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Cooking Gift for 8-year old budding chef

We have a fabulous 8-year old friend (her parents are our BFFs) who spends a lot of time at our house and has learned to love cooking (thank you, no applause needed). When she's here, we have the Cooking Channel on and she really soaks it up. She loves Unique Sweets, G. Garvin, the Fabulous Beekman Boys (especially the episode with THE Martha Stewart and the goats) and the cocktail girls.

I would love to get our budding chef something for the holidays to reinforce her interest in cooking. I know there are kid-size tools but was wondering if anyone out there has any more creative ideas, like buying a "pasta making kit" or something like that. Her appetite is fairly broad (from sardines to sauerkraut) and we're just praying peer pressure doesn't change that :-)

Thanks for any ideas.

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  1. Some years ago, a friend gave me a lovely certificate to her Pie School. She included a pie tin and a great pie book (The Perfect Pie by Susan Purdy). Pie School curriculum was me spending a morning with her turning out some damn good pies under her tutelage. I learned a lot, and had a blast. We both still laugh about it. I'm a long way from eight, and it sounds like the kid is around your kitchen a lot, but this might spark an idea.

    2 Replies
      1. re: monfrancisco

        Love this idea. It has obviously stayed with you throughout your life!

      2. For the Conscientious: A good chef's knife (8"?), doesn't need to be great...

        For the Adventurous: Icecream Maker ($50 for the Kitchenaid attachment). No need for knives, and tons of fun!

        5 Replies
        1. re: Chowrin

          She does use a chef's knife when the adults are supervising--they are not timid parents but are watchful--so this could work for her.

          1. re: sandiasingh

            What about a set like this? http://www.amazon.com/Kai-Komachi-6-P... They would very clearly be "her" knives, versus her parents.

              1. re: sandiasingh

                I have a Komachi knife (not a set just one). It is a serviceable knife. I have read that people complained that Komachi knives look too colorful and too much like toys when in fact they are real knives. They do have a point about this. So, just to make sure the 8-year old knows these are real knives.

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  Excellent "point", chemical. I will keep that in mind.

        2. What about an assortment of small pots and herbs to grow? My nephew (who is 7) loved watching the tomatoes grow all summer at my parents and finally decided he did like to eat them after that... Maybe an herb growing kit? It would be fun to watch them grow and then later enjoy cooking with them.
          Amazon sells a variety of indoor herb growing kits, your local nursery probably has some too.
          Or, look at your local whole foods- they often has very reasonable cooking classes and events for kids, and either sign up to take her to one or you, her mom and the girl all go together.....

          5 Replies
          1. re: Ttrockwood

            I LOVE this idea.

            Baker Creek would be an excellent source. The budding chef can get a number of really unique veggies or herbs.

            1. re: Westy

              Baker's Creek is all we do and she would love the packaging.

              1. re: sandiasingh

                Maybe branch out a bit? I know you said you only do Baker xcreek, but I really like this one as well:

                1. re: Westy

                  Did not know about these guys. We exclusively buy non-GMO seeds, so will give them a try.

                  Thank you!

            2. re: Ttrockwood

              They have a large garden in their backyard where they grow tomatoes, basil, figs, etc. but I think the idea of culinary herbs specifically is excellent. That's was a great hook for me as an adult learning to garden. I also love the cooking class idea. Santa Fe has a fantastic program for kids and I will look into that. We can make it a girls day out.

            3. I love kitchen knives like no others, and think a kitchen knife is probably one of the most defining tool in a personal kitchen. However, it may be better for her parents to get her the knife. (if it is not obvious already).

              I would probably get her a simple cook book for an 8-year old, or a set of utensils like turners, spoons,



              An electric pot like this can be good too. It allows the kid to cook without forcing her to use a stove. It can be used for gentle and simple hotpot (shabu-shabu) cooking. Her parents can enjoy it too.


              1 Reply
              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                To have her own tools in her own CONTAINER, now that's right up her alley. Great idea!

