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. Older children can help with the cooking process. Read our blog about cooking here.
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!
Some great foodie adventures for holidays:
Attend a cooking class – You can find some here
Gardening (more tips about gardening in our next blog)
Have we inspired you with some great foodie adventures? How will you get your kids involved with food? Share with us in the comments.