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Three Strategies to Get Your Children to Eat – Part 2

Today we are going to talk about engaging your children through involvement and discovery.  Last week I ask you to consider your own attitudes about food. I hope that you have taken a few minutes to look around your kitchen and pantry and consider that as well.   If you did not have a chance to read Part 1 you can check it out here.

For so many people food is nothing more than what they see laying on their plate or in the take out bag on the car seat next to them.  There is no mystery, intrigue or amazement involved.  This is a shame because it creates a real disconnect between us and how we nourish our bodies.

We can help our children to develop a healthy relationship with food by exposing them to new information and experiences.  Children are curious creatures, so why not direct them toward learning about food. When children are engaged they are a lot more open to new ideas.

Over the years I have helped to raise many children.  I raised 3 daughters of my own and operated an in home day care for almost 15 years.  Even the “picky” eaters that were in my care became decent eaters for me.   I am going to share some of my secrets for success

 

Where does food come from?

For lots of children, that question would get a response of “from the grocery store'”.    There is a disconnect between reality and perception.  I think it is important to teach our children about orchards, and farms and locally grown livestock and eggs.  It is important for them to understand this in order to understand the difference between “real” and “manufactured” food.  This is an important distinction if you are trying to implement healthier choices in your household.  Here are some ideas of how to teach this to your child.

Discovery

  • Stop by an orchard and let your child pick a piece of fruit right from the tree.   Now taste it right there in the field, while the fruit is warm and juicy.
  • Visit a farm and see how tomatoes grow on the plant.  Show them how one zucchini plant can cover a great big spot of ground and produce lots of zucchini.  Show them how some things grow underground, like onions and carrots.  Pull a carrot and wipe the dirt off for them to taste.  Explain how the leaves of some plants are food, like lettuce, and for some plants, they are not, like tomatoes, and for some plants like beets, the bulb and the leaves are both edible.  Let them touch and smell and pick and taste.
  • Next take them to a farmers market to see all the produce that they had just seen in the field, and how it is now in rows and baskets at the market.  Explain how most food in a farmers market is grown locally.  In the grocery store, some food is local but lots of it is shipped many miles from other states or countries.  Explain the impact of that on our earth and on the amount of nutrition that our body can use from those foods.
  • Take your children to see some local farmer and buy eggs from the chickens that are running around and pecking at the dirt.  Talk to them about the farmer going around and gathering the eggs one by one from the hen nests. If possible let them reach in and take on egg out of the nest themselves.
  • Let your children start a plant from a seed and care for it until it grows something edible at home.

Involvement

Whenever possible involve your children in the planning and preparation of meals.

  • Let them pick a fruit or veggie that they have never tried before from the grocery store.
  • Give them options of how to prepare that new food.
  • Allow them to wash, peel or slice when it is age appropriate.
  • Use these times to teach your children about the food and why it is good for them
  • Make meal time interesting and fun.
  • Involve the child in setting the table, clearing their own plate and silverware.

Give the right cues

Children look to us to know when things are good or bad, dangerous or safe, drudgery or fun.  Choose your words, facial expression, and attitude carefully to promote an adventurous,  open attitude toward healthy food.  Next week we will talk about the value of repeated exposure and how to set your children up to succeed at the dinner table.

What’s next?

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