Tools to Kitchen Creativity

Ginger Carlson
May 4, 2009

Cooking with a child is another wonderful way to connect: with each other, the world, and our unique creative selves.  It allows us to explore natural materials, mimic real scientists, and learn ways to approach future problems.  As children play with recipes and ingredients, they ask questions and make discoveries that will lead to a greater understanding of their world.  So with an eye towards encouraging our kids to really get cookin', here are a few wonder-filled tools that help can us cook up some good old-fashioned curiosity and creative fun together.  

An Apron of Their Own
If you are just beginning your cooking forays with your kids, try making it by adding chef hats and aprons and bring all the fun (and importance) of pretend play to your kitchen.  Cooking clothes are found readily at toy stores, but consider making your own with some fun cooking-themed material or scraps leftover from last year's official Halloween costume.  Check restaurant supply stores for more official-feeling chef wear.

Pastry Brushes
We all need to oil our pans from time to time. Whenever you have a pan to grease, let your little ones "paint" the oil on it for you. Painting pans is great fun for kids of all ages. You don't have to have a fancy or expensive pastry brush to do the job. The best and longest lasting pastry brush I ever had was a good paintbrush I bought at our local art store. Any brush will do, but if you can find a brush that is between one and a half and two inches, that is usually best and most versatile for painting both larger pans and smaller areas such as muffin tins.  

Kitchen Scale
Add a scale to your kitchen for some extra math as well as creative fun. Kitchen scales come in all sizes, shapes, and colors and run the gamut in pricing. We picked one up at the dollar store and it is working just perfect. Scaled by ounces, this is a perfect way for children to measure and compare the size of their cookies, energy balls, apple slices, or other cooking projects.

 Cheater Chopsticks
Cheater chopsticks (ones that are connected at one end and effectively help your eaters "cheat" while eating with chopsticks) are a perfectly fun way to add a little creativity to your snack and meal times.
With these great little utensils kids can take steps towards chopstick use while doing some fun snacking: pieces of tomato, spinach leaves, chunks of cheese, pieces of popcorn or crackers, mini carrots, snap peas, baby corn, cucumber slices, rice and beans, and even nibbling on larger things like whole pieces of toast using these nifty little tools. These are novel utensils that might even get your little ones trying things they might otherwise turn their noses up at. In addition, they make for great storytelling during mealtimes as these little people and animals go marching across your table.

When my son was about three, he saved his money for months and months. It took him that long to earn up the twenty dollars it took to buy this wonder-filled kitchen gadget, the handy-dandy Apple-Corer-Peeler-Slicer. It remains a favorite cooking tool to this day, one well worth his money. This amazing, and kid-friendly (once an adult has set it up), gadget takes an apple and simultaneously cores, peels, and perfectly slices it in a matter of seconds.

With it you can:
-Eat raw apple snacks
-Let your child combine the apple pieces with any combination of oats, butter, brown sugar, agave, and cinnamon, toss together and bake until browned for their own special apple crumble. (a perpetual hit here!)
-Dip the peeled skin pieces in a batter and make apple skin fritters
-Blend the apple slices into pulp and eat as raw apple sauce, or
-Cook the apple slices with water and cinnamon down into a cooked sauce.

Of course, just watching the whole phenomenon of the gadget doing its job is truly amazing.

Melon Baller
When hot weather hits, watermelon is one of the best foods to help combat dehydration. And while it takes very little for kids to get excited about eating watermelon, they will also give a cheer for getting the watermelon ready to go if they can scoop out all that juicy sweetness with a Melon Baller.

To use, push the Melon Baller deep into the fruit and twist for perfectly round balls. You can also use a Melon Baller to scoop out the insides of zucchini (goes great in a smoothie), pineapple, any number of other summer fruits, or even use it for little scoops of ice cream.

And look what other fun a Melon Baller can bring:
Add some diluted food coloring to your Melon Baller (hold your finger over the hole until your ready) and use it for painting, ala Jackson Pollock.

Scary Fingers
Learning to cut and use a knife is an important and valuable skill when learning to cook. Try this technique when guiding children in learning to use a knife: tell them to use "scary fingers". Pretend to be a scary creature with them and hold your curled fingers up in air. Then try it on a piece of fruit (or veggie) and practice holding the fruit in place. Last of all, add the knife to the scenario.   For a safe introduction to using knives, try this plastic lettuce knife (that also works well with bread, fruit, and other veggies without a metal blade).

Cooking the Books
Last but certainly not least, for inspiration, motivation, and laughs, add some stories to your cooking fun!  Here are a few favorites to get you started:

Sun Bread by Elisa Kleven




Cook-A-Doodle Doo by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens



Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper




So as you enter your kitchen together, pull out your tools, and cook up some fun and creative thinking together!  Bon Appétit!

Ginger Carlson is an educational consultant, speaker, and award-winning author.  She writes about creativity and cooking in her book Child of Wonder: Nurturing Creative and Naturally Curious Children.  Please visit her online at


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