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10 best kids’ cookbooks to get them excited about food

Rustle up meals together and get children interested in what’s on their plate

Rebecca Moore
Tuesday 18 January 2022 09:15 GMT
<p>We looked for easy recipes, clever illustrations, handy tips and bright photography</p>

We looked for easy recipes, clever illustrations, handy tips and bright photography

Combining cooking and kids might sound like a disaster waiting to happen. But actually children relish in independence, and with the right cookbook at their fingertips, your budding chef will have you saying “bon appetit” in no time at all.

If you can turn a blind eye to the impending kitchen mess – teaching them to clean up after themselves is another challenge entirely – having an enthusiastic sous-chef can be a lovely way to spend a few hours with your children.

Rustling up a meal together – or if they’re old enough allowing them to cook independently – is the perfect way to get children interested in the food they have on the plate. It also gets them learning about nutrition and the task of cooking and we found that they were more inclined to try different food if they’d been involved in the preparation process.

When finding a good kids’ cookbook, you need to choose a book that interests your child. If they have a penchant for pizza let them learn about Italian cuisine, they’re far more likely to engage with delicacies they enjoy eating.

Recipes can also be difficult to follow as an adult, so having books clearly designed with easy to follow steps is of huge importance. Clever illustrations, handy tips and bright photography go a long way when you’re acquiring a new skill. Cookbooks shouldn’t intimidate young chefs and by keeping them lighthearted and fun, should engage them.

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How we tested

That’s why we decided to test out a range of recipe books. We had the helping hand of an 11-year-old and five-year-old, both admittedly very new to the workings of a kitchen. For our younger tester we were looking for books that piqued an interest in cooking, rather than recipes to cook, in the hope to kickstart an interest in the kitchen.

The best kids cookbooks in 2022 are:

  • Best overall – 'The Silver Spoon for Children New Edition: Favourite Italian Recipes’ by Amanda Grant: £17.95,
  • Best for sweet treats – ‘The Cadbury Mini Eggs Cookbook’, published by Harper Collins: £9.99,
  • Best for beginners – ‘The Usborne First Cookbook’ by Angela Wilkes: £12.99,
  • Best for vegans – ‘Be More Vegan’ by Niki Webster: £11.99,
  • Best interactive book – ‘Cook in a Book Tacos!’ illustrated by Lotta Nieminen: £13.50,
  • Best range of recipes – ‘Real Food Kids Will Love: Over 100 simple and delicious recipes for toddlers and up’ by Annabel Karmel: £11.99,
  • Best for outdoor cooking – ‘Wild Child: Adventure Cooking With Kids’ by Sarah Glover: £19.99,
  • Best for weaning – ‘Young Gums: Baby Food With Attitude’ by Beth Bentley: £11.25,
  • Best for themed parties – ‘This Cookbook is Gross: Revolting recipes to freak out your friends’ by Susanna Tee: £9.99,
  • Best rhyming recipes – ‘Cook me a Rhyme: In the Kitchen with Mother Goose’ by Bryan Kozlowski: £9.99,

'The Silver Spoon for Children New Edition: Favourite Italian Recipes’ by Amanda Grant, published by Phaidon

Best: Overall

When a cookbook is into its 10-year anniversary of publication it has to be doing something right. This newly-designed edition ofThe Silver Spoon for Children – specially adapted from the best-selling Italian cookbook The Silver Spoon, that has sold over one million copies – boasts a lovely makeover. There’s a great balance of illustration and photography which engaged our mini chef. Plus, the recipes are easy to follow, and don’t require handfuls of ingredients either, making them really accessible to young cooks.

Designed for children aged seven plus, our 11- year-old tester took no persuasion on picking the book up. They were able to make their own pizza dough and rustle up a tasty Linguine with pesto, plus it’s such a beautiful book to have on your kitchen shelf. Buon appetito!

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‘The Cadbury Mini Eggs Cookbook’, published by Harper Collins

Best: For sweet treats

While Easter may be a few months away, this cookbook is so scrumptious you’ll want to use it all year round. It’s safe to say that out of all the cookbooks we tested, the kids were most eggcited (sorry!) about this one, and who can blame them? It’s all you could have hoped for, from the more predictable rocky road and chocolate birds nests to the more obscure speedy brûlée and strawberry shortcake tartlets... but there’s one common denominator they all include Mini Eggs!

