We first began cooking with Zayden and Esmé when they were each around 18 months old. We started out with baking because it afforded us many opportunities to let them pour ingredients into the bowl and stir things up, which was about all they were capable of at such a young age. Even then they needed lots of supervision or we would end up with flour all over everything. But now Zayden is four-and-a-half, and he has progressed quite a bit in his cooking abilities, so we have been taking a lot of kid-friendly cookbooks out of the library for a test drive before adding a few to our cookbook library. Here’s what we think so far:
Rating: 2 stars (out of 5)
This was the one that got it all started. Kids’ Kitchen contains 4o recipes on colourful, oversized cards. The images of the food are cartoony and don’t really give the kids a sense of what the finished product will look like, and we have learned that pictures of the actual food are very important. If they can’t see what it is going to look like, they can’t decide if they actually want to eat it. Given that getting the kids to help pick out the recipes for our menu each week has really helped us combat a lot of their picky-eating issues, this is a big failing of this book.
The instructions are quite good. All ingredients and equipment are listed on the front and detailed, step-by-step instruction are on the back. An older child who is a strong reader could probably use these cards to prepare a simple meal independently, but younger children will need help from an adult every step of the way. The trouble is that the recipes themselves are not that exciting and some offer no real challenge (e.g. recipes for mashed potatoes and baked potatoes).
What Shall We Cook Today?
Rating: 4 stars
Of all the kid-friendly books we have tried, this one feels the most “grown up.” It has beautifully photographed images of the food in each recipe, and the recipes themselves are more sophisticated than the usual pizza and pasta recipes found in most children’s cookbooks. Another unique aspect of this cookbook is that the recipes are grouped by season, which is helpful if you are trying to teach your children more about where food comes from and how different types of food are available in different seasons. If you love local, seasonal produce, but are short on inspiration, this is a great book.
We do love this book, but it is probably not the book I would start with if you are just starting to cook with your kids. The recipes are a little more complex, and many of them may not appeal to a picky palette. For foodie families who have been cooking together for awhile, this is a great choice.
Rating: 5 stars (for most books in the series)
DK Publishers have a number of cookbooks targeted at kids. We have tried the Canadian edition of their Children’s Cookbook (pictured) as well as their Kids’ Fun and Healthy Cookbook. Both feature not only photos of the final product, but also step-by-step photos that will help even kids who cannot yet read participate actively in the cooking process.
When considering adding a DK kids’ cookbook to your collection, look through the book carefully. We left some of their books at the library because they were very heavy on dessert recipes. The ones we do like, however, have a variety of tasty, yet simple recipes that cover the full range of meals and snacks.
Emeril’s There’s A Chef In My Soup
Rating: 3 stars
If you are a huge Emeril fan, you may already know about his kids’ cookbook: There’s A Chef In My Soup! I am on the fence with this one. No real pictures, just drawings. The recipes aren’t that exciting either. Mostly the pizza and pasta recipes you might expect from Emeril. But the recipes, while pretty standard, would definitely appeal to kids.
The steps for each recipe are also very well described, so as long as you are cooking with your child or your child is a strong reader, they would be easy to follow.
I don’t think we would add this one to our personal collection, but I think it would be a good choice for Emeril fans or for families that are just starting to cook together. Given the kid-friendly nature of most of the recipes, I also think this is one of the safest choices for picky eaters.
Ella’s Kitchen: The Cook Book
Rating: 1 star
I could not have been more disappointed in this cookbook. I found many of the recipes very involved, which meant they were not conducive to getting the kids to help, and they were not practical for a weeknight meal. On top of that, the ones we tried were all very bland. I also found that categorization of some of the recipes a little confusing. I am a traditionalist and prefer Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Dessert and maybe Snacks. But they had a category for weekend food, bbq, baking as well as dessert–it was hard to figure out where you would find the recipe you wanted to try unless you marked the page the first time you saw it. Overall, not the most realistic cookbook for busy families.
What Are Your Favourite Kids’ Cookbooks?
Here’s hoping y0u find a cookbook or two that works for you, and that it is the beginning of some wonderful culinary adventures. Do you have a favourite kid-friendly cookbook that you would recommend?