Most parents of toddlers are familiar with the tiny face of disgust peering back at them above a plate of peas—or bananas, green beans, the list goes on—shaking from side to side: No way. Wanting to teach children about nutrition in a fun and inviting way, a group of local parents have teamed up to create Kitchen Club Kids, a series of three award-winning ‘recipe adventure story books,’ for ages 2 to 6. Each book, End of the Rainbow Fruit Salad, Garden Safari Vegetable Soup, and Feed Your Senses Homemade Bread (due out later this year), includes a recipe told in traditional storybook format, as well as the real recipe the story is based on at the end of the book, so that parents and children can work together in the kitchen to prepare nutritious meals. Eluka Moore, Kitchen Club Kids co-creator and author, and soon-to-be mom of two, shared the genesis story of the books, as well as tips for parents on teaching their kids about nutrition and trying new foods—even, perhaps, peas.

What inspired you to create the books?

The series was created by four St. Louis parents: Kristen Gau, Larry Puzniak, Marianne Welsh and myself. We all started having kids around the same time, and we all share a passion for the art of cooking, and spending quality time with our families. The four of us used to work together but had all gone our separate ways in our careers, and wanted to do something that would allow us to celebrate parenthood, education and learning, and still be fun. The idea happened over coffee about two years ago. We thought about how fun it would be to do a children’s series, and the idea came to life. We all share the belief that if we can get children to interact with food and be active in the kitchen, it will have a positive long-term effect on their health. It’s definitely a passion project.

What are some of the benefits of reading these books with your children?

The books are great for learning basic counting, colors, food recognition, vocabulary development, problem solving and critical thinking skills. The cooking is also great for sensory experience with little ones. In addition to all those basic learning opportunities, there’s also a layer of nutrition and healthy eating, helping kids learn at a young age to appreciate the food they’re putting into their little growing bodies. It also teaches them about cooking, recipe preparation and sharing.

What tips do you have for parents using these books with their children?

For me, I had to learn to forget the mess. They’re going to be their naturally inquisitive selves, and explore and learn, and it’s going to get messy. That was the first thing I had to put to the side. It’s also good to share the prep work. Kids want to have a hand in everything you do, so share the responsibility with them. For households with two working parents, you can always read the book at bedtime and then try the cooking on the weekends. Don’t be afraid to experiment, and relax. The more parents are relaxed and go with the flow, it’s going to be a fun learning experience and will create great lasting memories with your child.

Kitchen Club Kids and Dierbergs have teamed up to create ‘Play with Your Food’ classes to help parents and kids get things started in the kitchen. Classes include copies of End of the Rainbow Fruit Salad and Garden Safari Vegetable Soup, and will be held at 10 a.m. on Sat,. Aug. 16, and Sat., Aug. 23 at Dierbergs Supermarket in Des Peres. Tickets are $35 for two seats.

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