Equipment to get kids cooking – for real or for play – News-Herald
By KIM COOK
Introducing children to cooking can be more than fun. It can teach skills and possibly inspire children to eat healthier.
Temporary mess in the kitchen, lifetime reward.
Here’s a look at the latest gear for budding chefs, from toys to real things.
Play kitchens were a coveted toy at least as far back as the 1950s, when Sears’ catalog offered the all-steel Rite-Hite line, refrigerator, and work sink for just under $30. Toy company Little Tikes introduced its Efficiency kitchen in 1977, complete with a microwave, stove, fridge and sink, and followed with the 1980s Party Kitchen, featuring a bright green canopy, fold-down peninsula , a sink, two burners, cupboards and a wall. – telephone mounted.
If you’re feeling nostalgic, there are plenty of vintage kitchens for sale online. And Little Tikes is still on the market, with the Home-Grown Kitchen, a wedge-shaped unit with battery-powered cooking that feels like boiling water and a sizzling stove.
If you’re looking for a play kitchen that looks like a grown-up designer, you’ll find plenty of options.
KidKraft’s farm-to-table kitchen embodies the country-chic trend with lights, running water and cooking sounds, a farmhouse sink, hooks for kitchen utensils and “planted” planters. plastic onions and carrots that can be chopped and prepared. The Create & Cook kitchen has a vintage vibe and is equipped with plenty of cooking and storage sections. Three food sets let you make faux avocado toast, peach popsicles, and apple pie.
Pottery Barn Kids and West Elm collaborated on a mid-century modern toy kitchen with a two-burner stove, oven and sink in a poplar frame with white MDF (medium-density fiberboard) cabinetry. Or choose the Chelsea kitchen, with Shaker-style cabinets in white, grey, dusty pink or black, with brass hardware.
For play-ready gear, Pottery Barn Kids’ cream-colored solid wood toaster pops out two slices of perfectly made (fake) bread with a flick of the lever. And there’s an Italian cooking set with a metal pasta pot, sieve, ladles, serving platters, fluffy faux ravioli and felt butterfly pasta.
Melissa & Doug’s Wooden Slicing Cookie Dough Set comes with icing toppings, tray, spatula and oven mitt for sweet pretend baking. Start the game meal with a tasty salad, using their 50-piece set of felt greens, veggies, chicken, and shrimp, plus a bowl and utensils. Self-adhesive tabs give vegetables a crisp sound when sliced. Time for a drink? A coffee maker comes with three pods, faux cream and sugar, and a menu card for little baristas to order correctly.
Cooking in a real kitchen with kids isn’t just about ingredients, recipes and preparation, says Food Network star Guy Fieri. “It’s about harnessing imagination, empowerment and creativity.”
Parents should start with basic food safety, says the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Start by pulling long hair back; wash hands, surfaces and tools; separate raw and cooked foods. The association defines the ages at which skills can be introduced. The youngest – around 3 to 5 years old – can wash fruits and vegetables, mix ingredients in a bowl, wipe down counters and cut cookie dough. Older children can gradually be given other utensils, ovens to watch, etc.
A sturdy stool is important for bringing young children up to counter height.
New Jersey mom Catherine Santonacita recommended Guidecraft’s hardwood and plywood stool, complete with non-slip mat and foldable side panels fitted with poster boards. His daughter Emilia has been using it since she was 2 years old; she is now 4 years old and the adjustable feature of the stool has come in handy.
A cute apron helps kids get to work. Jennice House aprons feature whimsical animal prints in fun colors; the cotton apron ties in the back and has an adjustable neck strap.
Santonacita and the team at America’s Test Kitchen give Opinel’s Le Petit Chef knife set high marks with built-in rings to help kids learn the right grips, plus a plastic finger guard.
Marisa Issa from Los Angeles has been cooking delicious things with her daughter Samantha since Sam was around 4 years old. “We started by making banana bread using Julia Child’s recipe because we always have ripe bananas around.”
The Klutz Kids Magical Baking Kit, one of Sam’s favorite 7th birthday gifts, includes tools, decorations and recipes to make imaginative treats like mermaid-themed pies, cheesecakes, fairy and pretzel sticks.
Baketivity’s 31-piece set includes a slew of recipes, kids’ tools, and a silicone baking mat printed with helpful measurements.
Pizza making is a great family activity. In the western suburbs of Chicago, Matt and Lindsey Martin and their boys Keegan, 8, and Landen, 5, use an Ooni pizza oven for Neapolitan baked pizza. The kids’ favorite part of the process “is watching the pizza transform from the ingredients they put together into a final product they can eat and others enjoy too,” says Matt.
Growing up in an Italian family, Danielle McWilliams made a lot of pizza as a child; she does now with her daughters Reese and Remi. They are also great bakers.
“We make Rice Krispie cupcakes and treats, scratch cookies for holiday gifts and parties,” says McWilliams. They also make Italian tarallis, a cross between a breadstick, a bagel, and a pretzel.
Parents can consider in-person or online cooking classes for kids. Raddish Kids, Tiny Chefs, The Dynamite Shop, America’s Test Kitchen, The Kids Table and Chop Chop Family all offer digital sweet and savory recipes and instructions and/or online courses and videos.
Some have interactive features; kids can upload photos of their finished dishes and receive achievement badges. Chop Chop also has a print magazine.
Santonacita says her children’s early introduction to cooking yielded unexpected and rather sophisticated results.
“Emilia is an adventurous eater,” she says. “She likes the duck poutine and mussels in white wine from our local restaurant. She’s not a cheap date.