchen.com/2012/10/spaghetti-with-broccoli-cream-pesto/
Mine will eat deconstructed meals more than put together meals. Pasta with parmesan is good, but she doesn’t like sauces. She will eat tomato, cucumber, lettuce, asparag and other veggies, but she’s unpredictable with meats, beans, and fish. She doesnt eat my soups, but is more likely to eat my mother’s soups which are more bitter and ‘adult’ in taste. Some days we call her a frutarian because she eat mainly fruit. Sometimes she eats roasted asparagus, butternut squash, sweet potato. The worst about it is that it’s so unpredictable and doesn’t always look balanced and nutritious. She ate better at 1.5 than at 3years old.
@kids.eat.in.color is an EXCELLENT resource for getting kids to eat and try more food. She’s a mom and registered dietitian so really knows her stuff. I highly recommend!
Personally, I’d stick with the separate ingredients list, so that parents can quickly know if they have everything they need (or need to make a grocery run). Amen to the recipes that kids will actually eat! I have one vegetarian kiddo (his choice), and all my kids are gun-shy when it comes to lots of things mixed together. The more ingredients, the more the food sketches them out. I’m sure there’s some primitive evolutionary benefit to their caution; highly non-useful at the moment.
I wish cookbooks would do both – list the ingredients separately but also put it in the instructions. Not that much harder to say add 1 Tbsp flour and 1 tsp salt to… than to say add the flour and salt to…
I am obsessed with all things America’s Test Kitchen/Cooks Illustrated/Cooks Country.
In the past few years, they’ve expanded past just adult cooking and have launched lots of kids resources. I’ve only explored the kids recipes online, but the instructions include all ingredient amounts as you go step by step, simple instructions, and helpful photos to demo any techniques. I’d imagine their kids print cookbooks do the same.
Looks like they even have a kids cooking podcast now too!
A lot of their online content may be behind a paywall, but highly recommend getting a subscription. I’m happy to pay for high quality recipes that I know will be winners.
You may want to follow Jamie Oliver’s on Instagram, his son Buddy does a cooking series for kids. Buddy is 10 I think? Jamie posts pictures of kids from all over the world cooking Buddy’s recipes. I think it must be pretty kid friendly.
i’ve been thinking about this so much lately. i want my kiddies to learn some cooking skills because i think it’s one of the most important life skills. i haven’t been letting them cut stuff because i’m scared they will cut themselves, so i’m totally getting those gloves. just need to find them somewhere besides amazon. great topic for today!
target has some!
Honestly *I* need a cookbook with portion amounts in the steps, I can’t tell you how many times going back and forth has resulted in my ADHD-self messing up a recipe
We tried a Raddish box earlier this year when they were doing a promo for parents suddenly stuck at home with their kids. Our girls were 2 and 4 at the time, now 3 and 5 and they LOVE cooking those recipes. There’s a separate ingredient list but everything is illustrated so my pre-readers can still “read” the instructions. You can buy a whole subscription from their website (I think it’s raddishkids.com?) if you want to avoid Amazon. Each box comes with three themed recipes, a cooking tool, some activities and family talking points, and an iron-on patch for the apron you get when you buy a subscription.
I got this free Raddish box, too, and was going to suggest it. It is very fun. My little guy has completely laid claim to ‘his’ pastry brush! It isn’t cheap, but I highly recommend this for any who can afford. If you don’t subscribe, you can still order individual boxes, and they occasionally offer older boxes at a discount.
I also got this knife, I think I found it on a montessori blog at some point, when my son was about 5.
I still prefer for him to use it over a chef knife even though he is older. Clumsiness is genetic in our house! 🙂
I started cooking with my boys at a very young age and gave them simple jobs to do like tearing the lettuce etc. and gradually increased their participation until they because skilled enough to cook on their own. My boys are 21 and 25 now and very good cooks. They like to show off and make us look bad so much that we did a family version of Chopped Kitchen which was fun and hilarious! It is hard in the beginning but it will all be worth it and you will make so many wonderful memories!
All for getting kids involved in the work. We’ve had many a crying session from my 3 year old because HE wanted to start the washer, haha. He puts all the wash in and transfers it to the dryer plus lots of other chores around the house.
Also, how about all cookbooks just write the amount in the instructions! So annoying to have to scroll back and forth or flip between pages while making a recipe. Sure I should have all the ingredients prepped, but I don’t, lol.
