When my son was 8, he invited a new friend to sleep overnight. As I was passing the kitchen the next morning, I overheard the following conversation:
Bjorn: So do you want pancakes, waffles, or eggs for breakfast?
Friend: Maybe scrambled eggs?
(Sounds of pans clattering, cupboard and refrigerator door opening)
Friend: Hey, what are you doing?
Bjorn: Making you scrambled eggs.
Friend: Umm…don’t you think we better wait for your mom?
Bjorn: Nah. You wouldn’t want her scrambled eggs. I’m a much better cook than she is.
And he was right. As the youngest of 5, he’d learned from the best – his older brother and sisters. Not me. Definitely not me.
So how did I end up with a family of cooks?
I accidentally discovered the secret when my oldest daughter was 3. Having a newborn and a toddler, I was a sleep-deprived mom. One morning I heard Tiffany banging around in the kitchen, but after being up all night with the other two, I was too exhausted to check out the noise. To my surprise, a short while later, my 3-year-old presented me with breakfast in bed, which included slices of French toast.
“Who made these?” I asked, wondering if my husband had stayed home from work.
“I did,” she said with a proud smile. “I watch you do it.”
“You cracked eggs? And–and used the stove?” My voice wasn’t only weak from lack of sleep.
I inspected her head-to-toe for burns, but other than syrupy stickiness on her hands, arms, toes, and hair, she was fine. Then picturing a kitchen fire, I tucked the baby and toddler under each arm and raced for the kitchen. It was a bit messy, but the stove was off. The pot was cooling in the sink. And I realized I’d just found my solution to more sleep in the mornings—teaching my kids to cook.
When they turned 3, they started cooking lessons. By the time they were in kindergarten, they were each responsible for making one dinner a week. They loved it, and so did I. Yes, it meant a messy kitchen and plenty of extra dishes, but by the time they were 8 or 9, they were pros in the kitchen.
So how do you get started if you’re a kid interested in cooking, or if you’re a parent or teacher who wants to cook with kids? Books with pictures and simple recipes are a great first step. If you’re a kid who’s already skilled in the kitchen, you can branch out with recipes from around the world or for specialty foods. And be sure to check out the bonus recipe below.
Oh, and if you want to connect books and cooking, Tami Lewis Brown has a great list of books and recipes to match.
Cooking Class: 57 Fun Recipes Kids Will Love to Make (and Eat!)
Deanna F. Cook
This fresh, fun cookbook for kids ages 6 to 12 explains basic cooking techniques in kid-friendly language and offers recipes for making dozens of favorite foods from scratch, including muffins, biscuits, applesauce, fruit leather, goldfish crackers, tortilla chips, Buffalo chicken fingers, pizza, sushi California rolls.
ChopChop: The Kids’ Guide to Cooking Real Food with Your Family
by Sally Sampson and Carl Tremblay
Winner of the International Association of Culinary Professionals Cookbook Award in the Children/Youth/Family category, ChopChop offers nutritious, ethnically diverse, inexpensive dishes.
Kids’ Fun and Healthy Cookbook
by Nicola Graimes and Howard Shooter
Large pictures and simple instructions for healthy recipes using ingredients such as whole wheat flour, plain yogurt, honey, oats, and nuts.
Better Homes and Gardens New Junior Cook Book
by Better Homes and Gardens
Each recipe includes a photo along with illustrations of characters who tell stories to complement the dishes. Special features cover cooking basics, kitchen safety, menu planning, basic nutrition information, and guidance on reading and understanding food labels.
Complete Children’s Cookbook
The more than 150 recipes are divided into nine themed chapters (Breakfast, Soups and Salads, Light Bites, etc.) illustrated with DK’s usual large, colorful photos as well as easy-to-understand instructions. Also includes information on basic cooking skills such as how to cut safely or how to poach an egg along with some unique recipes not usually found in kids’ cookbooks.
Twist It Up: More Than 60 Delicious Recipes from an Inspiring Young Chef
by Jack Witherspoon and Sheri Giblin
Recipes developed by eleven-year-old Jack Witherspoon, who used cooking to raise money for cancer when he was battling leukemia. Clear directions and photographs make it simple to follow these tasty recipes.
The International Cookbook for Kids
by Matthew Locricchio
Contains recipes from Italy, France, China, and Mexico illustrated with photos and pictures. Plan a taco party or make recipes from appetizers to desserts. Some of these recipes are more complicated, but will appeal to those who enjoy trying different foods.
The Mayo Clinic Kids’ Cookbook: 50 Favorite Recipes for Fun and Healthy Eating
by Mayo Clinic
This spiral-bound cookbook is easy to keep open while you cook. Because it’s from the Mayo Clinic, it emphasizes healthy recipes using vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains. This cookbook offers clear directions and tips on how to prepare the raw ingredients.
Easy Vegetarian Foods From Around The World
by Sheila Griffin Llanas
For vegetarian cooks, Sheila Griffin Llanas includes a dozen recipes from Russian cabbage pie to Indian sabji. Check out other books in this Easy Cookbook for Kids series for various meals and snacks from around the world.
Recipes from China
by Dana Meachen Rau
Rau includes a variety of recipes for meals throughout the day from different regions of China. Other books in this Cooking Around the World series contain recipes from countries such as India, Italy, and Mexico.
Here’s a simple recipe to try. If you don’t normally cook by yourself, have an adult help with the frying. Hot grease can spit and burn.
1 pop-open can of biscuits, unbaked
Sugar and cinnamon
Metal slotted spoon
1) Pop open the can of biscuits, separate them, and set them out on a cutting board.
2) Using the cap from a soda bottle, cut a hole in the center of each biscuit. Save the holes for frying too.
3) Heat about 2“ of oil in a deep frying pan.
4) While it’s heating, sprinkle sugar and a dash of cinnamon on a paper plate and mix it well with a spoon. Also spread two paper towels on another paper plate.
5) Wait for the oil to get hot enough. If you sprinkle one drop of water into the oil and it sizzles and spits, it’s ready.
6) Place several doughnuts into the pan, but don’t crowd them.
7) As soon as the bottom turns brown, flip them over with a metal slotted spoon. Watch carefully, because they brown quickly. And turn gently to keep the oil from spattering.
8) When both sides are brown, ladle them onto the plate with the paper towels & pat off the grease. Be careful because they’re hot.
9) Quickly roll them in cinnamon and sugar while they’re still warm.
Makes 8 doughnuts and 8 doughnut holes
Do you have any kid-friendly recipes to share or favorite cookbooks? We’d love to have you add them to the comments.
About the Author
When other parents discovered how well Laurie J. Edwards’s kids could cook, they asked her to teach their sons and daughters. That led to Cooking for Kids classes and a weekly cooking session at the small private school her kids attended. Laurie’s had many other fun jobs in her life, including owning a cake decorating business, being a children’s librarian, and writing for kids. Some of her recent and forthcoming book releases include Her Cold Revenge (Switch Press), The Forget-Me-Not Keeper (illustrations, written by Susanna Leonard Hill), Imperial China, West African Kingdoms, and Ancient Egypt (Cengage). Read more about Laurie and her books on her blog, her website, Facebook, and Twitter (@LaurieJEdwards).