              2. I have a now 10yo and 8yo and they both enjoy cooking and watching cooking shows. Last year, I got them both kid aprons from Wlliams Sonoma (Star Wars for him, pink cupcake for her).

                I think cupcake/cookie decorating stuff could be fun - piping bags, fun cupcake wrappers, a baking theme cookbook, etc. my kids love decorating their own cupcakes, cakes and cookies.

                1. How about a silpat, rolling pin and cookie cutters or cookie press?

                  Cutout cookies are very fun for kids that age. I have seen some great kits for doing icing, too: three or four containers that take pastry bag tips, but smaller and reusable.

                  Maybe you could add a loose leaf notebook for keeping track of recipes, too.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: DebinIndiana

                    Definitely get her her own little recipe notebook! A child cook would adore that.

                    1. re: DebinIndiana

                      She loves Unique Sweets on the Cooking Channel and is very creative about cruising my pantry and coming up with a fancy desserts. I had to quit buying puff pastry for a while :-)

                      I do love the idea of journaling her cooking experiences and taking photos too.

                    2. How about making a gift basket with say, quality bread making ingredients, add in flavorings like rosemary and olives etc, a loaf pan and oven mitts.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: treb

                        She has been asking me to make bread because I make it all the time. I like the idea of adding layers of flavor and having her own equipment.

                      2. Joseph Joseph has a neat line of kitchen items. I've gotten a few things from them over the years and they're practical and brightly colored. I think it might appeal to a kid...and me :)

                        1. Get her the book: 'French Kids Eat Everything'. The author moved to France with her young kids and has an epiphany when it comes to how French parents raise their kids regarding food.
                          Every parent ought to read this book.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: Puffin3

                            Sam Choy did what looks like a great cookbook for kids, as has Emeril.

                            A different approach might be "What Chefs Feed Their Kids."

                            1. re: Puffin3

                              Love this idea. I will check it out. Thanks.

                              1. re: Puffin3

                                Wrote a column about this a couple of years ago. US parents don't believe the French approach is real and yields results. They need to travel more.

                                1. re: pikawicca

                                  My youngest son is a great example. Although is was in college during his year abroad experience in France, his host parent prepared meals and included my son at dinner parties offering foods he had never eaten before and DID with great enjoyment. I owe Andre a great deal for doing and undoing some long standing food habits and social situations around meals.

                                  I am a believer.

                              2. At the same age, Dear Daughter received not 1, not 2, but 3 tea sets from friends and family. At least I got her a set of golf clubs. As well as Tonka trucks and her own Sunfish sail boat. To be used without needing our permission. Just wear a life vest. A stipulation that I did not have in my youth.

                                Get her a chemistry set. Think about it. You will open her up at the correct age to the sciences, and cooking is homegrown chemistry. Following the directions of a chemical experiment is no different from following same in a cook book. Except the pay for a chemist is a lot better than for a cook.

                                And a good knife? I was 7 years old when I got my first sheath knife. Mom and Nana were tired of tracking down their kitchen knives that I would borrow for cleaning the fish I caught. But then that was long before the present era of helicopter parents.

                                1. My post will repeat a lot of what's been said. For my niece last year, I found a cute smallish picnic basket, put into it a kid-sized apron (there are several on the market; I got mine at TJMaxx), an inexpensive, sheathed small santuko knife, a small cutting board, cookie cutters, some cute cupcake papers and "toppers," a few jars of sprinkles, a very inexpensive cake-decorating kit designed for kids (with easy-to-use plunger-like implements and cute tips) and a local kids cookbook. I tied a big bow around the handle, and and she was thrilled. I can't say she's gotten beyond cookies and cupcakes, but she may yet. (It's hard to counteract the eating habits she encounters at home--most "cooking" involves microwaving something frozen. And she loves canned frosting although I talked her into making and trying cream cheese frosting last time we made cupcakes.)

                                  This year, I've noticed several cooking "kits" for kids; not sure how useful they are. I know Martha Stewart used to have at least one kit designed for kids.

