Best Children's Cookbooks: Cook with Kids

Kids Cookbooks for the Chef in Your Family

Cookbooks aimed particularly at children seem to be a relatively new phenomenon. With many people choosing to stay home with their kids, the question of what to do with them during the day can sometimes confound. Even if you are a working parent, however, the joys of allowing your school age children to review, plan and help prepare a meal or snack are truly rewarding. If you lead scouts or teach, a cooking segment is both instructional and fun!

A number of skills can be learned in the kitchen. Small motor skills can be improved by learning to cut items with a blunt knife, or spread butter or other toppings on bread. Mathematical concepts, including addition, subtraction, multiplication and fractions can also be learned in a fun environment. What if we double this recipe? How many cups of sugar will we need then? Also, the basic knowledge of how many cups in a gallon, or tablespoons in a cup can be learned (for those of us that are still not on the metric system).

As early as 3 years of age, kids can help out in the kitchen. Just make sure that sharp and hot implements are kept away from them and they are strictly supervised! Your best bet is to review safety tips before starting work in the kitchen with young people.

My boys really love cooking! Considering the success of male chefs (think Food Network, etc.), there is no stereotype against boys learning to cook! I also strongly believe that if children are given the opportunity to share in meal preparation, there is often less grumbling about what is placed on their plate when its time to eat!

Build self-confidence with cooking
Build self-confidence with cooking

Girls Making Butterscotch Brownies

Recommended Children's Cookbooks

Go to any bookstore or library and you are bound to find a shelf full of children's cookbooks. Depending on your lifestyle or religious beliefs, some may be more appropriate than others. For example, if your home follows a strict vegan or vegetarian diet, you probably don't want a cookbook with hamburger recipes!

Open one of the books and review the recipes inside. Do they look relatively simple to prepare? Are the ingredients fresh and readily available? What additional information is provided to help your child learn? Will it be fun? The following cookbooks meet these standards:

  • There's a Chef in My Soup, by Emeril Lagasse
  • Shrek Cookbook
  • Cooking Rocks! Rachel Ray 30-Minute Meals for Kids
  • The Everything Kids Cookbook

Emeril Lagasse's "There's a Chef in My Soup," is filled with colorful illustrations, including images of Emeril that are drawn, with a photograph of his head included. The book is divided up into sections for breakfast, salads, pizza and pasta, lunch, dinner, vegetables and dessert. Safety tips are set forth at the beginning of the book, which are easy to read and well-organized. Lovely drawings of various cooking implements are included to help kids learn their names and functions. Next, the book includes information on chopping, mincing, peeling, grating, trimming meat and cracking eggs.

Each of Emeril's recipes tell you how many servings will be prepared, a list of ingredients and tools that will be needed. One drawback is that, although illustrations are included, there are no photographs of the final product. Our favorite recipes include: Yummy Wake-Up Smoothies and Eat-a-Pita Pizzas.

Dreamworks "Shrek Cookbook" was definitely published with boys in mind! For those that have seen the movie, you'll enjoy the lively images of all the favorite characters on the pages in the book. There are only a couple of pages devoted to safety, and no instructions on preparation. This book may be a good addition to your collection, but probably not the first cookbook you get for your kids.

Shrek's recipes are organized into breakfast, light lunches and delicious dinners, and sweet treats. Its only 79 pages long, but a big benefit in my opinion are the photographs of the finished recipes! Each of the recipes is made extra fun by tying it to a character in one of the three Shrek movies. We've enjoyed The Three Bears' Porridge and Dronkey Dippers. Stir-fry Worms and Insects looks delectable!

Children Putting Sushi Together

More Great Cookbooks for Kids

"Cooking Rocks! Rachel Ray 30-Minute Meals for Kids," is a delightfully fun book. Rachel Ray has organized the book into very helpful sections, divided by age (4-6 years, 7 and up, and 12-16 years). She also has a chapter on "Boss Beverages and Super Snackers" that kids of any age can make.

Like Emeril's book, Rachel Ray's cookbook has an extensive beginning section with safety tips and kitchen basics. There is also a great introduction about "Why Cooking Rocks." The book is colorfully illustrated with drawings, and a few photographs, as well. If your kids have watched the Food Network, they may be excited to try out some of Rachel Ray's recipes.

The recipes include the number of servings and required ingredients. One of the fun aspects of the cookbook are the creative names for the recipes, all of which are designed to turn regular green beans or potatoes into something really special. We have enjoyed Cookie and Ice Cream Fill-Your-Handwiches and Meatloaf Muffins with Barbeque Sauce.

