Those are my daughter Virginia’s miniature pink cooking tools you see. They had been scattered in various drawers of our kitchen for a number of years, until several months ago when she took it upon herself to gather them all up, arrange them in this little jelly jar and set them on the counter next to my spoons and spatulas. They’ve been there ever since. Whenever we cook together, Virginia always reaches for one of her tiny tools.

Getting kids engaged in cooking is one of the surest ways I know to get them interested in eating. And though I’ve never been a big gadget girl (I don’t own a panini press, rice cooker, pressure cooker, crock pot, or even a popcorn popper), I’ve come to see the merit in stocking your kitchen with child-friendly gear. Kids do love gear.

The good news is, most of what stands out as having great kid appeal are just ordinary kitchen tools. There is little need to go out and buy up a bunch of fancy goods. It’s more about taking a look at what you already have and considering what might be interesting for the kids. Flea markets and garage sales are great sources for freshening up your cooking tool kit without a lot of expense.

Having kid-friendly tools on hand not only gets them excited to cook, but can also foster independence. Hand them an apple cutter, and they can pretty safely turn a whole apple into tidy slices; give them a pair of kitchen shears and they can snip basil for pasta. It allows them to build some confidence and feel at home in the kitchen.

I polled my crew of cooks and together we came up with our Top Ten Kitchen Gadgets. Here goes:

  1. Pastry brush :: For brushing tomato sauce on pizza or olive oil on bread; it’s like painting with food
  2. Apple cutter :: Swiftly cuts apples and pears into even slices
  3. Rolling pin :: Rolling out pastry is like working with Playdoh, only you get to eat the results
  4. Melon baller :: These are pretty fun; even grown-ups can get carried away with them
  5. Kitchen shears :: A pair of scissors specially designated for cooking
  6. Strawberry stemmer :: Maybe because they love berries so much, but this little gizmo gets heavy use this time of year
  7. Miniature kitchen tools :: Wooden spoons, whisks and rubber spatulas made for little hands
  8. Pint-sized aprons :: Minimizes mess on clothes while making kids feel like they’re one of the crew
  9. Kitchen scale :: Does double duty by helping with math skills
  10. Sifter :: They love to watch flour and leavening makes it way through an old-fashioned sifter

What’s popular in your household?