Given I now work as a freelance children’s cookery teacher a significant amount of my time is currently taken up with recipe research and development along with teaching children how to cook. Recently, unless it is promoting various skills, has the potential to be knife-free and suitable for a school kitchen it’s likely to have been made in our home kitchen. The kitchen also seems to be dominated by a distinct pile of cookbooks that are allegedly meant to be aimed at children and/or their parents. There are the odd gem in the pile, but it has also made me aware of a huge gap in the market of which I’ll leave for another blog post.
There has been many a mention in the media regarding children cooking including a BBC post about why you should cook with children and an article in the Telegraph that had a potentially controversial slant on getting kids cooking. For me cooking with children is not about producing a Michelin starred masterpiece, it’s about key life skills, creativity, fine-motor skills and most importantly having fun.
There are some amazing people out there who are doing a fantastic job of inspiring children of all ages and their parents to get cooking:
Fiona Bird – A Masterchef finalist who has given me some superb advice & support over the last year. Her book Kids’ Kitchen is worth a look at.
Nick from My Daddy Cooks – Nick along with his adorable 3-year-old son Archie vlog the cooking they do together in the kitchen. A great way of seeing how you can differentiate recipes for younger children and get them involved.
Michelle Stearn has written a superb article on teaching knife skills to kids along with some suggestions for cutting tools. Unfortunately some of these tools mentioned don’t appear to be available in the UK at the moment, but I’m working on it.
Gastronuts by Stefan Gates – Gastronuts is aimed at the market that seems very much neglected in cookery. Upper primary aged children and specifically boys. I know many of my pupils adore this programme, even I’m a fan. An educational food program that tells it as it is and inspires. To be honest it is even better than some of the food programmes that are aimed at adults!
When it comes to cooking with children don’t bother with kids’ cooking kits. The equipment is often too small to be useful and the kits can end up being expensive. I find Wilkos is fantastic for decent quality, affordable cooking equipment along with local and online cook shops, like Squeak, for various biscuit cutters. This is the basic equipment I recommend:
Chopping board – embrace the giant Swedish warehouse that is Ikea.
Silicone fairy cake cases – silicone fairy cake cases has a multitude of uses – not just for baking cakes, but great for mini frittatas as no oil is required, you can make mini jellies in them plus they are also great for sorting ingredients into at the beginning. Again Wilkinsons is the cheapest for these, but it also worth keeping an eye out in Pound Shops as I’ve picked some fun shaped and sized ones in there.
Silicone spatula – Not technically essential, but in my kitchen I’m lost without it. Great for scraping the bowl out.
Thes cake cases and the spatula are the only silicone bakeware I rate. There is many reasons for this. 1) The silicone bakeware doesn’t get hot enough for larger items to cook properly, 2) Silicone bakeware isn’t very stable and has a tendency to go wobbly when trying to transfer it to the oven.
Mixing bowl – Easy to get hold of in a multitude of sizes. To help stop the bowl slipping while the child is mixing place a damp cloth under the bowl.
Wooden spoon – any will do.
Baking tray – In my classes I use the small cheap baking trays that are often in Supermarket’s value ranges as they are smaller so you can fit more in the oven. If you use silicone fairy cake cups all you need for most baking is a baking tray.
Selection of cutters – I pick these up in lots of places and buy them when I see them. You don’t have to have special cutters. Upturned glasses or cups make great circles.
Rolling pin – Can be picked up for as cheap as 30p.
Patience & sense of fun – not essential but it does help!
The main thing to remember this that it doesn’t go right all the time, but then again life would be boring if it was always perfect. Cooking is not about being perfect, it’s about learning.