I don’t have a great track record of cooking with my kids. Cooking is an outlet for me, and sometimes it’s hard to let my kids join me in my already-cramped kitchen. My middle school boys actually know their way around the kitchen pretty well; it’s my 10-year-old son and my 4-year-old daughter I have a harder time including.
They make messes, they ask a lot of questions, and I have trouble finding recipes that are simple enough for them to help with. I own a couple of different kids’ cookbooks, but I’ve never found one truly written for kids with recipes geared to their skill level. Until now.
Kid Chef Junior: My First Kid’s Cookbook by Anjali Shah is one of the best kids’ cookbooks I’ve ever seen. It’s a great entry point for young kids wanting to learn how to cook. And if you’re an adult who needs some guidance in teaching your kids about how to cook, this cookbook has something to offer you, too. Let me tell you all about it.
When you first flip through Kid Chef Junior, these are the sections you find:
- Table of Contents (with clear page numbers for each chapter and each recipe)
- Kid’s Kitchen (with headings like Kitchen Rules, Cooking Equipment, and Cooking Class)
- “Real Meals”
- Cooking with Kids 101: A Guide for Grownups (with kitchen hacks and a cheatsheet for teaching kids kitchen safety)
- Measurement Conversions (between the U.S. Standard and the Metric System)
- Indexes (both an alphabetized recipe index and an index cross-referenced with ingredients)
- Foodie Doodles (a place for your child to draw pictures of the food they make)
Kid Chef Jr. Recipes
First, I have to say that pictures in this cookbook are beautiful. The bright colors catch your eye, and your kids will love seeing pictures of other kids actually making the recipes.
Healthy & Tasty
The second thing I want to mention is that the recipes are secretly healthy. Even the desserts are made with clean ingredients and minimal sugar. But the thing is, this is never really pointed out anywhere in the book. Which I love.
Because who says you have to make a big deal out of eating healthy to a kid? Make it appealing. Make it the norm. And make it exciting (by empowering them to make it themselves).
The recipes in Kid Chef Jr. are well-organized, and the directions are clear. And the best part is that the difficulty of the recipes is rated by oven mitts. (How cute is that?)
1 oven mitt = Easy (can be done mostly on their own)
2 oven mitts = Medium (more challenging, requires a little adult supervision)
3 oven mitts = Hard (more complicated definitely requires supervision)
9 of the recipes in the book are rated Easy.
9 are rated Medium.
And 6 are rated Hard.
If I had to pick a couple of favorite recipes from each section, here is what I’d recommend:
- Breakfast — Apple Cinnamon French Toast Bake and Bunny Pancakes
- Real Meals — Butterfly Quesadillas and Goblin Green Pasta
- Snacks — Alphabet Pretzel Sticks with Cheesy Dip and Treasure Trail Mix
- Desserts — Tricolor Ice Pops and Fun Fruit Rolls
I know with titles like those, my kids will be all over these recipes.
The Cookbook’s Unique Qualities
Kid Chef Jr. stands out from the crowd of kids’ cookbooks because of several things:
The Kid’s Kitchen section. I have never seen a kids’ cookbook give such clear instructions for how to follow a recipe or for kitchen and food safety. I’m a hand-washing freak in the kitchen — it’s something that I am always reminding my kids of, so I love that it’s one of the kitchen rules mentioned.
It almost feels like this is a kids’ cooking class wrapped up in a book. Not only are they getting hands-on experience cooking, they’re learning good skills from the very beginning.
The Oven Mitt rating system. I think it’s adorable, and it allows your child to glance at a recipe and know right away whether it’s something they want to tackle or not.
The Stop Signs. Any time that your kid reaches a point in the recipe where they need an adult’s help, there’s a stop sign. I love how clear this is.
Space for writing notes. On each recipe, there are the following prompts:
- I made this recipe on: (date)
- It tasted: (circle the stars)
- Who helped?
- I made it my own by:
With these little spaces for the kids to fill in, the cookbook becomes a little scrapbook of sorts, too.
Guide for Grownups. This section of the book is the part written for people like me who could use a little coaching when it comes to teaching their kids to cook. The author gives you all of the tips you need for giving your child freedom in the kitchen while teaching them about safety at the same time.
The tips are super specific and practical, too, like telling you to teach your child to grate and peel only in one direction or to hold their non-knife holding fingers in a claw shape.
It’s literally written for your kid. Besides the Guide for Grownups, everything in this book is written for and to your child. It’s not a cookbook for grownups who want to cook with their kids (although you can use it that way). It’s a cookbook for kids who want to learn to cook with an adult.
If you haven’t picked up on it by now, I love Kid Chef Jr. The only thing that I would change would be to add more recipes, but that’s only because I like it so much.
I think Kid Chef Jr. would make a great gift for your child. It would not only help them gain confidence in the kitchen but help the two of you build memories together. I would recommend it for kids ages 4-9.
So, if you’re like me and need some prodding to get your kids in the kitchen with you or you love cooking with your kids and are looking for a great cookbook, pick up a copy of Kid Chef Jr. You won’t be disappointed.
Disclaimer: I was given an advance copy of this cookbook to review. All opinions, though, are my own.