There’s no way to sugarcoat it: Cooking with kids will probably wreck your kitchen. But make like Elsa and just let it go. Getting children involved in culinary pursuits helps them learn math, become more adventurous eaters, and most of all, gives you something rewarding to do together as a family that doesn’t involve a screen, which is even more important now that everyone’s stuck at home. A great kids’ cookbook, and some strategically deployed kids’ cooking sets and kitchen tools, make the experience all the more fun and accessible to kids, while helping to minimize the mess.
Molly Birnbaum, a mom of two and the editor-in-chief of America’s Test Kitchen Kids, urges type-A parents to relax their standards and accept that “things are going to get really messy. That’s just how it is.” The benefits of cooking together far outweigh the inconvenience.
“Food is a wonderful lens into learning about so many subjects. Kids learn where food comes from and how to use kitchen tools to cook it. In terms of creativity, they learn how to plate and decorate foods. To learn math, they measure out ingredients. It’s fun, and kids don’t feel like they’re in school. And when you’re done, you have something delicious to eat and share,” she says. Cooking is also just “a really fun thing to do with other people.”
If you’re wondering what to cook, many chefs recommend starting with dessert, because if you want to get kids exited about cooking, serve them a cupcake or a brownie they helped make. In terms of gear, you don’t need a ton to get started, but a few basics will help keep things under control, and kids engaged. Here’s what Birnbaum recommends to make the most of your inter-generational cooking endeavors.
The Best Kids’ Kitchen Utensils
In order to use all his or her new kitchen tools, your little sous-chef will ideally be at counter-level. Elevate your culinary sidekick with this wood toddler tower. Easy for kids to climb and for parents to clean, the tower gets little kids safely up to counter-level so they can watch, help, and learn.
Warning: This knife is sharp, so kids need to be supervised while they're using it. But it's also the best learning set you can get, because it comes with a finger guard that holds food securely while they cut it and also protects their knuckles. The set includes a 4-inch knife and a peeler with a finger ring.
The Best Kids’ Cooking Subscriptions
In lieu of traveling, bring the world to you with these global food boxes. You can choose to explore a country, a continent, or the world at large. Every monthly package includes three recipes, pre-measured spice/sauce mixes for each recipe, shopping list, country brochure, activity sheet, country sticker, flag pin, and a collectible. Shipping is $5.
Sometimes it's best to let the experts to do the planning for you, so join this wonderful cooking club for kids, which teaches them to make things like carrot cake cookies. Every month you get three recipe guides, a kids cooking tool, apron patch collectibles, and a fun kitchen project you can do together.
Another monthly option, Foodstirs was co-founded by Sarah Michelle Gellar and mostly focuses on low-sugar, low-junk sweets, like sparkly apple bites. A typical kit includes an organic mix, chemical-free decorations, plus the necessary cooking supplies and kid-friendly instructions you need.
The Best Kids’ Cookbooks
This is the ultimate baking book for the master baker in the making, from America's Test Kitchen. Cupcakes, empanadas, pretzels... these recipes have been tested and tasted by more than 5,000 kids, and feature detailed photos of every step, giving young chefs lots of independence in the kitchen.
From Molly Katzen, the chef who gave the world its (arguably) best-beloved vegetarian cookbook, 'The Moosewood Cookbook,' in 1977, 'Pretend Soup' gives the same to the newest generation of little cooks. Intended to empower kids in the kitchen with delightful culinary experiments, from Tiny Tacos to serious focaccia.
Written by Amanda Grant and illustrated by Harriet Russell, this cookbook takes the authentic regional Italian dishes from the classic adult edition and makes them approachable for kids, without making them seem any less sophisticated. Reissued last year to celebrate its 10th anniversary in home kitchens everywhere.
The sequel to Molly Katzen's 'Pretend Soup' and another sure winner for short-stack cooks. As with all the best kids’ cookbooks, the goal of these recipes is to encourage kids to experiment, have fun in the kitchen, appreciate healthy food, and cook with a confidence and curiosity that will carry them through life.
The Best Kids’ Cooking Sets
Every chef needs the right tools. This set comes with 22 kitchen tools in all, including a child-size apron, color-coded measuring cups and spoons, basting brush, wooden spoon, whisk, mixing bowl, star-shaped silicone pan, and five recipes to get your little chef started.
Every product on Fatherly is independently selected by our editors, writers, and experts. If you click a link on our site and buy something, we may earn an affiliate commission.
This article was originally published on