I love to cook. I love kids. And I love to cook with my kids. As we’ve been raising our four rugrats, my husband and I have both wanted to inspire them to enjoy eating, eat healthy food, and learn to cook.
Our first two are only 19 months apart. My son came along 2.8 years later. When he was six, we had our baby. (No, she wasn’t a surprise.) My husband is Italian-American. Cooking, eating, and enjoying food together was a big part of his childhood. He grew up in Buffalo and has fond memories of Sunday dinners at grandma and grandpa’s.
I am Jewish-American. Let me say upfront, knowing full well that I may be offending you, that Jewish cuisine is not known for its … succulence. How appetizing is gefilte fish? (Not.) What crazy person thought you should put sugar in a baked noodle dish? (Ugh.) That said, there are many delicious Jewish recipes, especially the Jewish-Italian ones.
[My all-time favorite cookbook with inspirational and utterly delicious Jewish recipes in it is Joyce Goldstein’s Cucina Ebraica.]
Each of our three older children makes a meal for the whole family once a week. The oldest would spend hours on this meal, making several courses, and always including a dessert. Our second born was a one-dish kind of chef. Her favorite meals to make are hearty ones, things like fettuccine alfredo and enchilada casserole. Yesterday when we FaceTimed she was making banana bread. She just started college this fall and she’s told me many times that she’s so grateful that she learned how to cook as a kid.
How do you inspire kids to love to cook?
- Spend time with them in the kitchen
- Give them jobs they can do
- Praise the effort not the outcome
How else do you inspire kids to love to cook? These 7 fabulous gifts are things kids who love to cook will love. If your child doesn’t yet love to cook (yet being the operative word), these 7 gifts will help light the passion-for-cooking flame.
1) An awesome apron with lots of pockets:
If you know how to sew, you can make your budding chef their own apron. If you’re not the crafty type, you can buy a personalized apron with your child’s name on it. Or buy them any apron decorated with their favorite foods. Our most loved apron is a riot of artichokes. A strawberry apron is a fun one too.
2) Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts and a set of magic markers.
This Moosewood cookbook isn’t only the best dessert cookbook ever written, it also has lovely illustrations that your kids can color. So even if your budding chef isn’t old enough to read yet, she’ll love looking at the pictures and coloring them in. This is a cookbook grownups don’t want to live without either. I substitute healthier flour in the recipes and use alternative sweeteners (like whole dates, grated apples, and pineapple) with fabulous results..
3) A wooden spoon.
Every kid needs their own wooden spoon. Both to cook with and to play “wooden spoon.” Wooden spoon is our family’s version of Thorns and Rosebuds. Whoever has the spoon has the floor. You take turns sharing. First the best thing about your day; then the worst thing about your day; then the silliest thing about your day; and finally something you feel grateful for. Spending time together eating and talking as a family helps foster a lifelong love of food, cooking, and together time.
4) Gourmet foods they’ve never tried.
It’s fun to discover strange foods and if you want your kids to have an adventurous palate, buy them the gift of interesting and unusual foods. My daughter loved sour plums when she was a toddler and ate escargot with relish. If you’re not ready to get that crazy, how about a small jar of caviar or some wild boar jerky? If you’re more of a vegetarian than a carnivore, gift your child some dried organic papaya or a shaker of seaweed “salt.” Spices of any kind also make a great gift. Other fun foods that make fabulous kitchen gifts for kids because they look unusual and taste interesting include dragon fruit, persimmons, fresh dates, broccoli raab, and fresh turmeric root.
5) A lemon reamer and a bag of Meyer lemons.
As I’ve written about before, there’s something so much fun about squeezing juice out of a lemon with a reamer, for kids and grown-ups. Every kitchen (and every kid) should have one. Meyer lemons are so delicious you can eat them raw, almost without puckering, skin and all. The skin is really good for you, as long as you buy organic lemons. It is considered pre-biotic, which means it provides food for the healthy bacteria that live in your gut.
6) A sharp knife and a bamboo cutting board.
Kids in Japan learn to use knives when they are just three or four years old. In America, we hover and helicopter, which fosters anxiety, instead of encouraging them to love to cook. Get your child a sharp knife and spend an afternoon together teaching him how to use it safely.
7) A DIY kit to make DIY counter spray.
This is easy. We make our own kitchen counter spray using equal parts white vinegar and water, 10 drops of essential oils (our favorites are lemon, lavender, and rosemary), and a drop or two of dish soap. For heavier duty cleaning we add a couple of drops of Goo Gone. You and your kids can experiment with the proportions you like best. There are a million great recipes on-line. Mommypotamus is a good place to start. Gift your child a spray bottle, the ingredients to make DIY spray, and a recipe. If you’ve never used essential oils before, consider getting yourself a starter kit while you’re shopping for fabulous kitchen gifts for kids. You might consider buying your kid a sponge too. A special sponge that only he or she is allowed to use during kitchen clean up. They can learn to love to cook and maybe even love to clean up, which you’ll love.
Do your children love cooking or do they stay far, far away from the kitchen? What gifts for kids in the kitchen have I forgotten? Please share your ideas with us in the comment section below.