                                  1. Grow your own mushroom kit
                                    Grow your own herbs kits
                                    How to make goat cheese lesson
                                    Spice set with recipes/book about them
                                    Sushi lesson
                                    Asian market gift basket with recipes
                                    Your own "unique sweets" crawl
                                    A food day with Sandi

                                    1. I thought this was exactly what the Easy Bake Oven was for. Guess I'm out of touch.

                                      16 Replies
                                      1. re: jrvedivici

                                        If this particular 8 year old is already hooked into the Cooking Channel and developing a taste bud...EBO is going to bore the tears out of her. Maybe the manuf. should develop an EBO for the 21st Century budding chef?

                                        1. re: HillJ

                                          Oh come on, you could modernize it a bit, throw a toaster strudel in there or a hot pocket, I'm sure it will be just fine!!

                                          At that age I had the play-dough hamburger maker and even though I knew they tasted horrible, they just looked to good, I ate every one I made! Kept thinking, this one will taste better.........

                                          1. re: jrvedivici

                                            Hasbro recently updated the EBO after decades off and they still missed their opportunity to design a gender neutral toy and a more expanded teaching tool.

                                            At that age I had my grandparents bakery as my classroom. When my kids were young they didn't have to ask me twice for a baking lesson. The pantry was their classroom.

                                            But every child I know, including me, had an EBO at some point in their lives.

                                            We even made play dough from scratch. Remember pushing play dough through garlic press to create spaghetti.

                                            1. re: HillJ

                                              I considered EBO last year (the post where we discussed it is around here somewhere) but by most accounts, the new version is poorly designed and frustrating for kids to use.
                                              I went with a cake pop maker and a recipe book for it (plus a bunch of candy melts and decorating stuff for the pops). The novelty of the cake pops wore off but we make ebelskivers regularly. There's also savoury recipes including meatballs I think. The only issue is that it gets incredibly hot and the latch thing is poorly designed... so I do most of the actual baking. It's not something I can let her loose on just yet. She is 8 as well.

                                              1. re: HillJ

                                                OMG, that's just awful, J. Not only is it terribly outdated (is that what they show on kids' tv?), the darn thing is ugly! It looks like some kind of micro-replicator-Dr. Who contraption. Doesn't look anything like an oven.

                                                You were truly blessed as a child. I just started reading Jacques Pepin's bio "Apprentice" this morning and was once again reminded of the major life impressions instilled in us at such a young age. That's why I'm focused on helping our little chef to sustain her interest over a number of years and not just be a temporary thing. Her parents are both archeologists, so she has a scientific bent already.

                                                The problem with the play dough spaghetti was WE ATE IT! I can still taste the salt. Hey I wonder if that's why I'm a salt maniac to this day?

                                                1. re: sandiasingh

                                                  Oh we ate it too, the kids would put real ketchup on it and munch away. No one ever wound up at the doctor. Salt lick!

                                                  As much as EBO tries, it really is outdated. Kids today are more sophisticated even if they are still learning how to bake/cook. If I had it to do over, I'd skip all the silly gadgets/toys/marketing ploys that lure kids and their parents and just make a beeline for the market. Shop, drop and bake!

                                                2. re: HillJ

                                                  I didn't have an EBO, nor did my sibs. We were poor.

                                                  However, from the time I was five, I was in the kitchen cooking and baking. My sister (two years older than I) and I made all the desserts for the family from the time I was five - cakes, cookies, squares, puddings, and so on.

                                                  1. re: LMAshton

                                                    LMA, you and your sibs had something far more and far better-necessity (the mother of invention). EBO is a toy. You learned about real cooking. And hasn't it served you well?!!

                                                    1. re: HillJ

                                                      Served me well, yes, but it wasn't as much fun as it might sound. I was cooking full meals at five with no supervision - my mother was ill and yelled out instructions from her bed. I stood on a chair so I could chop the onions and other vegetables, mix things, cook on the stove, and so on. I was in kindergarten in the mornings only, so my afternoons were free which is why I was elected to do the cooking. I was the youngest of four. Personally, I think that was a little in appropriate for a five year old, but hey.

