If you want to cook with your children, you may be wondering if it’s worth investing in any kid-specific equipment — or if a wooden spoon and a mixing bowl is all you really need. Or, maybe your kids are a little young to get stuck into baking, but are curious around the kitchen. So, we spoke to eight chefs, cookbook authors, and cookery course leaders, and asked for their tips on cooking with kids. Here’s what they recommend, from kid-friendly knives to baking equipment and cookie-cutter sets.
For ages 2 and up
Stirring and mixing are among the first activities young kids can take on in the kitchen, so chef Cris Cohen, who hosts live cookery classes on his Feasted Facebook group, recommends buying them this set of bamboo utensils. The spoons and spatula can be used with nonstick cookware and are heat and stain resistant.
“When children start baking, they need lots of bowls,” says Angellica Bell, Celebrity Masterchef winner and author of Fantastic Eats & How to Cook Them — Fabulous Recipes for Children to Make. “It’s worth getting a good quality set that will last for years. This one is great as stainless steel is robust and it contains measuring cups and measuring spoons — always helpful for young cooks.”
“Worktops can involve children balancing on a stool with lots of things to fiddle with. It is less stressful to have them standing at a low table,” says Annabel Woolmer, mum of two and author of The Tickle Fingers Kids’ Cookbook. “Plus you can pass them what they need when they need it, avoiding distraction and keeping mess contained.”
Making ice lollies is a surefire hit with kids from a young age according to Rob Kirby, chef director of Lexington Catering and author of Cook With Kids. “You can make fruit lollies by blitzing up different fruits, like strawberries and raspberries, and pouring them into the moulds,” he says. This fun set will shape your fruit mixtures into a frozen shark, clownfish, octopus, whale and puffer fish.
Shauna Froydenlund, chef patron of Marcus and mum of one who recently appeared on Great British Menu, says that cookie cutters are one of the most useful tools you can have for cooking with young kids and she advises getting relatively cheap ones “as there’s a high chance they may end up a little damaged.” Chubb says she loves Hobbycraft cutters as “they are super cheap” and are “perfect for kids as they don’t have sharp edges.”
Silicone cupcake moulds were recommended by Woolmer and Kirby, and Monica Worsley, owner of Cooking It cookery school in Bristol. “Sticky mixtures tend to stick to paper cases, making them more fiddly for children to use. The silicone ones are easier, reusable and can be bought in fun colours,” explains Woolmer.
For ages 3 and up
“This is a brilliant way for children to learn how to measure,” says Ruth Chubb, founder of Three Bears Cookery children’s clubs in Derbyshire. Young children may find using conventional scales a bit tricky, but this clever cup makes it easy to measure both wet and dry ingredients, by simply filling it up to the relevant line.
“I always get my rolling pins from Wilko’s,” says Chubb. “They are good value for money plus they have the standard sized ones for older children and they also do smaller rolling pins, which are perfect for little hands.” [Editor’s note: Wilko’s mini rolling pins are currently out of stock, but we found this Amazon alternative.]
For ages 5 and up
Three of our experts mentioned that when children first start getting involved in meal prep they can cut soft ingredients using a normal table knife from your cutlery drawer. But Woolmer adds that plastic, serrated safety knives cut more easily than table knives, “so children can enjoy some independence learning to chop things like mushrooms, bananas, tomatoes, courgette, pepper and beans.”
“Sticking a chef’s jacket on your child will get them in the mood,” says Gary Maclean, the first National Chef of Scotland. He advises buying one from an industry supplier, which is where professional chefs buy their whites. “A lot of chef’s kids get these whites,” he explains. “They’re better quality than a lot of children’s chef outfits you can get online. They’re functional as well as fun, as they’re the exact same design and the exact same materials as proper chef’s whites are made from, so there is that same level of protection from heat and splashes.”
Kirby adds that to really help your kids get into character you could also get them little chefs’ hats. These ones are made from light polycotton, which will keep little heads cool.
For ages 7 and up
Maclean thinks it’s a good idea to let children choose the ingredients they’ll be working with. “Obviously kids aren’t shopping at the moment, but I used to get my kids to pick something from the fruit and veg aisle that they’d never seen before,” says the father of six. “They’d get a wee bit competitive about who’s got the best veg. It really got them engaged.” Family supermarket trips are off the cards at the moment, so Cohen recommends taking this set of edible plant identification cards on your next family walk. “Foraging for ingredients is so much fun and these printable cards are great for getting the whole family involved in the process,” he says.
This knife set comes recommended by both Bell and Worsley. “It is made by a well-known French company and has all the makings of a high-quality kitchen tool,” says Worsley. “Most importantly for young choppers, the set includes a finger guard to protect fingers from the blade during meal prep. Additionally, the knife and vegetable peeler have finger rings that encourage proper hand placement — minimising the opportunity for slipped fingers or incorrect grip that could lead to an accident.”
Froydenlund says she would recommend giving kids a pair of children’s scissors, like the ones in this set, so they can cut herbs, spring onions, and other soft ingredients without the need for a knife.
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