Do you enjoy cooking with your children? Or maybe you’d like to start but aren’t sure where to begin?
Getting kids involved in the kitchen provides a myriad of benefits:
- It’s a language-rich environment that will boost your child’s vocabulary and increase other literacy skills, including print awareness and building narratives. Reading and following recipes gives children of all ages the experience of working in a logical and organized manner — the very same traits a storyteller must use in order to craft an expert narrative. And just think of all the new words and sensory experiences awaiting a child’s discovery in the kitchen?
- Cooking promotes mathematical reasoning abilities. Working with ingredients is a fabulous way to exercise a toddler’s one-to-one correspondence skill as well as introduce meaningful counting. Kindergarten and early elementary students will gain real-life experience working with fractions, addition and subtraction, and multiplication and division. More importantly, following a recipe emphasizes the key skills of planning, ordering, and sequencing — all of which are integral to solving math problems. They’re also pivotal life skills.
- Getting kids involved in food preparation promotes healthy eating habits. New studies are beginning to show that children who cook on a regular basis tend to be more adventurous eaters, too.
- Cooking is also great for social-emotional development. Taking turns, practicing patience, overcoming setbacks, and learning how to collaborate with others are all skills that are crucially important for young kids to work on, and there’s no better place to practice these than in the kitchen.
- Measuring, stirring, whisking, pouring, mashing — all these movements require precision, control, concentration, and coordination. As concerns about the lack of fine motor development in our children continue to grow among early childhood educators, allowing our kids more opportunities to manipulate tools and materials in a real, meaningful setting becomes even more essential to their overall health.
- Cooking can boost a child’s creativity. Food preparation is a special blend of art and science, and children love to experiment. Provide them with the foundational knowledge required, and then allow them the opportunity to come up with their own variations on dishes.
- It’s an easy way to expose your child to other cultures. Food is integral to cultural identity. Examining one’s cuisine can help us better understand a person’s way of life, their history and traditions, and their values and beliefs. Since food is a fundamental need of all humans, learning about different cuisines can help foster respect and understanding of other cultures.
Here are more than 30 fabulous children’s books that are sure to inspire you and your children to prepare a delicious meal together!
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BEE-BIM BOP! by LINDA SUE PARK | View on Amazon
A young girl enthusiastically helps her mother prepare bee-bim bop. The rhythm of the prose makes this a really fun read-aloud!
[RECIPE: Bee-Bim Bop!]
DUMPLING SOUP by JAMA KIM RATTIGAN | View on Amazon
Seven-year-old Marisa is excited about helping her family make dumplings for their annual New Year’s Eve celebration, but she’s worried no one will like them when they turn out a bit different than the rest.
THUNDER CAKE by PATRICIA POLACCO | View on Amazon
A grandmother helps her granddaughter overcome her fear of thunder by embarking on an adventure to collect all the ingredients to bake a special cake before the storm arrives.
[RECIPE: Thunder Cake]
SATURDAYS AND TEACAKES by LESTER L. LAMINACK | View on Amazon
A young boy recalls the special bond he shared with his grandmother and fondly remembers how they would bake teacakes every Saturday afternoon during the summer.
MAMA PANYA’S PANCAKES by MARY CHAMBERLIN | View on Amazon
Mama Panya begins to worry there will not be enough food when her son invites everyone he meets at the market to a pancake dinner. This is a heartwarming tale about community and generosity.
[RECIPE: Mama Panya’s Pancakes]
RAINBOW STEW by CATHRYN FALWELL | View on Amazon
A rainy summer day turns out to be a perfect opportunity for a grandpa and his grandkids to harvest vegetables from his garden and then prepare Rainbow Stew together.
[RECIPE: Rainbow Stew]
SOUP DAY by MELISSA IWAI | View on Amazon
A young girl helps her mother make vegetable soup on a snowy winter day. This is a great pick for young toddlers.
[RECIPE: Snowy Day Vegetable Soup]
PIZZA DAY by MELISSA IWAI | View on Amazon
Here’s another one by Melissa Iwai, except this time a young boy helps his dad prepare pizza, using homegrown vegetables from their garden.