My tip for cooking with small kids is to actually have your ingredients already measured out and ready to go. So if it’s pancakes, all they have to do is pour in already measured out flour, salt, baking powder etc and add wet ingredients then crack an egg and mix.
The problem with baking with your kids is it has to be fairly precise. Cooking a meal is easier so having exact ingredients measured out is less messy. My kids can make salad, vinaigrette, lemonade and pancakes on their own. My son is 8 and my daughter is 4 1/2 and I’ve been cooking with them for a year.
Oh! And they’re favorite dessert is sliced strawberries that you add a few teaspoons of sugar and lemon juice to. Mix and let it sit in the fridge for an hour. When the hour is up, best heavy cream on high with confectioners sugar to make whipped cream. Then put the strawberries in little ice cream cups and top with a dollop of whipped cream. Divine!!!
They love it so much, I think it was the first they learned how to make and you don’t need a recipe or to measure anything!
By the time I was 11 or 12 I had one night a week (I think it was Wednesdays) that I cooked dinner for my family – my older sister had one night, too. We could choose what we wanted to make (normally a family standard like spaghetti bolognese or a chili, but we could choose something new if we wanted) the week before, my parents made sure we had the ingredients, and we’d start cooking so that when both my parents were home from work, dinner was on the table. We had the skills and confidence because we’d always been in the kitchen with our parents, and I’m sure we started just like this! Pretty sure it continued all through high school and I still love to cook.
You have two kids, so if you keep this up, fast forward five years or so and that’s two meals a week you’re not responsible for 😉
Who wouldn’t love cooking when you get to wear a UNICORN APRON!?!?
I love your approach to building independence in your kiddos! 👍
A cool, fun extension project might be THE BIRDIE AND BEAR MOUNTAIN COOKBOOK!
They could choose two fav. recipes each and re-do them to make them more kid friendly… draw illustrations/diagrams and make a book.
Any kids to send a cookbook to for feedback??
And there you have a first, self-published entrepreneurial skillset!!
(Thank me later, you’ll see … )
Learning Styles. Different people learn in different ways, so some people need pictures as the main ‘tool’, others like to hear instructions, while others learn by reading, and others learn by watching/doing.
Even as an ex-English teacher (you’d nevvver know with all my numb hand typos!), I’m a visual learner and would much prefer pictures and hands on trial and error, than reading instructions.
So… pictures and diagrams speak a thousand words….maybe both is hood for a kids’ cookbook?
Try this cookbook. It was written by my friends mom, who raised 7 children on home-cooked meals!
My sister and I started cooking independent weekday evening meals when we were 10 & 8. We started just like your kids and graduated to cooking on our own 🙂 We’re also 4-H’ers! We got to choose what was for supper but our parents mandated that there had to be a vegetable, starch, and protein on the plate. Our early meals were things like creamed corn, boiled potatoes, and badly fried pork chops. It taught us so much about planning meals, the difference between things we individually liked but didn’t like on a plate together. It was great! Don’t get me wrong, there was plenty of fighting and dragging our heels. But it’s hands down the most valuable thing I learned from my parents. When my roommates in university were struggling with Kraft Dinner and ramen, I could make a full Sunday spread. I knew so many ways to save money through food. It made my apartment a home for all of my friends. I’m so grateful for the skills they gave me. Keep at it! By the time we were in our teens we made all the family evening meals and had amazing foodie collaborations with our parents. Our… Read more »
You might want to check out Sara Cotner’s cookbook for pre-readers: Kids in the Kitchen: Simple Recipes That Build Independence and Confidence the Montessori Way. I haven’t used it personally, but have really loved her other resources on FeedingTheSoil.com. Keep it up — it’ll pay off!
There is a kids’ Little Golden Book called The Tawny Scrawny Lion. TSL is always hungry until some friendly rabbits show him how to make soup. At least throw some carrots into the mix. Rehydrate dried mushrooms and use the liquid if you don’t want to fool around with stock.
I have a vintage Peanuts Lunchbag cookbook (like the comic strips!) from when my mom was a tiny kid that I LOVED growing up. It’s all really simple stuff, but fun. Looks like they’ve published an updated version available on Amazon, but the vintage ones are fun and maybe worth tracking down!
This was a great post! I remember learning how to cook. In later elementary school I would come home with my best friend and we’d be in charge of making our lunches, so we often made Top Ramen. ahahaha so not healthy, but so autonomous!
I don’t have kids, but I saw someone else post about Out School and some of the great cooking classes they have there. Some appear to be the right age for your kids.
