Do you have a kid in your life who loves a good baking session? Who really wants to use your chef’s knife? Who is addicted to the TV show MasterChef Junior, and who uses words like “umami” in regular conversation?
There are many terrific gifts to encourage the fledgling cooks in our lives.
An all-inclusive cooking kit (besides the ingredients) is often a great catalyst for getting kids into the kitchen.
Handstand Kitchen makes a slew of them, including a Rainbows and Unicorns Ultimate Baking set, with cookies cutters, unicorn-shaped cupcake tray, spatula, frosting bag with three tips, and a recipe leaflet and sticker sheet. Other offerings here include the Out of This World space-themed baking kit; a 17-piece Intro to Baking kit; and several matching adult and child apron sets.
Curious Chef’s kits include a 17-piece prep set with bowls, measuring cups and spoons, and a timer. Made for Me has kits for particular foods, such as a Beginner’s Pasta and Pizza Making Set for Kids, as well as a macaron set, sushi set and pancake party set.
Here’s a gift that leaves something to look forward to after the holidays are over. Options include:
Raddish (think Rad Dish). Each month, a new kit arrives at your door filled with recipes, tools and activities that incorporate science, math, geography, language arts, nutrition and more. Comida Argentina and Family Date Night are two sample themes. The kits are designed by teachers and chefs for kids ages 4 to 14, and each includes three illustrated recipe guides, a cooking tool (such as a garlic mincer or kitchen timer), and other materials.
Young Chef’s Club . From the folks at America’s Test Kitchen, these monthly kits are also thematic. Kids ages 5 and up receive a box filled with family-friendly recipes, hands-on activities, and extras ranging from board games to tortilla warmers to special sprinkles.
Culinary Adventure Society . For kids who already know their way around a kitchen and are craving new ingredients and flavors to play with. Up to four times a year, Zingerman’s specialty food store in Ann Arbor, Michigan, will send a big box of eight to 10 interesting and on-trend food surprises. A box might contain maffe, a peanut simmer sauce from West Africa; Lisbon lemon marmalade; or a tamarind date sauce inspired by Somali cuisine, for example. A collection of writing on the foods’ history and culture is included.
A new smart kitchen tool is exciting, even empowering. Examples:
Immersion blender. For a slightly older kid, it can be used to blend things like soups and sauces right in the pot. That save syou from having to transfer hot liquids into a regular blender or food processor, so it can be a safer way to puree things. Breville makes an All in One Immersion Blender that also transforms into a food processor, so kids can take on different levels of chopping as they get more skilled.
Ice cream maker. Just plain fun. Cuisinart makes one in a variety of colors, with a 1 ½-quart capacity and the ability to get to a frozen treat in less than half an hour. Get creative on flavors. Maybe enhance this gift with some sprinkles/jimmies.
Indoor Garden: Kits include the Smart Garden , which allows you to grow herbs, tomatoes and salad greens. AeroGarden makes indoor gardens as well, as does Back to the Roots , including a mushroom-growing kit.
Cutting Boards. Giving kids their own cutting board makes them feel as though they’ve arrived. You can support Unicef.com by ordering one of many hand-carved boards, such as the teakwood Daily Grain from Guatemala, or the Beautiful Meal board from Thailand. Or memorialize a family recipe for a child on a cutting board: Carver’s Ridge lets you send in a recipe, choose a font and board size, and have your recipe engraved into a fully functional work board.
It’s fun to play around with a single ingredient in many forms.
Salt: Jacobsen Salt Co. offers an eight-vial set with exotic-sounding offerings like Alaea Hawaiian Sea Salt, French Sel Gris Salt and Bolivian Rose Salt. Or try flavored salts, all featuring salt crystals from Oregon, and seasoned with ingredients like lemon zest, black garlic and ghost chilis.
Olive Oil and Vinegar: The worlds of olive oil and vinegar are both vast. For starters, you can make new and different salad dressings all week long. O-Med, a small company from Grenada, makes lots of varieties, including smoked olive oil, yuzu olive oil and olive oil from Arbequina olives. Encourage the kids to mix and match those with cabernet vinegar, rose vinegar and cava vinegar. Your family’s vinaigrettes with never be the same.
Honey: Bee Raw Honey has a beautiful nine-vial assortment of honeys ranging from floral and sweet to buttery to “barnyard.” The honey comes from different flower sources across the country, and sales help support artisanal beekeepers.
One of the coolest things you can get a budding chef is a knife that’s safe for little fingers and that they can call their own. My son had one during the under-10 years that made him feel like a pro.
Curious Chef makes nylon, serrated knifes with ergonomic handles for small hands and a very blunt tip. Kuhn Rikon’s Kinderkitchen Essential Set contains two knives, one serrated, one not, and a pair of scissors for cutting herbs and vegetables. Everything is child-friendly, designed in cute animal shapes, and made of stainless steel. Made for Me makes a beginner’s knife designed like a traditional chef’s knife, with hollow edge depressions and a sheath for storage.
Lots of kid-friendly cookbooks and food books out there, for all ages. A few to check out this holiday season:
From America’s Test Kitchen , “The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs” and “The Complete Baking Book for Young Chefs.” All recipes are kid-tested. The little chef hat symbols let you know how much experience is needed for each recipe.
“Notes from a Young Black Chef” (Knopf, 2019): Award-winning, 29-year old executive chef Kwame Onwuachi was raised in New York City, Nigeria and Louisiana. He started cooking at a young age under his mother’s direction, and tells an intense story of moving up through kitchens both gritty and elite. This memoir centers on the experience of being a minority in the culinary world, and finding a place in the sphere of fine dining.
“The Best American Food Writing 2019” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019): For more advanced readers, a collection of work from 25 writers, edited by cook, teacher and author Samin Nosrat (“Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat”). Topics range from the queer history of tapas, a day in the life of a restaurant inspector, and a deep dive into beans.