HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Cooking with kids

I am looking for book suggestions for recipes that are fun and easy to make with little kids. I've read a lot of cookbooks and have been unimpressed by many of them. I do not want anything that smacks of fast food fare. Also, I prefer something with a focus on regular food, rather than desserts.

Stirring things and measuring and adding ingredients is fascinating, so I do try to incorporate these. Other ideas of things to cook with small children, or how to work them into the kitchen, would be welcome.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Why do you need a special book for things to cook with kids? I've been cooking with my dad since I could walk, pretty much. We never did "kid" recipes--he taught me how to *really* cook. At 6, I was making my own scrambled eggs. By 10, I was poaching fruit and making cream sauces.

    If you're really worried the recipes will be too complicated, look for a cookbook for beginning cooks, and be prepared to explain the new vocabulary. With time and patience, you'll have some kids who can cook real food in a few years, and will be that much more prepared for real life.

    1 Reply
    1. re: AislingCatriona

      "Cause different kids learn in different ways. Some kids are naturally really interested in climbing up with mom or dad and watching learning; some kids like to read recipes and learn that way. I enjoyed both ways when I was a child. My 10 year old, though, has a really hard time reading and struggles with math, so good child focused cokbooks with lots of pictures are really helpful and motivating for her. Seeing an apple divided into fractions on the page makes sense to her in a way that reading about it doesn't (and she is really, really stubborn and so often doesn't like it if I try and teach-she wants to learn it herself).

      All of that said, I'm still trying to find the perfect kids' cookbook. We like the DK one quite a bit, though.


    2. check out Pretend Soup (molly katzen, i think). It has real recipes -- soups, muffins, etc, and they have a printed text recipe and an illustrated recipe so kids can follow along.

      It is really a fun book.

      1 Reply
      1. re: roxhills

        We also adore Salad People, which is also by Mollie Katzen.

      2. I totally agree about cooking real food. I'm not looking for "kid food." But some recipes are a little complicated. My kids are very young -- books with lots of pictures help.

        Pretend Soup is cute, I agree.

        1. Check out the Mom and Me Cookbook (Annabel Karmel?)- I'll admit, I haven't used it yet (my little one is a toddler and likes to help make things like pancakes) so I don't know how the recipes are, but I found the step by step color photos appealing- I thought it would be a good one to share even when we're not cooking because it can stimulate a lot of cooking discussion. It's not a long book- maybe a couple dozen recipes, if that, but it's a start.

          1 Reply
          1. re: sweet ginger

            I can't find it right now, I'll look again tomorrow. I had a book it had the word electric in the title, but it isn't in my bookcase.

            I'm not sure if it was by Amy Coleman or not. It was around the time she was on PBS and did many shows with kids.

            Actually just googled her, and lo and behold she returns Jan/08!

            It was about baking and making fun goods with dough.

            I gave copies to many people that had kids, and they all loved it. Maybe I gave away my copy too.

          2. Emeril has a couple cookbooks for kids. May be for kids that are a little older. He's not my favorite guy but these books look good. Thinking about them for a niece and nephew (with time with aunt K. to make the things of their choice.)

            1. Williams-Sonoma has a few kids cookbooks, one for sweets and one for real food. They have lots of pictures, of the kids, the food, and the steps they take to prepare the food. My daughter is 10, and not a big fan of typical kid food and she likes these. She really liked to cook from Pretend Soup when she was little.

              2 Replies
              1. re: misomom

                Thank you for your suggestions.

                I have the Williams-Sonoma Kids' Baking book, and among the reasons I bought it was that it has a ring binding and LOADS of photos. I especially like the section in the front with basic cooking information such as how to measure. This makes entertaining "reading." I haven't checked out the other Williams-Sonoma titles but would be interested, if the food being cooked is decent.

                Sometimes nice photos and an interesting cooking experience inspire a person to try new things, whether that person is a preschooler or an adult. I'm not looking for an identity shift here, just some inspiration. So thanks! :)

                1. re: misomom

                  I checked out the WS Kids in the Kitchen Fun Food book today at the store. If I had a reason, I'd totally buy it! With rosemary roast chicken and fancy BLTs, it'd definitely not a "kids food" book. Gotta love WS!

                2. My best sous chef is my 5 year old neice. She loves to get in the kitchen and help regardless of what I'm making. One of the best tips I found was using plastic safety scissors. Regardless of what it is, herbs, mushrooms, cheese, she uses the scissors to safely chop up ingredients.

                  Kudos to you for getting the kids interested in food! BEST way, IMHO to raise non-picky eaters is to get them in the kitchen and curious about food.

                  1. I have been exhaustively looking at cookbooks again (just for fun!) and have found a few that are quite nice. Food Adventures by Luard and Boswell is a wonderfully fun book of food from around the world. A wide range of flavors that would be appealing to kids without stooping to chicken nuggets. Lovely.

                    (Why are all the kids' cookbooks I adore from England?)

                    1. there was a pretty lenghty thread last winter about cooking with kids. Try doing a search on it...there was great stuff in there.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: chelleyd01

                        Not from last winter but this thread had lots of good ideas (thanks Chowhounders!) on introducing a love of cooking to kids.


