I’m a Dutch-British mum of two who worked in IT. My family and I have lived for many years in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, but we made a big move this year and are slowly settling into life in Canada in the beautiful city of Guelph.
Before having my boys, Elias (aka Eli) and Mishael, I to bake. After Eli came along, I struggled to keep my hobby alive, finding that as Eli grew up, he demanded all of my attention and insisted I include him in the kitchen.
One day, when he had just turned two, I gave him some stuff to do while I was baking. It turned out that he loved nothing more than being in the kitchen working with me! He enjoyed the whole process, from shopping, to arranging the ingredients, to squidging bananas through his fingers, to eating the final product! But I found it tough keeping an eye on him while having to refer to a fiddly recipe.
So I scoured children’s cookbooks for something that might help us, but consistently came across the same problems. Recipes were either too difficult for him to use – he couldn’t read or understand the measurements – or the quantities were waaaay too big for his little hands to manage.
Unbelievably, many KIDS’ cookbooks rely on sharp knives or open flames and require constant adult supervision.
Unbelievably, many KIDS’ cookbooks rely on sharp knives or open flames and require constant adult supervision. If recipes weren’t difficult or potentially dangerous, many were just too simplistic or boring (think, fruit “kebabs”, aka kiwis on a stick).
A truly kid-friendly recipe?
I asked myself whether there was a way I could “translate” proper recipes in such a way that Eli could do more of it independently. Here’s what I came up with:
Once I started drawing out recipes for him, I couldn’t believe how quickly Eli picked it up! From there, the next step was coming up with a way of measuring out ingredients so he could do it without having to read or understand fractions.
What I came up with has developed into the Cooking by Color Method, the basis for Little Cookery, the book. In a nutshell, I pared down the cup and spoon measures needed for the recipes, gave each cup a colour, and drew a coloured dot by the ingredient. All Eli needed to understand was “a purple one of flour and a red one of sugar”.
I tested the method out on Eli’s friends, and later, when he started school, his classmates, and they all got it!
An additional bonus discovery has been that parents and older kids who are dyslexic have told me that it is the first time that they have been able to confidently follow recipes!
I hope you see the transformations I’ve seen in my kids, and those I’ve taught, since we’ve been baking!
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