Families make history every day in the kitchen and around the dinner table. Your aunt’s blueberry pie and your special turkey stuffing are the ingredients of memory. Collect these special recipes into a holiday gift book and you’ve also helped your child explore family history and develop reading, writing and organizing skills.

Here’s how to get started:

1. Decide on a theme. It can be holiday recipes or ethnic specialties. Or maybe you want a general cookbook with a few recipes in basic categories, such as main dishes, vegetables, salads, soups and desserts. Special bonus: This will help your child learn about the food groups that make up a balanced diet.

2. Collect the recipes. If your family is gathering this holiday season, ask each person to bring along a copy of a favorite recipe. Or ask relatives to send them by mail or email.

You might want to set up a form to make sure a crucial instruction – the oven temperature, for example – isn’t forgotten. It could include this information:

  • Name of recipe
  • Name of person contributing it
  • A brief description of where it came from, why it’s special
  • List of ingredients, including quantities
  • Special equipment that might not be in everyone’s kitchen – a bundt pan or a food processor, for example
  • Cooking directions, with temperature
  • Number of people it serves
  • Any special advice: What’s the secret to keeping the soufflé from falling or the bottoms of the cookies from getting burned? Is there a good variation of the recipe, substituting butterscotch chips for chocolate ones, for example?

3. Choose illustrations. Your child can illustrate the cookbook with his own drawings. If you have access to a scanner, you can also use family photos as illustrations. Ask relatives to send you photos or look through your own collection for pictures of memorable family moments. You can also scan mementos: An invitation you’ve saved from your child’s birthday party could be used to illustrate a cake recipe or the handwritten recipe from a great-aunt can be used on the page that tells how to make her special coffee cake.

4. Prepare the recipes. Have your child help you read them over to make sure all the necessary information is included. You can simply photocopy them if you’ve set up a form for your contributors to follow. Or you can type them into your computer and print them. Put the recipes in categories and alphabetize them; both are good skills for your child to practice. Make a table of contents.

5. Write a short introduction. Ask your child to help or let her dictate it to you. Be sure to include the date.

6. Ask someone else to proofread.

7. Assemble. If you have a big family or lots of recipes, you may want to leave the printing to a copy shop. A three-ring binder works well as a cookbook because you can add recipes in years to come. Use notebook dividers with pockets in them so the recipient can stash extra recipes in each section. Use plastic sleeves on the pages to splatter-proof them.

Your cookbook doesn’t have to be in book form: You can make a CD-ROM of the contents and send it to far-away family members. Or have a tech-savvy relative design a family Web site to display your efforts.

Additional Resources

If you’re feeling ambitious but don’t know how to create a Web site, Creating Family Web Sites For Dummies by Janine Warner is designed to help beginners. It’s available in paperback or can be downloaded as an e-book.