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My daughters second birthday is fast approaching and the presents are starting to roll in. One of the things we love to do together is cook, but my cookery books dont really hold much appeal for a toddler so her interest is lost quickly and she proceeds to eat quantities of flour! We were on the lookout for a suitable cookery book when Olivia received this from one of my friends.
***********Usborne and the Authors*********
The First Picture Cookbook is designed for children from the age of two and is part of the First Picture series of books. The authors claim that it is the perfect way to introduce children to the essential skills involved in cooking and food preparation. On the back it tells us that all the recipes are easy to follow and give lots of opportunities for children to get involved.
Usborne have published some of the most popular and appealing books for children that are available today, such as the Farmyard Tales series and introductory language books such as the First Thousand Words. I am always confident when buying Usborne books and am currently reading the French and English versions of the Farmyard Tales to my daughter to help with my French, as she loves the characters.
The author Fiona Watt and the illustrator Jo Litchfield have a great deal of experience in creating books for this age range. A quick search on their names reveals that they have produced an enormous range (the Amazon.co.uk search comes up with 267 results) of books for Usborne, mostly for the under-five age group. On seeing their previous publications I realised that that my daughter already owns quite a few books written by this team, so I was even more confident about it appealing to my daughter.
This book is made with paper from a sustainable forest, so you wont be single-handedly responsible for the decimation of the rainforest if you buy this book.
********Size and Appearance**********
This large and attractive looking book measures 27.2 x 23.2 x 2.4 cm. The front and back covers are beautifully illustrated with pictures of the recipes and the models which feature inside. Whilst the covers are matt, the figures and lettering are done in a rich gloss, which gives the cover a very tactile and attention-grabbing effect. Both the front and back covers are padded making this book very easy to pick up and carry around, something my daughter has been doing rather a lot of recently!
Inside are 16 pastel coloured pages made of firm board, laminated so they are wipable-something that is essential in any cookbook but especially necessary in ones designed for children. The pages lie flat when you open the book so there is no need to search around for things to weight down the pages as you cook.
There arent very many recipes in this book, only eight in fact, but each one is specially designed for children and grown-ups to cook together. Children get to do the fun bits whilst parents take care of the hot and dangerous parts of preparing these recipes. The first page of the book has six basic guidelines for parents, with pictures to demonstrate so children can understand too. These guidelines are things like wash your hands, encourage children to measure and add ingredients and dont worry about mess!
Each of the eight recipes are beautifully presented and easy to follow. The ingredients are well set out in a large and easily readable font, with the measurements given in both the imperial and metric systems. The items required for each recipe have been made as simple as possible and you are very likely to be able to cook the majority of these recipes using just what you have in your cupboards and fridge. This was vital for us as my daughter demanded cooking as soon as she saw the book and wouldnt be distracted or dissuaded from her desire! The amounts you can expect to make from each recipe are clearly stated above the ingredients and we have found them to be an accurate representation of what can be created (barring the inevitable child ingredient theft!).
The cooking process is illustrated by a series of numbered boxes, with the instructions put simply underneath. This book would be ideal for a child who was learning to read as they are very succinctly put, with few of the scary cooking and baking terms that litter adult cookbooks. In the boxes are little pictures corresponding to the text underneath to demonstrate to the child what they should be doing. Instead of using people the illustrator has made little Fimo models which have the advantage of not only being more interesting and appealing to children, but also make the whole process so much clearer.
The recipes themselves are pretty good, the muffin recipe results in tasty mini-muffins for children to decorate (although they taste better if you add in some fruit or chocolate chips) and the chocolate crispy cakes are pretty self-explanatory and straight-forward. My initial response to the crispy cake inclusion was why?, but I realised that my daughter had only ever made them with me calling the shots, with this book she can follow the process herself, encouraging her to be more confident in the kitchen. The fudge recipe is mis-described, it involves melting marshmallows and adding pink food dye amongst other things. This is the only recipe that I have not attempted as I would be concerned about the effects of the sugar and colouring on my daughters behaviour. We have made the cheesy shapes and the biscuit recipes, both of which allow for much vigourous rolling, banging and cutting out, leaving us both liberally covered in flour but having had a whale of a time! The flapjacks are very tasty, as are the cheese and tomato tarts, but the final recipe is our favourite-bread rolls! I love making my own bread so it was lovely to find this at the end of the book, hopefully Olivia will enjoy yeast cookery as much as I do!
I was doubtful at first because the recipes are extremely simple and straightforward, I have almost all of them in my own books and was unsure that they needed to be repeated. But seeing my daughters reaction to this book completely removed all of the doubts. From her first excited squeal on seeing the book to reluctantly putting down its floury and greasy covers this evening, cooking has become a new and more exciting interest. She has a real sense of ownership, not just of the book but also of the results at the end. My husbands workmates have received a cake from her sticky fingers and been told Livi cake, me made and she is protective of her cooking book, only she can hold, carry and open it! The recipes are pitched just at the right level for her and I can see this being a very popular book for a long time to come. Especially as they produce edible and delicious results, something that cannot be said for my more expensive cookbooks! If you have a toddler and want to encourage a love of cooking, you cant go far wrong if you start with this super book. I would assume this book would be suitable for children up to the age of 6/7 who can start to read and follow the recipes themselves.
********Price and Stockists****************
RRP is £7.99. You can buy direct from Usbornes website at usborne.co.uk
Amazon have it for £6.39, Marketplace offers start at £3