While we’d suggest not over indulging – in fact the nutritional information is laid out on every recipe, which helpfully stops you in your tracks before you get yourself in a chocolate-induced coma – this book is perfect for the whole family. Our 11-year-old was confident enough to try recipes out independently, while our five-year-old’s interests were certainly piqued and everyone enjoyed the results.

Mouthwatering imagery, easy-to-follow instructions and a sweet treat to entice one and all, The Cadbury Mini Eggs Cookbook is a cracking choice.

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‘The Usborne First Cookbook’ by Angela Wilkes, published by Usborne

Best: For beginners

Usborne’s collection of children’s books cover everything from learning to care about the planet to a child’s first touchy-feely board book – setting the bar high for its cookbook:The Usborne First Cookbook. There are 72 spiral bound pages for budding chefs to tuck into, and this is just the sort of timeless cookbook that you can envisage being used for generations to come, complete with flour dustings and sticky butter marks.

It really acts as a springboard into cooking, and we soon found our 11-year-old tester flicking through the pages. The book starts with a double page spread on cooking hints and tips, and at the back you’ll find information on kitchen equipment and a glossary.

Our tester decided to start with an omelette, which she made very light work of. Stephen Cartwright’s illustrations were a little “young” for her but the descriptions were spot on, our reviewer felt a picture of the food would help – so she’s decided to clip on her own pictures as she works through the recipes.

The book is designed for those aged seven years plus, and we’d say it’s totally geared for those in their last years of primary school. The recipes selected are appropriate and not too bewildering, plus many of them are classics such as sausage rolls and chocolate brownies so they’re sure to please any recipient.

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‘Be More Vegan’ by Niki Webster, published by Welbeck

Best: For vegans

It’s believed that that as many as one in 12 parents are raising their children as vegan. Our 11-year-old helper became a pescatarian a year ago, so there was already an invested interest in plant-based cooking but we believe everyone can take something from this book. Whether your child has shown an interest in reducing meat, becoming a vegan or a vegetarian, or simply wants to learn about nutrition and diet, this no-nonsense guide by Niki Webster will tell them everything they need to know about veganism.

Information aside, there’s a whopping 50 recipes included, and while some were asking a bit much of our 11-year-old reviewer (such as making a cashew parmesan), many piqued her interest. From breakfast smoothies, to vegan snacks and tasty dinner ideas, this book covers everything. It’s been so well executed with the bright illustrations and insta-ready photography to easy-to-follow steps and helpful “Niki’s tips”.

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‘Cook in a Book Tacos!’ illustrated by Lotta Nieminen, published by Phaidon

Best: Interactive book

This is a cookbook like no other. Cook in a Book Tacos is an interactive book which is a perfect way to introduce young chefs to cooking. Who doesn’t love the Mexican delight that is tacos and while we hadn’t considered this before, this cookbook reminds you just how creative they are to make. The Cook in a Book series, published by Phaidon, is something rather special as it encourages young children to think about cooking, without having to bog them down with wordy recipes.

After reading together, and playing with the tabs, wheels, flaps and more, we followed the recipe, and while our mini chef’s involvement was fairly limited it certainly made her more excited about the meal. She’s now often found making tacos in her toy kitchen! A clever interactive read that’s sure to inspire the next generation of chefs.

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‘Real Food Kids Will Love: Over 100 simple and delicious recipes for toddlers and up’ by Annabel Karmel, published by Bluebird Books for Life

Best: Range of recipes

Many of us have grown up with baby weaning guru Annabel Karmel, so we were keen to see if her recipes could go the distance beyond the puree days. And we shouldn’t have doubted her. This is a book every family should have on their shelf, not only as it’s the perfect shelf size, but as it’s packed with over 100 recipes so you’ll always have delicious inspiration at your fingertips.

While our 11-year-old didn’t find the design or feel of the book that appealing (it’s certainly designed more for the grown-up head chef of the house), the recipes are creative, inspiring and easy to follow so she soon donned her cooking apron. We found the chapter on meat free and vegan recipes insightful with the rigatoni becoming a firm favourite, while the 15-minute meals can really streamline your evening family meals.