Pretend Soup by Molly Katzen – there’s a recipe written for grown-ups but then simple illustrated pics for kid to follow.
Oops, that link didn’t work. Try this one. https://www.gospelpublishers.com/usa/product/get-set-ready-and-go/
This cookbook is written in the format you describe. My daughter has been making the from-scratch cupcakes for years already. They are so yummy! Lots of other great recipes too.
Try The Adventurous Eaters Club, by Misha Collins. All of the profits go to charity! The book is fantastic!
Yes! Do this! I wish I continued to take the time to cook with my daughter when she was interested. We did a lot when she was preschool age, but when she started school, it decreased quickly, until it was just cookies occasionally. And now, as a teen, she’s not interested at all. Choosing the option to homeschool and using this as “classroom” is so wonderful. They are developing reading, math, and science skills that will absolutely transfer to traditional learning when the time comes. And they are getting the additional skill of self-care. And you should totally create a cookbook like that for kids!
Emily. I would totally buy that cookbook. You are brilliant! (I have 8, 6, and 3.) I definitely need to get my kids back in the kitchen. Please update if you find the cookbook of your dreams!
That said, there is a video lesson series called Kids Cook Real Food that you might enjoy looking at. It is a paid series but it is thorough and uses real food ingredients. It is not as pretty as something you would make but the info is solid!
We did her free cooking camp this summer and even I learned some tips!
Emily (and anyone), check out “Pretend Soup” cookbook – it’s FANTASTIC, truly written for kids (and by kids, see the intro), and the recipes and the way they are laid out step by step, with visuals, just works for kids. Our kiddo is the same age as one of yours and this has been a huge hit. Highly recommend. Also second your tip about just letting kids use the adult tools. Our kiddo’s way more excited to use those, as she feels “big,” and a sharp knife is more effective and more safe, actually, than a blunt one. That being said, I’ll admit we used the plastic toddler cutting knives until she was 3, but did allow her to use the regular peeler from the outset. All told, bravo re: teaching them cooking! So many lessons involved, with food at the end – hard to beat.
Second and third Mollie Katzen! Pretend Soup, and specifically Salad People, is just for preschoolers!
Honestly, as an adult I would love recipes that had the amount of ingredients in line with the steps 😅!
When my kids were slightly younger than yours the two Sesame Street cookbooks (B is for Baking and C is for Cooking) helped make my then extremely picky older child a bit more willing to broaden his palate. He even liked Big Bird’s Crustless Quiche Squares (from B is for Baking) enough that we put it in the every-other-week rotation — it has grated carrots and grated zucchini, and once we had made it a few times I think I even convinced him to add in some cauliflower once.
The recipes have the same problems you list (ingredients listed on the side, could be bigger font) but I think the sentences might be simple enough for an early reader. The Sesame Street content makes me happy (most recipes are a particular characters’) but not overwhelming. And they don’t do photographs of steps, just one of the final product which helps with the kids choosing their recipe. I should pull them out again as the older child (now a tween) is wanting to be vegetarian and I told him he needs to participate more in the meal planning and cooking.
Our Montessori school actually sells a kids cookbook that’s great; it’s just some of the recipes that they make in the classroom already.
Some tools are really worth purchasing due to the size; kids have smaller hands and some of the kids tools (not all!) are made with that in consideration. Small tools make them safer and easier for our children to use. When they can successfully complete a task they feel empowered and confident which builds on them doing more.
I was also gifted a cookbook – Little Helpers Toddler Cookbook Healthy, Kid-Friendly Recipes to Cook Together. Might be worth a check out from the library to see if you like it. Most of the recipes are on a single page and bigger font. It’s really an approachable kids cooking book.
Also a great way to add some green is adding green powdered supplement like Paleo Greens or Spirulina in a small amount it’s flavorless in receipts and can tint foods a fun green.
SmoothieProject from Catherine McCord is a great smoothie cookbook! MY 5 year old loves to pick ones out and we make them together.
Have you gotten Pretend Soup yet? This is my favorite kid friendly format! They have a grown up version and a kids version of each recipe and I love how they do the kids version.
I like this person’s recipes. Haven’t done the course, but it sounds good:
You simply must buy these classics from the 70s!
My Fun to Cook Book and My Learn to Cook Book by Ursula Sedgwick both have gorgeous drawings in as well 🙂
We did Raddish starting with my granddaughter as a 6 yr old. They are fun, they get patches and a new piece of equipment in each box. Colorful and pretty simple to follow. I think you can order an extra patch, etc if you have more than 1 child. All in all, we really liked it!
