Fed up with following recipes filled with child-unfriendly steps, Army wife Annabel Woolmer created her own solution by self-publishing a cookbook specifically for young chefs…

STRAWBERRYI STARTED to cook regularly with my eldest daughter when she was 18 months old. We’d just been posted to Cyprus and her sister was six weeks old.

It was averaging 36 degrees and I wanted to keep her entertained out of the sun while also getting food on the table.

I bought several “toddler” cookbooks, but was disappointed. They all had steps she couldn’t do like cooking at a hob, using sharp knives or intricate decoration. I was forced to do these bits for her, she became distracted and discouraged and I got stressed.

So I created my own recipes, making sure she could do every step and including appealing tasks like bashing, painting, squishing and changing colour and texture. She loved it. I tried a few with toddlers from the playgroup and began to think how to share my experiences.

Putting pen to paper

We were then given a short posting to America. Finding a job and childcare abroad for less than a year didn’t make sense, so I decided to write the Tickle Fingers Cookbook.

As a non-celebrity with no track record, traditional publishing wasn’t an option, so I self-published. The hardest part was doing the design and formatting.

Luckily soldiering isn’t my husband’s only talent and he helped. The publishing itself was remarkably straightforward.

Next on the menu

I am passionate about how cooking can help young children – motor skills, concentration, confidence, positive attitude to food – and how, with the right approach, it doesn’t have to be stressful for the adult. I continue to promote age-appropriate resources and have set up a Facebook page, Cook with Toddlers and blog at cookwithtoddlers.com/community

The Independent recently chose the Tickle Fingers Cookbook to be in their IndyBest 10 Best Children’s Cookbooks. This has spurred me on to work on new ideas and maybe one day I’ll find the time to write Tickle Fingers 2. So far it has been a challenging and fulfilling experience, which I can fit around looking after the children.



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