Cook up some fun... and teach your children all about healthy eating too
If the weather means you're stuck indoors over the holidays then why not do a spot of cooking with the children?
Rhian Williams samples books made to encourage budding cooks to tackle healthy recipes.
1. Ella's Kitchen: The Easy Family Cookbook: £4.99, Hamlyn
Suitable ages: from 7 months
In this latest recipe book from the popular baby food brand Ella's Kitchen, Ella Woodward (below) has plenty of ideas for cooking with your little ones, with nutritious recipes that both kids and adults will love. Chapters are divided into satisfying breakfasts, speedy lunches, hearty family feasts and simple treats - among our favourites were the apple hotcakes and banoffee tartlets. We love Ella's Kitchen's characteristically colourful graphic style and the book also includes fun activities to grab your children's attention, including how to make a DIY tablecloth, a one-week family meal planner, and tips on how to make animals from fruit.
2. The Best-Ever Step-by-Step Kid's First Cookbook by Nancy McDougall: £6.47, Southwater
Suitable ages: 5-12 years
We love how comprehensive this book is, squeezing in more than 170 recipes for a variety of different occasions. The chapters are divided into sections - packed lunches and picnics, snacks, quick and easy suppers, main meals, desserts, teatime treats and party food - covering everything from mini ciabatta pizzas to a tuna and bean salad. The helpful introduction includes tips for cooking safely, healthy eating, choosing equipment and how to prepare ingredients. Step-by-step instructions and simple ingredients lists make cooking a breeze, and there's a star-rating system that shows how easy or difficult each recipe is. The book is practical, too, with a waterproof cover, and its small size and lightweight make it easy for little ones to handle.
3. Super Food for Superchildren by Professor Tim Noakes, Jonno Proudfoot and Bridget Surtees: £14.99, Robinson
Suitable ages: 5 months-13 years
This is a must for anyone interested in nutrition. Not only does the introduction contain a wealth of nutritional advice, but there is also an extensive chapter completely dedicated to the science behind paediatric nutrition. The book focuses on low-sugar recipes, and is split into multiple sections - for pregnant mums, weaning babies, toddlers and older children - covering every meal of the day and featuring gems such as breakfast sundaes and veggie-packed smoothies. There's also a section dedicated to food for teens. Professor Tim Noakes is a medical doctor and sports scientist, Jonno Proudfoot is a chef, and Bridget Surtees is a dietician specialising in paediatric nutrition. The three of them have combined their skills to create simple guidelines that will enable you to feed your family delicious, healthy and inexpensive meals. This book is targeted towards adults cooking for children, rather than adults cooking with children, but most of the recipes are easy enough for children to get involved with, too.
4. Cook Me A Rhyme: In the Kitchen with Mother Goose by Bryan Kozlowski: £10.99, Walter Foster Jr
Suitable ages: from 5 years
This book combines traditional childhood games with recipes, featuring 17 dishes inspired by familiar nursery rhymes. Look out for Humpty Dumpty-inspired eggs in tumbledown toast, or the Baa, Baa, Black Sheep-themed black wool granola. The illustrations and large fonts create a visual effect that make it look more like a storybook than a recipe book, which means it's also particularly good for children who are learning to read. It's spiral-bound, which means children can flip through the pages themselves.
5. Kids in the Kitchen by Amanda Grant: £10.98, Ryland Peters & Small
Suitable ages: 3-11 years
This book, written by food editor and children's cookbook author Amanda Grant, is especially useful for parents with more than one child under the age of 11. The book is divided by age range (three to five, five to seven and seven to 11 years), with recipes targeted towards a child's intellectual development and independence at a certain age. The recipes are delicious, with some of our favourites including cheesy stuffed peppers, fruit and seed bread, and sushi rolls. There are plenty of tips for grown-ups and cooking advice specific to each age group. We love the step-by-step photographs, which show real children in the process of cooking, so it's easy for your kids to follow as they can visualise doing the steps themselves.
6. Nadiya's Bake Me a Story by Nadiya Hussain: £10.68, Hodder Children's Books
Suitable ages: 5-7 years
We love this book by Great British Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain, which combines a storybook with a cookbook in an innovative way. Stories and vivid illustrations by Clair Rossiter accompany simple, yet delicious, recipes such as gingerbread men, bean patties, and pea and mint risotto. The stories and recipes follow well-loved tales, such as carrot and nutmeg cookies inspired by Rapunzel, and Cinderella-themed pumpkin and spice flapjacks. The book also includes tips for cooking with children, such as how a recipe can be adapted if cooking with more than one child. The stories are suitable for children aged five to seven, but the book has been created for all the family to share together.
7. This Cookbook is Gross by Susanna Tee with Santy Gutierrez (illustrator): £9.99, QED Publishing
Suitable ages: from 7 years
This entertaining and innovative book, from prolific cookbook author Susanna Tee, is packed full of disgusting-looking (but actually yummy) recipes. Our favourites were roasted rat and magotty cheese for mains, and chewy cockroaches and whale skin for dessert. The book is highly visual, with simple instructions and lots of illustrations. There's a section with tips for planning a party, as well as fact sheets on "disgusting foods around the world", such as stinky fruit (durian) from Malaysia and Indonesia, bat soup from Palau and fried tarantulas from Cambodia. The book itself is another lightweight option, which makes it especially easy for children to work with.
8. Jolly Good Food by Allegra McEvedy with Mark Beech (illustrator): £7.94, Hodder Children's Books
Suitable ages: 7-9 years
This beautiful collection of recipes by Allegra McEvedy, a judge on the CBBC programme Junior Bake Off, is inspired by the stories of Enid Blyton. Each recipe comes with an excerpt from Enid Blyton's writing, which you can read while eating your own delectable creations such as homemade ginger beer, fluffy puffy cheesy pillows, pop-cakes and melt-in-your-mouth meringues. Chapters are themed by a different series of books: breakfast (The Naughtiest Girl), elevenses (The Secret Seven), picnics (The Famous Five), teatime (The Faraway Tree), supper (The Secret Island) and midnight feasts (Malory Towers). There are captivating illustrations by Mark Beech, and real-life photographs, so you'll know exactly how the dish is supposed to turn out. Despite the recommended ages, we reckon it's perfect for sharing with the whole family.
We love Jolly Good Food for its inventive resurrection of Blyton's beloved tales, while This Cookbook Is Gross gets top marks for creativity, and we love the extensiveness of The Best-Ever Step-by-Step Kid's First Cookbook, but our absolute favourite for child-friendly, healthy recipes that will appeal to children and grown-ups alike is Ella's Kitchen: The Easy Family Cookbook.