If there’s battles about choosing the recipe, I highly recommend the elimination strategy. Eg, you choose three to choose from, they each eliminate one. What’s left is what is chosen. I don’t know why, but this is SO. MUCH. EASIER.
I forgot to add that the tools are mostly slightly smaller versions of your adult ones. She now has a small spatula, tongs, peeler…
Did you try this one? My First Cookbook: Fun recipes to cook together . . . with as much mixing, rolling, scrunching, and squishing as possible! (America’s Test Kitchen Kids) Hardcover – Illustrated, March 3, 2020…I find it appealing because it’s geared toward kids 5 to 8, which seems to be the youngest that I can find. Looking for a cookbook to use with my soon to be 4 year old and appreciate these comments as well as your post!
I like to try out cookbooks from the library before purchasing! I can’t wait to get your recommendations and see what treasures the comments hold.
You will be surprised how quickly they will outgrow the need for kids’ cookbooks! And want to use “real” ones. I sent my children and my nieces and nephews off to college with Lucinda Scala Quinn’s Feeding Men and Boys….really delicious basic recipes, but also full of strategies for managing the balanced diet and the kitchen and the shopping and the budget. Which would be my next suggestion…make sure the kids are helping you plan…writing a shopping list…even looking at your local supermarket weekly flyer to plan meals around what is on sale. I realize taking them to the supermarket for “lessons” in Covid times is fraught….
When my boys were in grade school and jr. high, they were each responsible for cooking one dinner a week. They had to get me a shopping list and were responsible for the entire meal. I was around if they needed an assistant. It was great! I vividly remember one of them trying fried chicken. I had never made it since I have never been keen frying up dinner! But it was a hoot. The entire kitchen was covered in flour and my stove was a mess!
Both of them thanked me years later when they were living independently at college – so many of their friends had no clue how to cook even the basics. Now in their mid 20’s both find their way around the kitchen very well.
Life skills are good.
I just want to thank you for using the term landfill instead of garbage or trash here. The language we use for waste is actually so influential- I think a lot more than people might realize. Using the term landfill eliminates so much cognitive dissonance about where our waste goes.
Favorites at my house when my girls were young were two Moosewood Cookbooks for kids and Fanny at Chez Panisse.
Growing up, I had a European edition of The Winnie-the-Pooh Cookbook (https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/winnie-the-pooh-cookbook-virginia-h-ellison/1100477177) and remember loving it. Granted, I only made a few (yummy) recipes from it––mostly because some of the British/American ingredients (like molasses) were hard to come by where I grew up. I think it would make for a lovely addition to your kids’ cookbook collection!
Personalities play such a role in how kids learn to cook, if they do at all. My son has taken multiple cooking classes through school, we’ve tried to teach him things in the kitchen and get him involved, and at 17 now he’ll only make himself toast, hot dogs, maybe a burrito. That’s really it.
Our tween daughter is exactly the opposite – has been asking to help and learn in the kitchen most of her life and isn’t afraid to try. I’ll come into the kitchen and she’ll be making scrambled eggs, a tuna melt, mac & cheese – basic stuff but using the stove. I think my son is very timid and afraid to make mistakes and afraid to hurt himself, and my daughter is not.
I like what you said, Emily, about kids maybe peeling themselves a bit or getting a small burn. It’s okay! Kids can get hurt a bit and still be fine – it’s part of learning and growing and part of life. I think parents are so fearful on behalf of their children that they make their children fearful. Get some Band-Aids and some burn cream, stay nearby, and let them learn.
If you haven’t already tried the children’s cookbook, Pretend Soup, by Mollie Katzen, I HIGHLY recommend it. I am a mom and former early childhood educator and the book is great. Nutritious recipes with few words and accompanying pictures. Not super unusual ingredients. Check it out on Amazon. Best of luck!
Not a cookbook but a recipe recommendation along the Montessori line-
I’ve cooked this with my daughter multiple times since she was 3—it’s very easy and very forgiving.
High Five magazine by highlights is great and always has a recipe at the end. They’re easy recipes with photos. https://www.highlights.com/store/products/high-five-magazine-one-year-subscription?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIx8Dj8cO77AIVhIbACh1LqAcJEAQYASABEgIKKPD_BwE
Amy with YummyToddlerFood has a new kids cookbook out for 3-5 year olds. Waterproof and rip proof pages. It’s called Food Play!