My son — who’s about to turn five — loves to cook, and we love letting him help in the kitchen.
When my wife and I first decided to have a kid, one thing we strongly agreed on was the importance of raising them to be capable and self-reliant, rather than coddling them. Many parents would never dream of letting their precious little one near a kitchen knife, much less have them use one. We feel the opposite; kids should learn (and learn to respect) these important skills from a young age.
With that in mind, I wanted to put together a list of gear and other stuff that would make great gifts for kids interested in learning to cook. Enjoy!
(And no, I don’t mean the kitschy sorts of things that are more like toys than real cooking tools, or which only give your kid the illusion of helping in the kitchen. If you’re going to teach them how to cook, really teach them! Sure, supervise and offer advice as needed, but also know when to step back and let them figure things out for themselves.)
It’s not some toy that’s only good for cutting soft bananas and such; it’s actually sharp enough for real cutting and chopping, but does have a built-in “educational ring” (which acts as an index finger grip to keep the user’s hand from slipping into the blade) and a rounded tip. It also comes with a plastic finger guard for added safety when learning how to hold foods while cutting them.
- Essential reading: Julia Moskin of The New York Times put together an excellent guide to 23 basic knife skills. Go over them with your kid and practice them together.
If you’re wary of letting a kid handle the sharp can edges most openers leave behind, you’ll love the OXO Good Grips smooth-edge can opener, which “deseams” can lids rather than cutting them. The large handles are soft and grippy, as is the easy-to-turn knob.
Joseph Joseph’s comprehensive (and colorful!) 9-piece nesting food prep + measuring set has everything your kid needs need to mix, measure, and drain foods to their heart’s content. As a bonus, if you’ve set up a special place for them to keep all their own cooking gear — which they are ideally washing themselves — then this kit will help keep that space tidy and organized.
The set includes:
- 10.5″ mixing bowl
- 9″ colander
- 7.5″ sieve
- 6″ bowl with interior measurements (milliliters/fluid ounces) and a spout
- 1-cup measuring cup
- ½ measuring cup
- ⅓ measuring cup
- ¼ measuring cup
- 1 tablespoon (with a line in the middle indicating teaspoon)
This one’s more of a shared gift for parent and kid. At 960 pages, this monster of a cookbook isn’t something you’d just hand to a kid and say, “Have at it!” but you can totally use it to teach them (and probably yourself) a bunch of useful techniques, along with why THIS works better than THAT, scientifically speaking.
Here are just some of the book’s lessons:
- The composition of eggs and the ways they change during cooking.
- The science of cooking various meats (steak, chicken, pork chops, and fish) quickly, along with the various types of heat transfer used to cook them.
- The shelf life of various cooking ingredients when stored properly.
- The 5 basic vegetable-cooking techniques and what they’re good for.
- The best way to cook pasta, and the five “mother” sauces at the root of nearly all pasta dishes.
- An in-depth explanation of stock for soups and stews.
- How to make a perfect salad.
If you want a book that’s more kid-oriented, check out Maki Kudo’s The Pokémon Cookbook, which just saw its North American release two days ago.
Come on, is there any better kid’s movie about cooking than Ratatouille? Putting aside the delightful tale of a rat doing the impossible by secretly becoming head chef at a Paris restaurant, this film shows a true respect for the culinary arts and teaches the important lesson that “Anyone can cook.”
Let’s face it, kids helping in the kitchen are going to make messes. Which is fine, because that’s how they learn, but that doesn’t mean we necessarily want them spilling stuff all over their clothes in the process.
This sturdy, machine-washable apron + hat set by ObviousChef helps keep their attire clean and makes them feel like real chefs. The hat is admittedly a little dorky, but hey, as long as they’re having fun, go for it. The set comes in a variety of colors and sizes (each of which is adjustable to an extent).