Getting children involved in the kitchen has many benefits: developing creativity and fine motor skills, encouraging healthier eating and an interest in food, beating fussiness, and a newfound appreciation for how hard you work for them. But, as every parent knows, kitchens are not the most child-friendly of places and recipes invariably involve sharp knives, hot appliances and the occasional eye-burning chilli. The right cookbook, however, can make all the difference.
We've been putting our favourite mini-chefs to work to find the best cookbooks for kids (with minimum effort on your part), whether they're sweet tooth or savoury, adventurous or fussy, just teething or a 12-year-old budding Masterchef. All being well, you'll be enjoying the spoils in no time.
1. Complete Children’s Cookbook: out May 1; £18.99, amazon.co.uk
This upcoming release from Dorling Kindersley is easily the most comprehensive kids’ cookbook we’ve seen, with over 150 recipes covering everything from breakfast to birthdays. Each step is simply explained with clear pictures and those involving heat are marked with a warning sign. We suggest you start with the ‘Rainbow Beef’, while ‘Yoghurt Ices’ are sure to be a winner for summer.
2. The Silver Spoon for Children: Favourite Italian Recipes: £12.95, uk.phaidon.com
Grown-ups cooks will recognise this as the bambino of the bestselling cookbook The Silver Spoon. Here, recipes have been adapted to make them suitable for young chefs to give them a solid foundation in Italian cooking. Easy to follow but not condescending, it’s a real treat, and the hand drawn illustrations by Harriet Russell are enchanting. We loved the baked macaroni with parmesan.
3. The Kids Only Cookbook by Sue Quinn: £12.99, quadrille.co.uk
This is perhaps the most child-friendly book on the list, as it’s designed, as the title suggests, for minimal adult involvement (for children aged eight and up). It’s humorous – pages include ‘How to Not Chop Off Your Finger' – well-explained, with difficulty star ratings and step-by-step photographs starring the author’s children, and delicious. Chocolate and banana French toast? Yum.
4. The Tickle Fingers Cookbook by Annabel Woolmer: £8.99, amazon.co.uk
Specially written for children aged one-to-four, everything in The Tickle Fingers Cookbook is completely toddler-appropriate. Recipes focus on fun, hands-on cooking – sorting, mixing, squishing, pouring – and don’t involve any hob cooking, raw meat or sharp knives. The book is laid out in three sections of increasing difficulty and each recipe has ‘adult prep’ listed separately.
5. Ella’s Kitchen: The Cookbook: £11.99, waterstones.com
This bright and colourful book from Ella’s Kitchen is packed with recipes suitable from weaning and up so you can feed the whole family in one go. It’s definitely a teamwork book, as some stages of the recipes aren’t child-appropriate, but suggestions for getting them involved are helpfully marked with ‘can I help?’ speech bubbles and they’ll enjoy picking what to cook from the fun photographs.
6. Great British Bake Off: Learn to Bake by Linda Collister: £15.19, amazon.co.uk
A great buy for any budding baker – child or otherwise. There are detailed explanations to everything you need to know, from types of sugar to what ‘baking blind’ means, and recipes are well-illustrated with step-by-step photos. It’s laid out and written more like an ‘adult’ cookbook than others on this list, so we’d suggest it’s best suited for kids aged 10 and up.
7. The Minichefs Cookbook by Claire McAvoy: £9.99, grubstreet.co.uk
From the woman behind children’s cooking school Minichefs, this neat little book is full of creative and child-friendly twists on the classics – fish-shaped fingers, for example – to get kids involved and eating well without pushing them completely outside their comfort zone. ‘Doreen’s Banana Bake’ will be going straight into my recipe collection.
8. Everyday Kitchen for Kids by Jennifer Low: £14.99, grubstreet.co.uk
Written by food journalist and author of the best-selling Kids Kitchen, this one is a far-cry from the usual bright colours and cartoons of children’s books. Recipes from ‘Munchy Crunchy Crackers’ to ‘Apricot Scoop Cake’ are simply presented alongside beautiful photography, with no sharp knives or stove-top cooking. The thirty pages dedicated to cookies are bound to be popular.
9. Cook With Kids by Rob Kirby: £9.98, amazon.co.uk
This isn’t one for unsupervised cooking as some recipes involve boiling sugar and deep fat-frying, but it’s great for getting the family together in the kitchen. Every recipe is accompanied by a mouth-watering photograph and, from bubble and squeak to buttermilk breaded chicken, we defy you not to want to eat all of it. Plus you can feel virtuous as all royalties go to Great Ormond Street.
10. Big Meals for Little Hands by Virginie Aladjidi and Carolie Pellissier: £12.99, flyingeyebooks.com
If you’re keen to get your kids eating fresh, authentic and seasonal meals, this collection of recipes from Michelin-starred French chef Sébastien Guénard is a good place to start. It’s arranged in four chapters by the seasons with simple recipes based around key ingredients, and the lack of photos is more than made up for by charming illustrations, plus the cover is wipe-clean. Always a winner.
For pre-school age children, The Tickle Fingers Cookbook is one of a kind, while The Silver Spoon is easily the most visually-pleasing on this list, but for comprehensiveness, clarity and minimal parent effort, The Kids Only Cookbook and the Complete Children's Cookbook are both excellent choices, and good value for money to boot.
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