At 20 months, my daughter already loves to cook. She has her own apron, and she insists on helping with most of the food preparation around the house. While I prepare a meal, she pulls out her step stool and asks to help. She loves to stir, dump ingredients, or count out ingredients as she adds them to a pan. When it comes to teaching kids to cook, I realize that she may not always be as helpful. (Eating handfuls of cheese does not constitute “helping Mommy to make pizza”). However, I love that she is excited about it!
My mother always told my sister and I that she wanted us to know how to cook before we moved out. It is something I am definitely grateful for. I’m thrilled that my daughter is already showing signs of enjoying working in the kitchen. When I was given the opportunity to review The Tiny Chef: Recipes Preschoolers Love to Cook and Eat by Dr. Kendall Becherer, I was excited to find new ways to get her involved in the kitchen. Dr. Becherer’s book has already given me many recipes and skills to try with her. This is a great read if you are interested in teaching kids to cook!
Standard Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. In order to support this blog and continue providing free content, I may receive a commission from purchases you make through the links in this post. I was provided with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
The Tiny Chef: Recipes Preschoolers Love to Cook and Eat by Dr. Kendall Becherer is a great introduction to cooking for small children. The author starts the book by explaining how children learn so much by participating in daily tasks, such as food preparation. While it can sometimes be easier to do the cooking ourselves (egg shells and toys don’t belong in the batter!), it is so important for kids to learn by participating. It is also important for them to feel like they are a productive member of the family and the community.
The book is broken down into 10 skills needed for food preparation that young children can help with. The beginning of the book breaks down these tasks for the adult reader. It gives them tips on how they can introduce these skills to children while helping them to be successful. The book then uses large, bright photos to walk children through easy recipes they can prepare. To start out, children are instructed how to properly wash their hands and wash produce. The recipes increase in difficulty to include dishes such as Spring Rolls or Ice Cream.
After the kid’s section, Dr. Becherer breaks down the recipes for adult readers, including the ingredient measurements and more detailed instructions. A section at the back includes nutritional information and easy changes to adapt the recipes for dietary restrictions. I love the attention to detail in providing vegetarian options and gluten free options. This book includes easy foods for people of all diets and tastes to enjoy!
The inspiration behind the book
I had the opportunity to talk to Dr. Becherer about her book and the inspiration behind it. Her background in educational psychology and her interest in how we learn, gives her an interesting perspective on teaching kids to cook.
What was the inspiration behind writing this book?
My son loves watching cooking shows and helping us prepare food, but I’ve had a hard time finding good resources on how to work with young kids in the kitchen. Due to my interest in Montessori education (including teaching kids self-care and exposing them to learning tools that closely resemble real life), I decided to use photographs of kids making food as the backbone of my recipe book. I already had some photos of our Tiny Chef and his friends from their first year of food camp, so I took more photos the second year and figured out the best way to arrange them to make kitchen techniques and recipe ideas accessible for more families.
Your acknowledgements section talks about Janet Kilmer and her food camps, which sound so interesting! Can you tell us about food camps?
Food camp is our favorite! For four consecutive days each summer, our friend (local music teacher and outdoor school director) Janet Killmer leads an all-outdoor summer camp for young kids (and their parents) that exposes them to the process of how food is prepared, using whole food ingredients. We meet for 2.5 hours in a fenced backyard space with a fire pit, grill, child-sized tables, and other food-prep items (bowls, utensils, water, etc.).
Mrs. Killmer plans recipes that involve different skill levels, where the 6-12 month olds are mostly mouthing & tasting ingredients, the 1-2 year olds are learning skills like dipping and breaking foods, 2-3 year olds learn to mash and sprinkle, 3-4 year olds mix and scoop, and 4-5 year olds measure and assemble ingredients. Of course, parents get to do some work too. We all enjoy eating our hard work for lunch at the end of the class.
How did you decide which skills to introduce to readers?
To choose which kitchen skills to represent in this recipe book, I looked at the skills the students were learning in the photographs I had already taken. These skills arose organically from presenting the kids with tasks at different ability levels and watching which kids (at particular ages) were able to accomplish certain tasks. Just through the act of trying to make a variety of recipes, we were able to see which abilities the kids needed to develop in order to contribute meaningfully to preparing a variety of recipes.
How did you decide which recipes to include in this book? Are these recipes you make often?
About 80% of the recipes were chosen because they were part of our food camp curriculum. The other 20% are recipes we make at home frequently that I felt were simple and healthy and helped to add more balance to the book. I wanted a mix of single-ingredient snacks, several-ingredient meals and a few, more complex meal combinations (such as chicken salad and spring rolls).
Do you have plans to write another book?
Yes! I already wrote the Tiny Chef Kitchen: Getting Started Guide ebook to help parents take simple steps toward involving their kids in the kitchen. I’m planning to write another recipe book this summer, after our next food camp!
Your blog posts show fun and interesting ways to get your son involved in food preparation. Does he have a favorite task while helping in the kitchen?
Our Tiny Chef loves eating avocado with a spoon, so I’d say scooping is his current favorite thing to do. He also loves to cut watermelon slices into tiny pieces, either with a fork or dull butter knife. He’s learning how to put one hand on top of the knife to safely keep his fingers away from the blade, and loves to remind everyone to keep their fingers safe!
With my daughter’s early interest in cooking, we will definitely be using the advice and recipes in this book! I’m excited to watch while my daughter’s love of cooking and her interest in food blossom with the strategies Dr. Becherer outlines. If you are interested in teaching kids to cook, this is a great resource for parents to have!.