[RECIPE: Garden Pizza]
10 GULAB JAMUNS by SANDHYA ACHARYA | View on Amazon
Brothers Idu and Adu cannot resist eating their mother’s gulab jamuns she prepared for their evening dinner guests. But when there are no longer enough to serve their expected guests, what do Idu and Adu do? Help their family make more of course!
[RECIPE: Gulab Jamuns]
BILAL COOKS DAAL by AISHA SAEED | View on Amazon
Six-year-old Bilal is excited to help his dad make daal and share it with his friends, but he’s also a bit nervous they may not like it. This is a great book about both patience and friendship.
[RECIPE: Bilal’s Daal]
THE UGLY VEGETABLES by GRACE LIN | View on Amazon
A young girl, envious of her neighbors’ pretty flower gardens, is embarrassed by her mother’s ‘ugly’ vegetable garden. But once the vegetables are grown and harvested and made into soup, she realizes just how special her mother’s vegetables really are.
[RECIPE: Ugly Vegetable Soup]
CORA COOKS PANCIT by DORINA K. LAZO GILMORE | View on Amazon
A young girl jumps at the opportunity to help her mom cook a cherished Filipino family recipe when her older siblings are out for the day.
[RECIPE: Lolo’s Pancit Recipe]
FRY BREAD: A NATIVE AMERICAN FAMILY STORY by KEVIN NOBLE MAILLARD | View on Amazon
Beautifully illustrated and written, Kevin Noble Maillard’s book celebrates fry bread as food, history, art, and community. He details how it serves as an important part of Native American culture and heritage.
[RECIPE: Kevin’s Fry Bread]
SWEET POTATO PIE by KATHLEEN D. LINDSEY | View on Amazon
After a drought destroys all their crops except sweet potatoes, a close-knit African-American family in the 1920’s must work together to save their farm.
[RECIPE: Mama’s Sweet Potato Pie with Mama’s Extra-Flaky Pie Crust]
HOW MAMA BROUGHT THE SPRING by FRAN MANUSHKIN | View on Amazon
When Rosy Levine doesn’t want to get up in the morning because it’s yet another cold and snowy day in Chicago, her mother empathizes and then recalls how she felt the same way one morning growing up in Minsk, Belarus and how her Mama managed to brighten up the day and bring in spring by making her infamous cheese blintzes. With everything from a made-up jingle to a cherished family tablecloth, this book serves as inspiration to come up with your own special ritual in the kitchen to help make it through those last few seemingly never-ending days of winter each year.
[RECIPE: Mama’s Cheese Blintzes]
APPLE DAYS: A ROSH HASHANAH STORY by ALLISON SARNOFF SOFFER | View on Amazon
When Katy’s mom can no longer go apple picking and make applesauce with her for Rosh Hashanah, a neighborhood pitches in to help carry on the family’s annual tradition. This is a sweet tale about the power of community and helping one other.
[RECIPE: Katy’s Applesauce]
THE PUMPKIN MAN FROM PINEY CREEK by DARLEEN BAILEY BEARD | View on Amazon
Hattie desperately wants a jack-o’-lantern, but her father must sell every pumpkin he’s grown — except the one reserved for Ma’s prize-winning pumpkin pie. Thankfully, the pumpkin man from Piney Creek is able to help!
[RECIPE: Ma’s Blue-Ribbon Pumpkin Pie]
PEENY BUTTER FUDGE by TONI MORRISON and SLADE MORRISON | View on Amazon
A cute story about three children spending the day with their Nana, culminating in making yummy fudge just in time for when their mother arrives home. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of the rhymes in this book because they feel forced on some pages, but it’s still a cute book about a grandmother’s magical relationship with her grandchildren.
[RECIPE: Peeny Butter Fudge]
POP POP AND ME AND A RECIPE by IRENE SMALLS | View on Amazon
A grandson joins his grandfather in the kitchen to bake a lemon bar cake. This is another great choice for young toddlers.
[RECIPE: Lemon Bar Cake]
APPLESAUCE DAY by LISA J. AMSTUTZ | View on Amazon
Maria and her family make applesauce using a cherished family heirloom. The back matter includes some additional information on apples.