The last chapter is all about “holiday cooking with the kids” which is where both mini testers could get involved, and it’s great inspiration for when the kids are having a playdate or you fancy some seasonal family baking – beware, the mini monster fridge cakes are rather moreish.

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‘Wild Child: Adventure Cooking With Kids’ by Sarah Glover, published by Prestel

Best: For outdoor cooking

You might usually associate a cookbook with an indoor fully-functioning kitchen, complete with scales, an oven and stocked cupboards... well this unconventional cookbook from Sarah Glover will have family cooking reimagined. This book celebrates the great outdoors – think camp fires, play tents and a bit of old-fashioned dirt – stripping cooking back to basics. All meals are cooked on a fire (some do require a portable gas stove), but fear not there’s a handy step-by-step guide on building the best fire and there’s also a list of cooking tools required.

This book really opens your eyes to a more wholesome world, with recipes spanning from simple smash spuds to cooking fish in newspapers. While we didn’t travel to the outback, we did use our firepit in the garden to put a few recipes to the test, and the mini testers loved the concept of cooking outdoors (and not in barbecue form) so it made for a lovely group task. Our 11-year-old took charge in cooking prawns on a stick, which we served with the sweet potato smash, followed by the scrumptious kid crepes. It was a wonderful way to fill the family up, and we’ll certainly embrace more alfresco cooking thanks to this enlightening book.

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‘Young Gums: Baby Food With Attitude’ by Beth Bentley, published by Ebury Press

Best: For weaning

Beth Bentley really has reinvented baby cookbooks with her inaugural bookYoung Gums: Baby Food With Attitude, showing that baby weaning doesn’t have to be boring. But what we really love about this book is that it’s uniting what baby eats with what the parents eat too with each recipe stating how many adults and babies it feeds. The book is full of great advice for new parents and demystifies the weaning journey.

Along with being a bold book in terms of design and style, it also features a whole host of colourful photography and recipes inspired by food across the world – think baby burrito bowls and mini moroccan tagine. The book covers meals for any time of day from breakfast ideas and savoury bakes to party food and mama treats. Once the baby weaning days are over there’s no need to let this book collect dust, as there’s some cracking recipes for the whole family to enjoy.

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‘This Cookbook is Gross: Revolting recipes to freak out your friends’ by Susanna Tee, published by QED Publishing

Best: For themed parties

This truly is a cookbook like no other.This Cookbook is Gross: Revolting recipes to freak out your friends is, as the book jacket states, “oozing with outrageous recipes”. If you’re planning a Halloween party, or fancy gauging your friends gag reflex, this will give you inspiration, and then some!

Fantastically fun – this book had both our mini testers in hysterics – but, if you can get over the aesthetics, these creepy creations are actually torturously tasty. The recipes themselves have huge kids appeal, although we did find some of them a little tricky to follow. The whole family were pleasantly surprised tucking into scrumptious baked human hand (homemade sausage mixture) and tasty roasted mice. Deliciously disgusting.

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‘Cook me a Rhyme: In the Kitchen with Mother Goose’ by Bryan Kozlowski, published by Quarto

Best: Rhyming recipes

Cleverly combining well known children’s rhymes with recipes, Cook me a Rhyme: In the Kitchen with Mother Goose is a truly charming read and a lovely introduction to cooking. With 80 pages to look at, all bursting with adorable illustrations, our five-year-old tester was captivated in the magic of the different stories, and because of the spiral bound design it was easy for her to flick through the pages. 

We would read through the nursery rhyme first and then go back to digest the recipe element. While some of the recipe links seemed a little tenuous such as “Old Mother Hubbard’s cheesy dog bone snacks” (for humans), on the whole the recipes are not only creative but very tasty too. Our favourites have been “Little Bo-Peep’s lost sheep popsicles” and “The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe’s shoestring chicken noodle soup”.

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The verdict: Kids' cookbooks

The Silver Spoon For Children has become a go-to in our kitchen. With easy-to-follow recipes which are achievable yet creative enough to engage young chefs, this cookbook delivers the tastiest and most accessible dishes for the whole family. For the sweetest treats we also highly recommend Cadbury’s Mini Egg Cookbook.

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