When it comes to cooking with kids, experts say, it’s got to be fun. Luckily, there are plenty of resources to help you make that happen.
“Have them take on some of the fun tasks with stirring, the mixing, the rolling, the scrunching,” says Molly Birnbaum, editor in chief of America’s Test Kitchen Kids. “Younger kids are really into the sensory tasks of the kitchen and can have so much fun doing it.”
On ATK Kids, you can find a podcast for children and their guardians to get excited about cooking together, a cooking club to plan out kitchen learning, as well as recipes and activities.
Sally Sampson, founder of ChopChop Family, a nonprofit organization dedicated to kid-friendly cooking that produces the kids cooking magazine ChopChop, says getting children involved makes them more inclined to eat varied foods. “We found in our classes and in our photo shoots and in general that kids really like to show off what they’ve made.” she says. “So if you can get a kid to make a salad or a soup, they’re going to want to eat it, and they’re going to want to share it.”
Through the pandemic, ChopChop has issued newsletters that feature pantry staples with recipes as well as activities related to the featured item to make the lesson as interactive as possible. ChopChop’s 2013 cookbook, “CHOPCHOP: The Kids’ Guide to Cooking Real Food with Your Family,” by Sampson, remains a great foundation for young cooks.
And of course, there are plenty of books! These fall/winter releases can help children, no matter what age, learn to cook and eat with confidence. Don’t worry — most of these include a note on cleaning up.
Developed by the ChopChop Family team in conjunction with the American Academy of Pediatrics Institute for Healthy Childhood Weight and funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this is for the youngest set, age 2 to 6. You don’t even need to be in the kitchen to use it! This portable deck has cards for every letter of the alphabet, with pictures, a recipe and sensory activity prompts to help you get your littlest one learning about food. It is available for preorder on their website.
“The Tiny Chef: and da mishing weshipee blook”
For those unfamiliar, Tiny Chef is a small, soft, mossy-green Instagram celebrity whose stop-motion animated videos show him cooking up tiny vegetarian meals in his tiny kitchen to the delight of many. Now, our tiny friend is on the hunt for his missing recipe book in this adventure written by his team: animator Rachel Larsen, writer and director Adam Reid and cinematographer Ozi Akturk.
Tiny Chef says, “”i twuwy hope dis blook helps pleeple shee how, bleven dough fingsh don’t glo ash pwanned, to blake the mosht of evwy situation and infuuuuuuse evwything u do wif lub and blattention. (Translation: “I truly hope this book helps people see how, even though things don’t go as planned, to make the most of every situation and infuse everything you do with love and attention.”)
“Every Night is Pizza Night”
What do you do when your 3- to 5-year-old is wary of new foods? You pull out this picture book, written by Serious Eats columnist J. Kenji Lopez-Alt and illustrated by Gianna Ruggiero, in which the main character, Pipo, collects data to determine if pizza really is the best food. On her journey, she’s introduced to different types of cuisines and learns why each one is valuable. Yes, there is a recipe for Pipo’s favorite pizza in the book too! Ruggiero says, “I would hope that this could open some minds and help kids be more adventurous and curious.”
This book was designed for lockdown — because the ATK Kids staff made it in lockdown. For ages 8 to 12, this workbook includes very simple recipes and science experiments to spark kids’ curiosity about how cooking works. With plenty of puzzles, such as crosswords and scrambles, this is another resource that doesn’t require kids to actually be in the kitchen, but plenty of blank pages for drawing and note taking means kids can take ownership over their culinary education.
“The Complete DIY Cookbook for Young Chefs: 100+ Simple Recipes for Making Absolutely Everything from Scratch”
This ATK Kids book breaks down skills and tools with comprehensive details and helpful picture guides, and includes more than 100 recipes to help kids learn how to cook such dishes as hummus, pesto and ice cream from scratch.
“Milk Bar: Kids Only”
For kids 6 to 8 with supervision and 8 and older on their own, this is a collection of basic recipes with fun flavor combinations from Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar. With a handy section full of common baking issues and solutions, this book helps kids troubleshoot their own problems first before turning to an adult.
“Kid in the Kitchen”
From award-winning cookbook author and New York Times columnist Melissa Clark comes this book of 100 recipes plus blueprints and building blocks for kids 8 to 14. This collection won’t teach just recipes; with plenty of customization tips, this cookbook lets kids figure out how to make a meal their own.
“How to Cook”
What if your kid isn’t a kid, they’re a teen and they can, for the most part, get themselves fed? That’s who “How to Cook” is for. Chef Hugh Acheson goes into how to balance flavors, get textures just right, why certain recipes work — and why anyone should bother to learn them. With shopping tips, too, this book is for the independent young cook.
“Things We Share”
This graphic novel cookbook, a project by artist Jazzmen Lee-Johnson through the Rhode Island Department of Health and the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, is full of stories and recipes from youth and community elders to show the traditions and histories that meals carry. Artsy teens will be particularly drawn to its artwork. Download a free copy at health.ri.gov.