Cooking is a great way to spend quality time with kids and it teaches them skills that will serve them for a lifetime. By teaching kids how to cook, you will not only be introducing them to nutrition, farming and gardening but also helping them tap into their taste buds and creativity. Below are a few books to get you and your kids inspired in the kitchen.
Cook in a Book series (Phaidon, $21.95)
illustrated by Lotta Nieminen – Ages 3-5
Young kids will love this series of interactive board books. Not only does each book highlight a favourite food, including tacos, pizza, cookies and pancakes, it’s also filled with fun features that bring cooking to life. The books use lift-up flaps, pull-tabs, wheels and more to give readers a taste of being in the kitchen. For instance, in the book about pancakes, readers can pull a tab to tip a measuring cup of flour into a bowl. They can even take the pancakes out of the pan and pop them onto a plate on the next page, by placing the round shape of the pancake into the space provided. The books are the perfect prelude to entering the kitchen, and each book is as fun as the next. The fact that there is only one recipe featured per book provides children with a gentle and effortless initiation to making that first dish.
Starting from Scratch (Owlkids Books, $19.95)
by Sarah Elton – Ages 9 and up
An important aspect of learning to cook is understanding where our food comes from and how it makes it onto our plates. This book is the perfect primer to guide children in building a healthy relationship with food. The objective is to explain all the steps required to make meals. It explains the differences between various cooking techniques, like charred, fried or boiled, and the impact they have on the taste of food. The book also explores the origins of food, how it has evolved over time as well as cultural differences in how we eat. It will take readers on an all-encompassing food journey from the fields where our ingredients are grown, to the market with bountiful produce and finally to the kitchen where everything comes together. After making their way through this book, food will be transformed into meals and children into foodies.
The Forest Feast for Kids (Abrams Books for Young Readers, $24.95)
by Erin Gleeson – Ages 10 and up
Whether out of concern over climate change or for their love of animals, many pre-teens and teenagers choose to be vegetarians. This beautiful cookbook is a child-friendly version of the adult book The Forest Feast by Erin Gleeson. It guides new vegetarians through cooking simple and flavourful dishes that ensure all nutritional needs are met. The book gives children a multitude of recipes to choose from and will never leave them feeling short on meal choices. The author takes the time to celebrate food, whether by showcasing the versatility of everyday foods such as bread and cheese, presenting elegant plating ideas or offering party suggestions. Most of the recipes require only a few ingredients and three or four simple steps to create. Illustrations of the ingredients are included to make it easy for children to see what they need to make the dish. The book covers meals, snacks, party food, beverages and desserts, and provides simple culinary lessons such as cutting techniques and the use of kitchen tools. With recipes such as sweet potato pizza, apple honey galette, stuffed tomatoes and apricot bites, each page is bursting with colour and charm, and will have children whipping up vegetarian delights in no time.
A Grandfather’s Lessons: In the Kitchen with Shorey (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $42)
by Jacques Pépin – Ages 12 and up
There is no shortage of culinary competitions on television these days, and many now have children’s editions to showcase the talents of budding chefs. If you think your child might be heading down the path towards a culinary career, then this book written by cooking legend Jacques Pépin is the perfect gift. Pépin has written more than 20 cookbooks, and in this one he teams up with his 12-year-old granddaughter Shorey. Pépin doesn’t pull back on classic techniques or standard recipes of French cuisine, but rather adapts them to children. He explains how to cut the stalks of asparagus and doesn’t shy away away from introducing soufflé to his young readers. Pépin’s love of food shines through as he talks about setting the table and all the proper etiquette to accompany fine dining, as he imparts the respect a chef needs to have for the food he/she is making and serving. The warm and loving interactions between Pépin and Shorey will set the scene for enjoying equally heartwarming quality time with your own children in the kitchen.