Stores are more than happy to tote lists for cooking gifts for kids, but in reality they’re putting forward those things they want to sell the most, not what kids necessarily want. To find out what cooking gifts kids really want I did the obvious: I talked to kids, both mine and other peoples.
Here is a list of the top 10 kids cooking gift suggestions as made by real kids, and why they chose these specific things.
Specialty Cookie Cutters
The number one recommended cooking gift for kids, as recommended by kids, was shaped cookie cutters. In fact, for 4 out of 5 kids it was the very first thing they said. Most told me that it didn’t matter how many they already owned, they were always open to owning more. All who I talked to in groups agreed, very emphatically, that you can never own too many cookie cutters and that they made great gifts.
Best Type: Plastic cookie cutters are probably the best ones to get, especially for kids. Plastic cookie cutters are great gifts for kids because they clean up easily without the use of specialty metal cleaners. Newer ones can usually be washed in the top rack of the dishwasher. They don’t rust or loose their shape with excessive use. Best of all, they’re less expensive than fancy steel, tin, or brass cookie cutters.
For kids, their first apron is a big deal, especially if it’s given as a gift. It’s seen as a graduation of sorts that says,”I’ve arrived. I’m a big kid now.” The kids I talked to all said that having their own apron made them feel welcome in the kitchen and not like they were trespassing. Cooks can be very territorial, and this is something kids pick up on. Giving them their own apron as a gift lets them know that they are part of the ‘cooking tribe’, as one boy called it.
Best Type: A basic bib-apron, like the kind you would find in a professional kitchen, is usually inexpensive, and easy to wash. They’re rugged enough to take most of the things kids deal out, without seeming cheesy or cheap. Couple it with a set of colored permanent markers that they can use to personalize it and you have one of the best cooking gifts you could possibly give to kids.
Personalized Chef’s Coat
If you’re shopping for a kid that watches a lot of cooking shows consider getting them a chef’s coat. This is also a great cooking gift for kids that have been working around the kitchen for a few years already and are graduating to higher, more complex levels of cooking and baking.
Best Type: Again, the kind worn by chef’s in professional kitchens is going to be your best buy. Decorative chef’s coats cost more than professional ones, and like decorative aprons, are harder to wash. A basic white coat, also called a jacket, coupled with colored pens is a good bet.
Specialty Cupcake Pans
Interestingly, kids typically chose aprons and coats over shaped cupcake pans. After their emphatic request for cookie cutters one would think that fun cupcake or cake pans would have been the next thing on the list of cooking gifts they wanted. For some it was, but for most the idea of making specialty cupcakes was rather advanced and involved. The consensus was that if you hadn’t earned your apron yet you weren’t ready to make your own Christmas tree or jack-o-lantern shaped mini-cakes yet.
Still and all, after the honor of the apron was bestowed, specialty shaped cake and cupcake pans were the next on the list.
Best Type: Silicone or metal? The answer is: both. Kids who haven’t worked with them before were split on the preference. Those who have agreed that both types were good as gifts because they did different things. Some preferred metal because metal doesn’t bend and can be used in much hotter ovens. Others preferred silicone as gifts because they were easier to clean and less ‘clunky’.
Brightly Colored Rolling Pins
Mom’s rolling pin is a status symbol in the eyes of many kids. Girls especially like the idea of having their own rolling pin, and pointed out that things like cookie dough are usually divided in two to start with. It makes sense, especially to them, that they and mom can both be working on rolling out dough, cutting cookies, and filling baking sheets at the same time. Boys pointed out that mom’s rolling pin didn’t have ‘flame paint jobs’ (apparently things like this are very important!) and were usually too big for them to handle, which frustrated them.
Best Type: Every kid I talked to wanted a colored rolling pin. They said it was more important to them that it was a ‘cool color’ than whether or not it had a tendency to stick to what it was rolling. This is good, because plastic and ceramic rolling pins are the ones you’re going to be looking at when choosing a color, and these are the ones that tend to ‘stick’. Also, they said that they didn’t’ want rolling pins that were lighter in weight, just smaller so they were less awkward to deal with.
