Draw Out Recipes For Kids Who Can't Read 

Your hands clench, your heart beats faster and you can feel your inner micromanager emerging: While preparing dinner, your preschooler has just walked up to you and asked, "Mama, can I help you cook?"

Pretend Soup by Mollie Katzen

Say yes. Cooking is a wonderful skill for young kids to learn - it fosters a sense of independence, teaches them to follow directions, and shows them that meals don't just magically appear on their plates. And - best yet - because they are intimately involved in the whole process of putting food on the table, slicing the cucumbers and pulling the leaves off each strawberry, they're much more likely to eat it in the end.

It helps to give your kid his own dish to work on - something simple that doesn't require prior cooking knowledge, complex calculations, or even an ability to read. At the library, I came across Mollie Katzen and Ann Henderson's wonderful Pretend Soup, a visual cookbook filled with easy-to-follow recipes.

There's one for Bagel Faces:

Pretend Soup by Mollie Katzen

And another for Zucchini Moons:

Pretend Soup by Mollie Katzen

And then there's the book's namesake Pretend Soup:

Pretend Soup by Mollie Katzen

With each recipe, Katzen and Henderson give safety warnings and other tips for parents ("Select your squash according to the age of your child," they write. "Experienced five- and six-year-olds can cut a six-inch zucchini, but a three- or four-year-old will have an easier time with a smaller baby zuke."). Throughout the book, they emphasise the fun in food prep: "Spills are what sponges are for. So keep plenty of sponges around, and a good time will be had by all!"

After finishing Pretend Soup, you can check Katzen's other kids' cookbooks, or you can try illustrating some simple recipes of your own. In our Offspring Facebook group, parents shared that some of their kids' favourite dishes to make themselves include omelettes, pancakes, potato leek soup, pizza and a French-style yoghurt cake.

As your child gets the hang of following recipes, continue to oversee the process, but give her the space to mess up and start again. It's all part of learning to cook.

When your tiny chef is done, don't forget the final step: Eat! Soon enough, you'll be asking the kid, "So, what's for dinner?"


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