There are times when I think I have exhausted all the ways of keeping the kids entertained while they are at home. And then a book like this pops up and I go wow!
The Little Grower’s Cookbook by Ghillie James and Julia Parker is full of child-scale food growing activities that can work whether you have a big garden or no garden; rain or shine. It’s as much a book that you can have on your coffee table, as it is attractive to inquisitive little fingers. Inside the design is quite adult-stylish, and the photography is beautiful; but the language is clear and speaks directly to kids.
But does it work? Charlie, our almost 13-year old is probably at the top end of the target age group, but he grabbed it with a firm grip, checked it through and worked out what the best things to plant were at the moment (Carrots and Parsnips). He scoured the house for suitable things to plant them in, and found a couple of old beach buckets and spades. Then he turned his attention to painting, explaining that you have to draw pictures of what you are planting on upturned spades, sticking out of the buckets.
He found some paint pens and started working out designs on a piece of cardboard. They came out pretty well in the end, as you can see in the picture.
Meanwhile, my husband Christopher went off to the garden centre for essential seeds; and when he got back, he was tasked with drilling drain holes in the bottom of the buckets.
Then there was no stopping Charlie. Within minutes the seeds were planted and the buckets were arranged artfully with a watering can he found. Afterwards, the finishing touches included a couple of rounds of topping up with soil and more seeds, so they were brim-full and the veg-to-be would have enough earth to send their roots down deep. In due course, he explained, he can thin them out if there are too many.
So the book gets five stars and a thumbs up from Charlie. He’s a bit shy to give a personal testimonial, but Christopher says “This kept Charlie engaged and busy for quite a long time, and he was outside on a lovely but cold day. He’s done a really good job!”
For me this is all great. Christopher gets to spend quality time with Charlie, Charlie learns something new and gets the pride of making something. And if you know me, you’ll know I am always happy when kids are getting mucky outside, because it boosts their microbiome.
Another other part of the book is cooking. This completes the field-to-table principle. Compared with my parents’ generation cookbooks, the photos in modern cookbooks make such a difference to helping you know what it should look like. And especially with kids, they make the recipes totally mouth watering. This definitely happens with The Good Stuff, as so many parents tell me their kids love going through it, marking the recipes they want to have, or help make. I can completely see that happening with these delicious and beautiful recipes.
Finally, it has a load of other fun activities, such as making bird feeders, worm cafés, bug hotels and butterfly banquets.
The Little Grower’s Cookbook is just what today’s children need to keep them healthy, happy and busy. It is brimming with brilliant cooking and gardening ideas which will help your little ones make the important connection between nature and the food they eat, with a bucketload of fun thrown in!