As a parent we all want to our kids to enjoy different foods, to become teenagers and adults that love colourful foods. We don’t expect a child to know their timetables as a toddler- we know this takes time and patience (and they need to know their numbers first). Eating is no different- we can’t expect children to eat their dinner, if they haven’t become familiar with the food in their dinner.
For a child to accept new foods they need many repeated positive, FUN exposures! First of all a child needs to experience a food around 20 times without even trying it (so seeing it, reading about it, gardening it, helping to buy it at the green grocer, colouring a picture with it etc). After trying the food, it can take another 15-20 times to learn to accept it. That’s a lot of times! I say- keep talking about food, keep reading about food together, keep doing foodie activities, keep offering it at the table- just stop counting (much less stressful for everyone).
Children need time, patience and lots of food education while they are growing up.
There are lots of great, educational foodie adventures you can do with kids to increase their exposure to colourful fruit and vegetables. Some can be done after school and on the weekend whilst others make great school holiday activities.
One of the most useful and powerful ways to expose kids to different foods is to involve them in the cooking process. Younger kids can help wash vegetables, cut foods with kid knives and help mix batters and doughs etc.
Activities kids love in the kitchen:
– wash and scrub veggies
– cutting, kids just love cutting!! (try our great kids safety knives)
– mixing and blending
– tear lettuce and make salad
– roll meatballs
– crumb chicken or fish
– sprinkle seeds and herbs
– just helping and spending time with you
Make sure to teach your kids to help clean up afterwards too 🙂
Reading food books
Books are well known to provide a vital role in child development. Specifically reading books about food is important, enjoyable and educational. Our top tip is to pick books that talk about how food is grown, that is fun and with positive messages. Some of our favourites include ‘What’s growing?’ By Kate Wengier, ‘We are growing a rainbow for dinner’ by Nutrition Australia and ‘Vegetables’ by Tanya Nagy. We have just launched our new book ‘What if vegetables were people’, read more here.
Go to the fruit and veg shop and get kids to help count the carrots, choose green veggies for dinner and some red for lunch boxes. They can be involved choosing the colours for the week (both fruit and veggies). This gives them the chance to interact with fresh produce away from the table. It’s not about eating or tasting, it’s about becoming familiar and comfortable with fresh produce. Learning what a ripe avocado is, smelling the cantaloupe to see if it’s ready and checking the bottom of strawberry punnets for the best ones. I usually let them each choose something to eat as a snack after shopping, that’s how my son first decided he liked raw mushrooms!
My 3 boys LOVE helping to plan the meals. I will often let them choose a meal to go on the fortnightly plan especially on the school holidays. Meal planning together gives me the opportunity to teach them about making sure they include a:
– GROW food (meat, meat alternative including tofu, eggs, beans)
– GO food (whole grains including pasta, flour, polenta, potatoes, rice etc)
– and of course lots of GLOW foods (colourful veggies. Aiming for half the dish or plate to be different coloured veggies).
I have to admit that I don’t have a particularly green thumb but I try hard, I’m learning and I believe in having a go at things! Growing veggies is a great way to get kids invested and interested in fruits and veggies. I remember my two year old son rarely ate tomatoes until we planted some cherry tomatoes in a little pot in our tiny unit. They are now one of his favourites! Choosing what to plant can also be a great activity. Funnily enough, my kids favourite part is always measuring out the distance between the seedlings and of course watering! Invest in a little watering can that is appropriately sized to your child. My 4 year old even likes to water the garden with his water pistol!
Go to the Farmers market or berry picking
Attend a cooking class – you can find some here
Have we inspired you with some great foodie adventures? How will you get your kids involved with food? Share with us in the comments.