I recently reviewed a great book - Superfoods for Babies & Children. I can't wait until Joanna can use it for her baby - due in January. Now to test the book, I asked my niece Katie, who'se 6 and a half to help me make a couple of dishes. She's a very fussy eater and I must admit, I'd need more than one session with her to get her to be open to new things. She only wanted to make desserts and her mother and I negotiated - one dessert (brownies) and one other dish (chicken dippers) because she will sometimes eat chicken fingers. Well she loved the cooking part, and she did eat the brownies, but refused to try the chicken. She's not alone and many parents are frustrated so I thought I'd share some of my observations over the years and give some tips on turning your kids into better, healthier eaters by having fun in the whole process....
1. From when they're really young, have them go grocery shopping with you - I don't mean just have them sit in the cart, I mean actively engage them in choosing what's for dinner. Get them to pick one vegetable and one fruit that is new and somehow captures their attention in the store. If they don't like it when they try it, don't force the issue. Perhaps make a running list on the fridge - food I like/food I don't like and add each new trial in the appropriate column.
2. Get them involved in the kitchen. One of my favorite food bloggers, Shauna of Glutenfree Girl has told wonderful stories of her nephew, my favorites are the ones where they play the smelling game. That's when they go to the cupboard and smell all the different herbs and spices. And one of my favorite TV chefs, Michael Smith often has his young son Gabe help choose what's for dinner on his show Chef atHome. I love when he gets to choose which pasta will be used. It really is the simple things that get kids engaged and excited about meals. There are some great breakfast ideas here that you can try out.
My girls, like me with my mom, helped prepare dishes from the first time they wandered into the kitchen - on their own two feet, of course. At first it was to dump already measured ingredients into a bowl, play with left over cookie dough, and look through the oven door to check on when it was ready (my father would actually eat my hard-as-a-rock, grey "cookies" I use the term loosely and rave about them), and as they got older and more capable, they'd get progressively more involved over the years, like when they had friends over to make challah.
3. Let them choose a menu for a particular meal. Try this one out NOT when you're all in a big rush, running late from work or rushing off to some activity. I suggest a Saturday or Sunday meal. Once kids are a little older, they can even do the whole thing by themselves. You could actually do the steps below on different days leading up to the big event, so you'd only spend a short time on each step rather than trying to do it all at once. Remember....we're dealing with short attention spans here.
- Make a grocery list together, based on simple recipes they choose (from a book or suggest something that you know they like)
- Let them do the shopping (under your guidance, of course)
- Allow for ample prep time in the kitchen with their favorite music on in the bacckground
- Don't forget to ooh and aah at the outcomes!
- Once you've all done this successfully a couple of times, allow them to invite a friend or two to partipate in the prep and eating.
5. Most importantly - HAVE FUN
If you have any ideas to get kids to eat, share them in the comments or send me an email . I'll keep a running addition of all our wonderful choices.
Please email me any of your questions, and if I don't have the answer, I'll certainly try find it for you.
Related links: kitchen tips Food & Drink