Saturday, March 5, 2011

Cookbooks for Kids

Just a day after I found myself frustrated in my endeavor to collect resources to teach my children life and home making skills, I realized that I needed to go back through the kids cookbooks I have again.  I realized that I have about 7 or 8 children's cookbooks in our cookbook collection.  They all have different strengths, so I thought I'd share what I think is their strengths and weaknesses and which ones I would buy (if I didn't have them) and which ones I wouldn't...

So, here's the List (in order of preference):
#1  Kids Cook! by Sarah Williamson & Zachary Williamson
Best Age: 5-9
Good, simple directions.
Generally pretty healthy recipes and ones that my kids would actually make.  There's a good section on safety and good illustrations of equipment.  There's a few pictures of the steps of cooking, but not many.  There's a good variety of breakfast, lunch, dinner recipes--over 150 in all, which is far more than all the other kids' cookbooks I came across.  The pages are black and white, but one reviewer on Amazon suggested that you let your kids color in the pictures (or you could if you are in a coloring mood) while they're waiting for the food to cook.  I think that's a great idea.  This cookbook is also VERY affordable (only $2.52 with free shipping) when I bought it on Amazon.  For the price and content, this is the best value.

#2  Pretend Soup and Other Real Recipes by Mollie Katzen and Ann Henderson
This is a wonderful cookbook for 4-7 year olds.  My kids love to sit down and look through it.  I love the quotes from the kids who tested and tried out the recipes.  The bulk of the recipes in this cookbook are ones my kids would make and eat.  I have pretty average eaters, except for 1 who is very picky.  I like the hand drawn pictures that illustrate each step.  The directions are well written and easy to follow.  The one big thing missing in this cookbook is explanation of terms and safety instructions.  There is a list in the front--but it is in mom language and in mom font, not kid font or simple 4 year old language.  I do appreciate Ms. Katzen's note about cooking with children in the front of the book about cooking with children--I think her advice is wonderful!  Don't worry about the messes and spills.  Just enjoy it and help them learn to enjoy cooking with you.  This is something I have to work on every time I cook with my kids.  There is a second cookbook Salad People that Mollie Katzen wrote as a sequel for this age group, but it is one that I would check out of the library before purchasing.  I looked through the recipes and could tell that my kids, unfortunately, wouldn't eat any of them.

I did see that this cookbook is only about $4.25 for a used copy, including shipping on Amazon right now.

I would say that for any of these cookbooks, check them out of the library if you can before you buy one.  See if it's easy for you to use and for your kids to use.  Do you like the formatting?  Is the reading level right for your kids?  Are the recipes things they would like to eat?

#3  Honest Pretzels by Mollie Katzen
This book for cooks ages 8 and up.  If you like Pretend Soup, then I think you'll love Honest Pretzels.  The directions are perfect for kids and Katzen's recipes are pretty healthy.  My kids absolutely love the Peanut Butter Doo Dads and the Giant Baked Pancake Puff is made every few weeks in our house.  Autumn reads the recipe while Eli and Sami help with the mixing.  These recipes can be made by 5-7 year olds with help and probably by a 8-11 year old on their own once they've made them with you.  But, that depends on how comfortable and able both you and your child feel about cooking these recipes.  This book has a lot more extensive notes for parents because the recipes are feasible for your child to do more of the cooking and maybe even all of the cooking for these recipes on their own.  I really appreciate that Mollie Katzen writes well without being too wordy.  I have the older edition which is currently about $5 used (including shipping) on Amazon when I checked today.

#4  Simply in Season Children's Cookbook by Mark Beach and Julie Kauffman
Best Age: 7-10
Simply in Season is one of my favorite cookbooks, so I had wanted this cookbook for a long time. It doesn't have a lot of recipes, but many kids cookbooks don't. The recipes in here are written well--in simple, clear, language.  I loved the 4 prayers that are in the book at the end of each section for the seasons. At the beginning of each season's section is a poem about the season which I look forward to reading with my children through the year as we make our way through the seasons. I also loved the first two pages about the "11 easy steps to fun cooking and eating" and the introduction to the cookbook. I thought the 11 steps were perfect. There isn't a big section about kitchen equipment or safety, so I would recommend other cookbooks with more thorough information if you want that. But, this is one of the better children's cookbooks I found. The recipes are good and well written. The formatting and binding of the cookbook will make it easier for kids and parents to use and it's big enough for everyone to look at together.   You can see a preview of this cookbook on CBD.  I bought a used copy for $12 (incl. shipping) on  You can view a lot more of this cookbook here: 

From here, the others I have are all pretty much equal.  I don't know if I would purchase any of them unless they would work well with your curriculum for homeschooling or they were what your kids were interested in.

* The Science Chef
Best Age:  4th-6th graders
This book is fun because it tackles one science question with multiple recipes.  The type is small and the language is simple so it would be good for an older child, rather than a 2nd or 3rd grader.  One review I read said the experiments were very simple--yes, they are simple in concept, but something doesn't have to be complex for it to be fun.  An example is the recipe for making your own cheese curds.  The science experiment is really one more of observation than of testing a hypothesis.  

* The Kids Multicultural Cookbook by Deanna F. Cook
Best Age: 2nd-5th grade
This book had one of the best cooking basics sections at the front of the book.  The recipes are divided by continent and country.  They use ingredients you'll have in your home or can easily find at your local grocery store.  There's also fun information about the countries and activities for you to do which relate to that culture.  

*Mom and Me Cookbook by Annabel Karmel
Best Age: 3-6 year olds
This book is a DK cookbook.  They have several.  They are the only publisher, that I found, that has color photographs of children cooking each step along the way in the recipes.  If this is what you are looking for, I'd recommend looking for one of these at your local bookstore or library.  Amazon does not have previews of most of their books available for you to see before you buy the book.  If you look at one and like it though, I'm sure you'll like the others that they publish for kids.  I do like the Mom and Me Cookbook, but of the 21 recipes, there were only 2 or 3 that I wanted to make with my kids.  That's the hard part about kids cookbooks.  Every family cooks different foods.  I always think it's best to look at the table of contents of a cookbook before hand to see if the recipes even sound like what your kids would want to make and eat.

Cookbooks I didn't like as well...

Paula Deen's My First Cookbook...  I looked at this one at the library.  The words are very small and the recipes are very wordy.  The safety directions page was fine, but other cookbooks were more complete and more simply written.  The illustrations and didn't add a lot to the book for me and the recipes didn't stand out to me.  For a "first" cookbook, I don't think it would be one I would choose to get.  You can't see a preview online, but Barnes and Noble carries it and so did my local library.

Fix it and Forget it Kids Cookbook...  I am so glad I checked this one out of the library.  Of the 50 recipes, I only found 6 that I would consider making with my kids.  Many of the recipes were made with canned condensed soup and they also had a very high fat content.  The pictures were of the dishes, but not of the preparations.  The directions were simply written (but not as simply as the Simply in Season Children's Cookbook) and that was a good thing about this cookbook.

Happy Cooking!

Cookbook Shopping Tip:
If you want to find the best price online for any of these cookbooks, I typically use Direct to compare prices.  Although I'm finding that I want to shop more at Amazon than other sites because I have more recourse when a used book doesn't arrive in the condition that it was described in.  One used book I ordered last week in "good condition" through AbeBooks arrived with a large water stain on the back cover.   

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