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!

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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.

My tiny chef

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!.


106 comments on “Teaching Kids to Cook with The Tiny Chef!”

    • I agree it is so much fun to cook with kids! I hope you enjoy the book. It has a lot of great tips.

  1. This looks like an awesome book! My 2 & 5 year olds love to help in the kitchen any chance they get, so this could be a very useful guide for me to help them learn. I agree that it’s important for little ones to learn how to navigate the kitchen. I think when you start young like that, it builds their confidence and therefore leads to more enjoyment with cooking. Hopefully that also leads to healthier eating throughout their life since they won’t have to depend on the boxed, processed foods.

    • Yes! Exactly! My mom always wanted my sister and I to feel comfortable in the kitchen, so that we could whip together a real meal for ourselves with whatever we have in the kitchen. I think having that confidence in the kitchen really helps!

    • It is a really handy guide for parents and kids! Kids can use the pictures to learn how to follow a recipe, while adults can use the more detailed recipes to help along the way.

    • I’m so glad! I hope you enjoy it! My daughter loves to get her apron out when it is time to cook (plus, who doesn’t love an adorable little kid in a tiny apron!).

    • That’s awesome! This book has a lot of great tips for getting kids of all ages involved in cooking!

  2. I’m a chef and I really want to teach my son how to cook when he’s younger. I think that it would be an awesome thing to do together!

    • That is great! I think getting kids into the kitchen early making it so much more fun for them!

  3. I love to cook myself and cannot wait my daughter to grow a bit more to involve her too. This book sounds interesting.

    • Haha, yea their “help” isn’t always as helpful as they want it to be. This guide gives some great advice on helping them perform tasks like breaking eggs correctly.

  4. My baby isn’t to this stage yet, but I love to cook and I hope she will, too. I would love to involve her in the kitchen, but it’s hard to let a little one “help.” Sounds like I need to check out this book! Thanks!

    • It’s a great resource for getting them started with small tasks and building up to bigger ones. I definitely recommend it to get her started!

  5. I want to get my daughter involved in the kitchen more often. I’m just usually rushing to get meals done there isn’t time to really enjoy cooking with her.

    • I found that preparing meals became more fun when my daughter started helping. Although giving her specific tasks definitely helps reduce the added chaos!

  6. I love this post! I loved cooking with my mom and can’t wait to start involving my son (19 months). We already bake a lot together. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • That’s great! I have so many great memories of being in the kitchen with my mom, so I am excited to already be making memories with my daughter too!

  7. This sounds like a great book! I have been looking for ways to get my kids involved, in the kitchen, but wasn’t sure where to start! I’ll definitely be adding this book to my list of things to buy!

    • It can definitely be difficult to have so many helping hands in the kitchen. I love that my daughter enjoys helping though!

    • It can definitely add to the prep and clean up, but it is so much fun to watch kids learn and explore!

  8. That’s awesome that your daughter likes to help prepare meals already. There is something great about that. My daughter liked to do it early on. She still does really. Every thanksgiving she has to help me out with everything.

  9. I love getting the kids hands on in the kitchen! Sometimes we do imptomptu baking sesdions when they aren’t quite getting along…works wonders!

  10. This is so so awesome!! We eat mostly paleo, so I am constantly in the kitchen, and my toddler absolutely loves to join. I really think that knowing how to cook is such an important skill to have – definitely interested in the book. Thanks for sharing! <3

    • I hope you enjoy it! I agree that learning to cook is such an important skill for us to teach our kids.

  11. I really love this! My son loves to help me bake and cook, but, sadly, I’ve avoided having him help because he’s messy. LOL

    • It can definitely add to the clean up! This book has some great tips on helping kids get involved in helpful ways.

  12. So cool, you’ve got an author interview up right now too! It’s great to be able to ask the author of a book you love questions, isn’t it? (Mine was my first time, so I’m still really excited about it,haha)
    This book sounds great. I love bringing my girls into the kitchen, and it really interests them, but with cooking (rather than baking) I get anxious about safety. I’m going to take a look at this book to see if I can get some tips on how to better integrate cooking with the kiddos into our lives, thanks for sharing!

    • I hope you like it! I love having the opportunity to talk to the author about their thoughts and intentions behind the book. Your interview was great!

  13. I love this! I will definitely have to get this book when my son is old enough for it. I really want to teach him from a young age that he can do just as much kitchen “stuff” as mommy! =) Thanks for this review!

  14. What a great beginners cook book for the little ones. My girls absolutely love to cook and bake with me!

  15. I need this book in my life! My 6 year old is pretty confident in the kitchen but my 2.5 year old still needs a lot of guidance.

  16. This book sounds awesome! My 21 month old loves helping so I’m sure she would really enjoy this. I’ll definitely have to check it out!

    • I hope you enjoy it! My daughter loves helping, so it was nice to find new ways for her to actually help.

  17. The book sounds brilliant, I love getting the kids involved in the cooking! Thanks for sharing the interview also. Great to see the ideas behind how the book came about x

    • I love when my daughter wants to get involved with cooking too! I really enjoyed hearing the author’s thoughts and intentions behind the book.

  18. This looks like a terrific book! Children can learn so many different skills through cooking…math, nutrition, measuring, reading, and following directions. This book would make a wonderful gift too.

    • I agree! There are so many great lessons for them to learn and skills to practice. Plus you can make some great memories!

  19. I think this is great! It’s important to teach them young when it comes to things like this. I want my Son to grow up knowing how to cook for himself so he never has to rely on anyone else! 🙂

  20. This is wonderful! I’ve been wondering how to get my four year old more interested in cooking and this is such a great resource!

  21. I love this, I mean so much so that I was going to make a cook book like this myself lol. Oh well you snooze you loose. Love cooking with kids, it teaches so much and provides a special bond between you and them.

    • Aw! I agree it gives you so many opportunities to teach your kids and make some great memories!

  22. This is a brilliant idea! I often struggle with wanting to get my girls involved, but not sure what’s age-appropriate in the kitchen. Thanks for sharing!

  23. This book looks very cool! I feel like many children take an interest in cooking with their parents, but parents do not always know how to go about letting them help out. I pinned this for the future (my only child is only 11 months old). I really hope she is interested in cooking!

    • I agree! It can be hard to figure out how to let them help. This book gives a lot of great tips on how to help them be successful!

  24. What a fabulous idea! I’m sure your little one loves the opportunity to cook with you. I hope my little one is excited by that as well. It’s a great way to spend time together.

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