Cooking together with pens and pencils

posted in: Herve Tullet | 12

Here’s a great recipe for a contented, creative family meal:


  • 1 brilliantly inventive illustrator
  • 1 set of pens / pencils / crayons of your choice
  • 1 activity book
  • 1 parent very busy cooking lots and lots with at least one child getting under their feet

  • Instructions

    1. Take a deep breath, stop snapping at the child and offer them the chance to cook a magical feast alongside you.
    2. Set up a surface (near your kitchen work surface) with one copy of Doodle Cook by Herve Tullet and a pot of your child’s favourite drawing tools.
    3. Start cooking together! You follow whatever recipe you’re doing, your child follows her own. You chat, you laugh, delicious plates of food get created and everyone is MUCH happier than before!

    Don’t get me wrong, I love cooking with my kids, but sometimes it’s easier to have them alongside in the kitchen without actually chopping, mixing, and spreading mess everywhere. So when I saw that the creator of one of my favourite picture books of 2011, Press Here (my review is here), had created an activity book all about doodling, creativity and food I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.

    Like so many of Tullet’s books, the idea here is very simple. Tullet presents a series of recipes, calling on the “chef” to add a sprinkling of squiggles, a pinch of blobs, a dash of zigzags and so on to create a whole feast of illustrated dishes. There’s Triangle Cake, Sun-Ray Tart, Thousand-layer Cake, Dot Stew and Nameless Soup, to give you just a flavour of what’s on offer.

    A sample recipe from Doodle Cook

    The book is sturdily produced and printed on really heavy paper, making it robust and ideal for wild doodling and strong enough to hold up to watery painting too. My only minor gripe would be that I would like to see it published with a ring binding so that it is easy for kids to make the pages lie completely flat. It’s hard for small hands to bend the spine thoroughly enough to make sure pages stay open.

    I’m a huge fan of activity books both as life savers for busy parents but also as sneaky sources of reading when kids are reluctant to pick up a book (I wrote more about this last summer over at Wahm-Bam). The best activity books will inspire kids to continue being creative when they’ve filled up the book: with Doodle Cook we had fun coming up with our own doodle recipes, even having a sort of recipe draw-off around the lunch table one day.

    All in all, Doodle Cook is perfect to give the kids whilst you’re preparing supper or if you wish to encourage your young artist or chef to think outside the box (or should that be ‘off the plate’?).

    Whilst we both cooked we listened to:

  • Polly Wolly Doodle (get it? :-)) – here are fun versions by Johnny Bregar, The Biscuit Brothers, and The Hollow Trees.
  • The entire album, All Together Singing in the Kitchen by The Nields – this is one of our favourite CDs of kids’ music.
  • Cooking Breakfast by Maria Muldaur – wish I could sing like this!

  • Doodle Cook also made me think of these nice things:

  • They Draw and Cook – an amazing website (and now book) of recipes illustrated by artists from around the world, including a whole load of children’s book illustrators.
  • A perfect combination of food and drawing – the film Ratatouille. Disney has a free activity booklet to go with the film – click on Downloads from this main page.
  • Paper food – this front cover looks amazing, and imagine, if you could make the items out of rice paper then you could eat them for real!
  • These gorgeous paper apple and pear memo pads – I’d love to have a go at making something like this. Have you got any bright ideas about how to do this?
  • And instead of food made from art, how about art made from food? Take a look at this post from WebUrbanist to get some ideas.

  • Have you and your kids used any activity books recently? What do you look for in a great activity book?
    And, please, if you’re a (fairly) regular reader of the blog and haven’t left a comment on my New Year’s Post, please head on over there and do so!

    Disclosure: I received my copy of this book from the publisher. This review, however, remains my own and honest opinion.

    12 Responses

    1. Stacey

      Herve Tullet’s activity books are my most favorite!! My girls seem to go in phases with activity books… they can love ’em or leave ’em depending…
      Stacey recently posted..Loving School

    2. Scope Notes

      What a great post. Thanks for highlighting this book – I’m looking forward to giving it to my little one when she gets a bit older.

    3. Natalja

      Hello from Denmark and thanks a lot for this post and many other great ones! I am sure we will enjoy the All Together Singing in the Kitchen quite a lot and it has a potential of being a new car favourite.
      I love the idea behind this particular doodle book, but my kids are a bit too young for it yet. One of our recent favourite activity books though is: Everybody’s Activity Book: Cut, Stick, Colour! by Pascale Estellon. With a bit of help my 3 year olds figured out most of the activities.

    4. Alice

      Ohh, Tom would love this, will have to have a look for it! His Nanny has given him a lovely doodle book made up of postcards to send to her, not sure of its name but its realy lovely (I would check but he has locked it into his treasure box!!)

    5. Zoe

      Wow, so many lovely comments this morning! Thanks to each of you.
      Natalja, yes the Estellon books are very beautiful objects in and of themselves as well as being lots of fun. I hope your family does fall in love with All Together Singing in the Kitchen – it’s a super album!

    6. Actually Mummy...

      I love that! What a great idea – I will add it to my Amazon list now (it is growing daily thanks to you btw. I will have to start asking for amazon instead of champney’s vouchers as gifts!)

    7. Anamaria

      I just saw this in the Gallery bookshop and it looks like so much fun! We’re going to give it a try. Other favorite activity books–anything in the Usborne drawing and painting series (we just did a lot of aboriginal dot art from the 365 Days one, so fun!).
      Anamaria recently posted..Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?

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