APPLESAUCE SEASON by EDEN ROSS LIPSON | View on Amazon
A young boy looks forward to making applesauce with his family every year. Include this one in autumn-themed book rotations to illustrate how even city dwellers can easily partake in this cherished fall family tradition.
RICE PUDDING: A COOKING POEM by JORGE ARGUETA | View on Amazon
An enthusiastic child prepares rice pudding in this bilingual culinary poetic adventure.
[RECIPE: Rice Pudding]
SATURDAY SANCOCHO by LEYLA TORRES | View on Amazon
Every Saturday Maria Lili prepares chicken sancocho with her grandparents. But one week there isn’t enough money to buy the necessary ingredients. With the assistance of her grandmother, Maria Lili learns how to barter what they do have for what they need at the local market.
[RECIPE: Mama Ana’s Chicken Sanchoco]
THE CRANBERRYPORT SERIES by WENDE DEVLIN | View on Amazon
You may be familiar with Cranberry Thanksgiving and Cranberry Christmas, but did you know there’s an entire series about Maggie, her grandmother, and Mr. Whiskers? As a bonus to this delightful series, each book also has a special recipe included:
- Cranberry Thanksgiving [RECIPE: Cranberry Bread]
- Cranberry Christmas [RECIPE: Cranberry Cookie]
- Cranberry Mystery [RECIPE: Grandmother’s Famous Cranberry Pie-Pudding]
- Cranberry Halloween [RECIPE: Cranberry Dessert]
- Cranberry Valentine [RECIPE: Upside Down Cranberry Cake]
- Cranberry Birthday [RECIPE: Strawberry Cake]
- Cranberry Easter [RECIPE: Cranberry Cobbler]
- Cranberry Summer [RECIPE: Cranberry Punch]
- Cranberry Autumn [RECIPE: Cranberry Squares]
LITTLE CHEF by MATT STINE and ELISABETH WEINBERG | View on Amazon
Lizzie excitedly prepares her grandmother’s favorite meal and hopes it passes the taste test! The included recipe is simple enough for even the youngest toddlers to help.
[RECIPE: Chef Lizzie’s (Grandma’s) Super Special Smashed Sweet Potatoes]
EDDIE’S KITCHEN AND HOW TO MAKE GOOD THINGS TO EAT by SARAH GARLAND | View on Amazon
Eddie and his younger sister, Lilly, help their mother prepare a special birthday dinner for their grandfather.
[RECIPES: Spaghetti with Rich Tomato Sauce; Crusty White Bread; Orange Drizzle Cake; Baked and Buttery Apples]
MAX MAKES A CAKE by MICHELLE EDWARDS | View on Amazon
Max is excited to bake a birthday cake for his mother, but when his baby sister requires the full attention of his father he worries they’ll run out of time. Quick-thinking, Max takes initiative to creatively solve the problem.
[RECIPE: Hurry, Hurry, Hurry Cake]
TEA CAKES FOR TOSH by KELLY STARLING LYONS | View on Amazon
Tosh shares a special bond with his grandmother, Honey. But when she begins to forget things, Tosh carries on the tradition of making a cherished family recipe and recalling their heritage story.
[RECIPE: Tea Cakes]
APPLE CAKE: A GRATITUDE by DAWN CASEY | View on Amazon
Written in simple rhyme, a young girl expresses her gratitude for everyone and everything that helped contribute to the baking of a delicious homemade apple cake.
[RECIPE: Apple Cake]
FANNIE IN THE KITCHEN by DEBORAH HOPKINSON | View on Amazon
During her time as a mother’s helper, Fannie Farmer, recognized now as the creator of one of America’s first cookbooks, helps an initially resentful young girl learn to cook by writing down the precise measurements needed along with other culinary tips and tricks. If your child enjoys this picture book, be sure to also check out The Fannie Farmer Cookbook.
[RECIPE: Fannie Farmer’s Famous Griddle Cakes]
Looking for additional children’s book suggestions? Visit The Ultimate Montessori-Friendly Book List to see what else we’ve enjoyed reading together!
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Do you have any other children’s books that inspire you to cook with your children? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!