                      2. Klutz Press publishes "KidsCooking - A Very Slightly Messy Manual" that will look much too simple to your eye when you first see it. It's easy sometimes for adults to assume more of kids than they might be capable of, really ready for, or interested in.

                        The recipes are pretty plain but easy to adapt to spicier or more complex versions as your child gains confidence. These aren't "gourmet" recipes and they may be too bland for the adults in the family, but the point is to give the child something simple enough to do by himself. The sense of achievement holds his interest more than the taste.

                        The book includes simple muffins, eggs, popcorn, soup, spaghetti sauce, oven-fried chicken, tuna casserole, carrot-raisin salad, steamed veggies, twice-baked potatoes, walrus (waldorf) salad, brownies, and even play dough and dog biscuits for the family pooch.
                        All of the recipes emphasize safety while teaching measuring and basic cooking skills plus a few things about ingredients (including what you can substitute or omit.) Good pictures and easy instructions geared to kids.

                        My daughter asked for this book when she was about 8 and by the time she was 12, she was flying solo in the kitchen. She was making the best corn muffins you could imagine and her key lime pie was stellar. She's on her own now as an adult and a great cook.
                        She and her friends made the recipes in this dumb book over and over again - by themselves. Yeah, it was kid food. But they learned to cook and had a great time doing it.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: MakingSense

                          I love the KidsCooking Klutz book! Even though I'm a 20something now, I had this book when I was in elementary school and checked it out again recently. It is SO much fun! It also has a chapter with a few recipes for bubbles and playdough. Definitely get this one!

                        2. Congratulations on inspiring the next generation to savor the pleasures of the kitchen! For a completely different suggestion: write your own cookbook, as I did for my kids! I gathered recipes on a computer file, and copied the collection to CD for each of them. Very young children have fun turning apples into applesauce, making butter (get a bunch of friends to take turns shaking a mayo jar half filled with whipping cream), or throwing fruit, juice and yogurt into a blender for a smoothie. The next step is recipes that require measurement, like preparing rice or cornbread. My most complicated chapter gives instructions for how to put together a Thanksgiving feast, which we do together every year. Both my daughter and son were able to make dinner for the family by the time they were about 10, and now that they're grown and living on their own, I'm proud to say they have matured into enthusiastic and adventurous cooks!

                          1. I didn't use cookbooks early on with my kids, both boys, I don't think they would have liked kids cookbooks, although I did as a child. But what I did, and what I recommend, is to teach them to cook their favorite foods, even if they are a bit complex. My teenager makes a great stirfry because he was really motivated to learn, and the other son makes great spaghetti sauce. If using cookbooks, I would say, let them pick which recipes to make.

                            1. There's a book called Kitchen for Kids with some recipes for "real" food. One of them is a snack my son (5) made when we had company coming over and he loved that he's made it for the grown-ups. It was good too. It involved using a pasta cutter (one of those rolling knives) to cut random shapes out of wonton wrappers and then painting them with egg white and sprinkling them with garlic powder and salt (and maybe other stuff?). They baked up into crunchy little crackers. The other recipe was to wrap sugar snap peas and baby corn in a foil packet with an ice cube and baking it in the oven for a short while. Voila, perfect steamed vegetable packets.

                              Having said that he also made dinner tonight by painting a roast with mustard and grinding pepper and salt on top, then he ripped the cauliflower into bits for steaming, bashed crackers in a bag for a breadcrumg topping and husked some corn. Its fun that his help is actually becoming useful - now if only he would actually eat some of it...

                              1. I have a 2.75 yo and she "helps" me in the kitchen. She'll crack eggs for me, although you really have to watch for shells. I have her stir stuff for me - like when I'm making muffins, eggs w/ pumpkin puree & sugar, etc. I had her measure out some rice for me tonite. I have her wash vegetables. She's great at peeling corn husks & leeks. Last year she even shelled peas for me! I just have her help me along w/ some of the safe steps as I'm making things. I think there's no doubt that if she's interested in cooking in the future she'll have a great foundation.

                                1. so many great suggestions thus far...

                                  rolled chicken paillards could be fun... getting to smash and flatten chicken breasts, then rolling up and securing.... can also teach about washing hands religiously, assuming they're old enough for this.

                                  making gazpacho or a pureed soup, where they can pulse the processor or press the blender buttons.

                                  polenta... stir, stir, stir, just watch the flame.

                                  risotto would be good too, if you put the kids in charge of monitoring time for stirring and addition of stock

                                  beating up the filling for frittatas and/or quiche

                                  one other thing i think is really helpful in promoting tolerance of new and different foods-- let kids participate in menu planning... give them 2-3 choices for app entree side, and then let them choose and help!

                                  1. Thank you again for all the wonderful ideas. I appreciate them all-- and I am definitely going to get some kitchen scissors!

                                    I noticed yesterday (or the day before) an audience member asked Martha on her show about cooking with kids, and Martha told her about the cooking school she ran for her daughter and friends where they learned stuff like crepes and such. It was great, in a "totally Martha" kind of way.

                                    I think my son likes cooking more than eating, actually. Hmm.