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This holiday...Teach your kids to cook!
As we get further into the holiday season, trying to think of gifts that will entertain throughout the next year can be trying. With that in mind, how about considering something that will not only entertain your child but teach him and create self-esteem as well?

There's no better way to teach a child about food and nutrition than to have him learn how to cook. The good news is that there are many kids' cookbooks — both classics and new additions — to choose from!

For children ages 2 to 5 there's a wonderful book called "Sesame Street: C is for Cooking" by Susan McQuillan. "Sesame Street" has been actively promoting improved nutrition to children for years, starting with Cookie Monster's warnings about eating too many sweets. This book is a companion to the messages being taught on the program. Full of wonderful pictures of everyone's favorite "Sesame Street" monsters and critters, it's a joy to read and very easy to use. Better yet, the author is a registered dietitian so you can be confident that the recipes are nutritionally sound as well as tasty!

For kids 7 and older, Better Crocker has republished "Betty Crocker's Cook Book for Boys and Girls." This was my first cookbook, and it's still in my collection. Originally published in 1957, the reissue is identical to the original book, including the '50's artwork. It brings back wonderful memories to those who learned to cook so many years ago. Although it doesn't offer the nutrition education that some of the newer cookbooks do, the recipes are easy and remain kid favorites even today.

Another cooking keeper is the "Better Homes and Gardens New Junior Cookbook," a classic cookbook for children 9 years and up. Time-tested recipes, easy to understand instructions and cooking/baking “how-tos" make this as valuable a book as the adult version.

My last recommendation is "The Everything Kid's Cookbook," a fun-filled, fact-filled treasury of kid-loved recipes. Also written by a registered dietitian, it covers lessons on how to read a recipe, the right tools and how to use them. Common cooking terms as well as sound nutritional tips are included in this book, a fabulous fit for an older child.

While there are many more terrific cookbooks out there, I find the above titles to be adult pleasers as well as child favorites. Whatever book you buy, remember that any time a child cooks, an adult must supervise.

Finally, to complete this wonderful gift for your child, I recommend the proper equipment and attire! Look for a chef's hat and apron and real, child-sized utensils, such as a bowl, mixing spoons and a measuring cup. Purchase them together as a gift—or separately for wonderful stocking stuffers!

Susan M. Leisner RD, IBCLC, RLC Nutritionist & Lactation Consultant