The final recommended book is "The Everything Kids' Cookbook," by Sandra K. Nissenberg, M.S., R.D. A wonderfully detailed book, it includes all the basic information on safety and kitchen tools. Children and adults alike will learn how to read nutrition labels, the food pyramid, and the meanings of common abbreviations (oz = ounces) and a conversion table. Puzzles and word searches are included (related to food, of course). Definitions are also scattered throughout the book, including "hummus", "dutch oven" and "tortilla."

The drawing illustrations are in black and white, and there are no photographs of the finished product. Nonetheless, this book is one of the best. Organized into the usual collection of breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert, the recipes also indicate the degree of difficulty (easy, medium, difficult). This guide is very helpful for kids and parents alike! Yummy recipes include Parmasen Chicken Fingers and Peanut Butter Chip Muffins.

Baking cookies with your children is a lifetime gift
Baking cookies with your children is a lifetime gift

Spend Time in the Kitchen with your Family

Cooking with children is a great way to connect as a family and spend some time teaching important skills in a fun, non-threatening way.

Spend some time exploring the various cookbooks that are available, and choose one that fits your family's lifestyle. You may be pleasantly surprised at how much easier mealtime can be when your kids are involved in the planning and preparation.

Bon Appetit!

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Comments 15 comments

highwaystar 8 years ago

stephhicks68, excellent hubpage with inspirational source of activities for kids, of all ages, lol...thanks for sharing, cheers!


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 8 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Thanks for reading the article, highwaystar! Glad you enjoyed it.


Bob Ewing profile image

Bob Ewing 8 years ago from New Brunswick

great review of childrens cookbooks.


Zsuzsy Bee profile image

Zsuzsy Bee 8 years ago from Ontario/Canada

Steph! Great HUB.I bought the Shrek cookbook for my sidekicks (granddaughters)just this past Christmas. We do a couple of recipes everytime we get together. (On my mini vacation from the one I just came home last night, we only had enough time to make our home made pizzas and waffles.) No Shrek recipe this time.

Great hub regards Zsuzsy


Blogger Mom profile image

Blogger Mom 8 years ago from Northeast, US

steph, what a wonderful hub! My oldest is 4, and I would love to start cooking with him. I think the Rachel Ray book will be a good start for us. Thanks for sharing this!


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 8 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Thanks everyone for your kind comments. Zsuzsy - glad to hear you're having fun with Shrek! Blogger Mom - 4 is a great age to start. I really do love the Rachel Ray book. Have fun!


Jungle Talk profile image

Jungle Talk 8 years ago

A super hub Steph! You are so right on about all the learning opportunities cooking with younsters provides. I wish the Shrek cookbook had been published when my kids were little... it is a kick!


amy jane profile image

amy jane 8 years ago from Connecticut

Hey Steph, thanks for all the great info! My 4-year-old loves to cook and is constantly with me in the kitchen, wearing her little chef's hat :)


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 8 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Thank you Jungle Talk and Amy Jane. Our Shrek cookbook was a gift to one of my boys. It is hilarious and really encourages the kids to get into the kitchen and cook. Amy Jane, I can just imagine your little girl in a chef's hat. I hope you're taking lots of pictures! :-)


funnebone profile image

funnebone 8 years ago from Philadelphia Pa

hmmmmmmmm cookies look good, too bad I don't have any kids to exploit some child labor laws with!


G-Ma Johnson profile image

G-Ma Johnson 8 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

I have several and the children love to help..Play with your food is fun also. and the cake shapes are so great. In fact I still have one from when my children were growing up..a bit worn out but could be worth something now. Ha ha.. Still using it tho. Nice job my dear...G-Ma :o) hugs P.S. have aprons (chef) and hats too fun


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 8 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Thanks G-Ma, I will look into Play with your food. The title alone sounds like loads of fun! Aprons and hats too - most definitely! :-)


lil momma 2008 profile image

lil momma 2008 5 years ago

AWESOME recipe site! My son always wants too help with cooking....."wants to know how its made before he puts it in his mouth" LOL! Cooking with your kids brings lots of excitement too your kitchen & is so much fun


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Your kids can learn a lot of great lessons in cooking! Great that your son is helping you out in the kitchen, lil momma!


Ms Louise profile image

Ms Louise 4 years ago

This is a really solid hub. I am a big fan of cooking with kids. It's a great way to teach them new skills and spend time with them. Thanks for sharing the cook books...always looking for good ones!

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