Cookbooks With a Lot of Pictures
There are a lot of picture cookbooks out there that are aimed at kids. But most of these tend to frustrate young foodies, who are often well past the level of skill required to complete the recipes within. A regular cookbook with lots of pictures is what they want. It was also pointed out that cookbooks that are marketed for kids typically contain recipes that use a lot of sugar or pre-processed foods that their parents don’t want them to have anyway. The kids said that these books were a waste of time for them since they ended up not getting to make very many of the recipes in them.
Best Type: Regular cookbooks, aimed at older beginner cooks, is going to be your best buy for these types of gifts. Choose one, or a set, with lots of photographs, especially if the photographs show examples of techniques and methods. Larger, more involved cookbooks may overwhelm kids, so stick to smaller niche cookbooks, and find out what niche the kids are interested in. The right cookbooks can be great cooking gifts for kids.
Empty Cookbook For Writing Their Own Recipes
Creating their own recipes is one of the great joys of learning to cook for many kids. Give them an empty cookbook or recipe card collection with container to keep track of all of the wonderful things they come up with. All of the kids I talked to agreed that getting their own cookbook to fill out was akin to getting a journal or diary. In the eyes of the kids the giver is saying that their ideas and thoughts are valid and worth preserving. Plus, it’s just a lot of fun!
Best Type: Diary is the operative word in choosing a vessel to be the gift of an empty cookbook. Most of the kids I talked to said that a book with lined pages and a clasp were preferable. Some wanted big ones, some wanted small ones, and some wanted leather books that looked like wizard’s journals. A few older kids, both boys and girls (13-16 age range) said they’d prefer cards with a box, though they wouldn’t turn down a journal or diary. One boy suggested a box that looked like a treasure chest to hold regular lined index cards.
Most of the kids I talked to said that having their own cutting board or mobile work surface was like having their own desk at school. It let them know what their space was and made them just naturally start to organize what they were doing so that the chaos and mess were significantly reduced. They said that it was less frustrating for them to help with the cooking if they had their own workstation, which to them meant a cutting board.
Best Type: This depends on whether the kids you’re buying for are interested in cooking or not. If they aren’t the best buy is going to be a plastic cutting board that is a fun color and/or shape. It should be small enough for them to move around easily, but large enough to cut up a large banana on. If the kids you’re buying for are already a little experienced with cooking but it’s their first cutting board a plastic rectangular board is going to be your best buy. These are kids that know the basic ins and outs of cooking and can appreciate the utilitarian aspect of these kinds of gifts. Older kids, like teenagers, who have been cooking for several years already, are the type you give wooden cutting boards to as gifts. The teenagers I talked to said that a good, heavy wooden cutting board with no feet was their board of choice, like many adults. This is something that, if taken care of right, will last for many years, well into their adult lives, and possibly something they can pass on to their own children someday.
It seems simple, and maybe a even frivolous to some. To kids, however, having their own ‘coffee’ mug is something very special, no matter what they put in it. These are a great cooking gifts for kids of all kinds, especially if they don’t already have mugs of their own. The kids I talked to said that seeing their mug sitting up their with mom and dad’s told them, “You belong here.” It was very personal to them and exceedingly special.
Best Type: A personalized mug is always a safe call, though you may want to consider the taste of the kids you’re buying these gifts for. Having a mug that has the kid’s name or astrological sign on it may be good for most, but some kids may prefer a mug that looks like a rocket ship, while others may want one that looks like an over-sized soup mug. As far materiel is concerned I recommend ceramic, except in the case of very small children or preschoolers. For them microwavable plastic is your best buy for these gifts. For all others, ceramic ends up being the best choice because it is dishwasher safe, heavy enough to feel good in the hand, and makes the kid who owns it feel special. After all, it’s breakable, which means you trust them enough to handle it.