April 9, 2012
The Toddler Cookbook
By Annabel Karmel
2-4 Preschool Primary DK 48 pp.
978-0756635053 Hardcover $12.99
Toddlers can be notoriously picky eaters. It's not unheard of for parents to be confronted with a child who suddenly refuses to eat "orange cheese" or anything "brown." How best to handle the ever-changing landscape of the toddler tastebud? Annabel Karmel, author of The Toddler Cookbook, has, perhaps, the most hands-on, educational, empowering suggestion - give children some ownership over the food they eat. Let them help prepare it.
The Toddler Cookbook functions on two levels. On the one hand, it's a collection of easy recipes that pair visual appeal with nutrition (lettuce boats and pasta with cherry tomato sauce) in such a way that busy parents with no time to puree a pound of spinach and hope for the best can feel confident that the food they've given their child is healthy and might just get eaten. On the other hand, The Toddler Cookbook is literally a cooking primer for toddlers and preschoolers with easy-to-follow instructions, kid friendly ingredients and copious photographs featuring other children preparing the recipes step-by-step. While most of the recipes do involve some parent-only steps like roasting tomatoes in the oven or cutting onions with a knife, the majority of steps, like drizzling olive oil, stirring batter and crushing garlic in a press can easily be done by children with a parent's supervision. The end result is a healthy meal that the child had an active hand in creating. This ownership goes a long way towards making the food appealing, particularly if the child chose the recipe herself.
The hands-on act of cooking also serves as a great introduction to the concept of amounts, proportions, weights and measures, as well as an opportunity to practice following directions and fine motor control. Most of all, parent-child cooking is a bonding experience that, if done routinely, can follow that toddler and her parents all the way into adulthood, when smiley pizza faces and cupcakes become an important shared memory. The Toddler Cookbook, with it's easy instructions and nutritious kid-friendly palette may not completely solve the problem of the picky eater, but it could go a long way to helping, and provide a slew of other benefits in the meantime.