                                                      1. re: LMAshton

                                                        No, I didn't say fun. I think you would find a great many similar and common experiences with people on this site. My comment was only to compare actual learning with learning from a toy.

                                                    2. re: LMAshton

                                                      Same here, my mom just taught me how to use a real oven carefully. She had to help me get the stuff into the oven, because it was a wall oven and out of my reach but I was pretty good on my own by the middle of elementary school.

                                                      In fact, in 7th grade, we had to make a 3-D model of a cell. Most kids used boxes and pipe cleaners and stuff like that. I made a cake and decorated it with different candies to represent the different cell parts.

                                                  2. re: jrvedivici

                                                    Ha--I don't remember the burger maker but I do remember the play dough--eek! Did we really eat that stuff? Yuck yuck, yuck, yuck . . . . . .

                                                    1. re: sandiasingh

                                                      Take a look for yourself and tell me you don't want one of those for yourself!! Not made from pink slime!!


                                                      1. re: jrvedivici

                                                        Somebody should talk to Jamie Oliver about this.

                                                3. re: jrvedivici

                                                  Ba da bing! I was wondering who would be the first to say that :-)

                                                4. I'd take her shopping and have her pick out what interests her. A trip to a cookware store with a recipe in hand, then to the grocery store, then back to your house for cooking and a tasting.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: susan1353

                                                    What a bunch of fantastic ideas! I don't even know where to start. This will keep me going thru next year with her.

                                                    Thank you all so much for sharing your creative and fabulous ideas :-)

                                                  2. My kids have a cheese-making kit that you can use for mozzarella and ricotta. We made the ricotta last Christmas and then made cannoli.


                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: sciencediet

                                                      I've gifted a few of those kits myself. Recently, my niece made fresh goat cheese and it turned out terrific.

                                                    2. How To Cook Without A Book by Pam Anderson. It is a basic cookbook with variations on a theme.

                                                      It is easy reading with ingredient lists that are easy to lay out before starting to cook any recipe. The title speaks to the future of the new cook and is a good reference after the new cook has some experience.

                                                      I've been cooking for more than 4 decades (married for more than 50 decades) and still refer to this book to refresh my memory. I also have more than 125 cookbooks in my collection. About 6 of them are about chili since that is my signature dish.

                                                      1. An apron or chefs jacket and perhaps a toque could be nice. Chefs Wear sells some that look like the grownup ones.


                                                        1. Share a Pepperplate ( or other) site? Both of you can fill it with recipes you want to try and decide ahead of time what's needed and generate a shopping list...

                                                          1. My daughter is 8, she received EBO last year - used it 2 times, completely hated it. When I was a kid it made a cake larger than a cupcake - the size items it makes now it stupid - dime sized cupcakes - no exaggerating! My daughter wanted that dumb toy so bad and was sorely disappointed. This year she will be getting a kitchenaid table top convection oven. About microwave sized. Clearly she will use it under my supervision, with my assistance, but with decent oven mitts she should be able to complete all the tasks of baking herself, with guidance and help as needed. I am also purchasing her a cute childs apron, her own measuring spoons, utensils, mixing bowls and baking pans. Not in silly child sizes either - they need to be useful! My ultimate task right now is finding safe mitts for her small hands. I want them to have long arm covers but not be awkward to hold a pan with. This oven will take a 13x9 pan, so i will get her 1/4 sheet pans for cookies.

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: johannac

                                                              Excellent idea and I think you're taking the right approach. With close supervision, 8 year olds are ready to use the real thing (within reason). The point about the small mitts is a good one. I don't think I've seen children sized mitts.

                                                              1. re: sandiasingh

                                                                The only child sized mitts I have found are the thin cotton type that do not protect from much! I am looking into getting her a set of fitted womens small oven mitts. They are pricey but - I do not want her arms and fingers paying the price!!

                                                                1. re: johannac

                                                                  I've bought these and they are soft, comfortable, smaller and sold at a good price.