In the NZ Herald on the weekend there was an article based on research from the UK. Without a doubt, as I read the report, I realised the study had had a rather small group of pre-schoolers to analyse – however, the premise that allowing kids to play with their food can result in them eating more and different varieties of foods, I wholeheartedly agree with.
When I was a preschool teacher in Vietnam, the kids used their fingers to handle foods, as well as learning to become adept at using miniature spoons and forks. They sat together at a miniature dining table and were presented with beautiful bowls of freshly prepared foods for both break and for lunch. They ate together and were intrigued by the different foods presented. We would chat about everything that they saw and use language such as soft, squishy, firm, crunchy which gave the food it’s own character and also increased the children’s ability to identify with flavours such as sweet and sour. The parents who collected their children directly after lunch would often come early to peer in and spot whether their child of 1.5 years was truly sitting at a table and eating handfuls of carrots and peas. Apparently, at home they clamped their mouths closed!
The tips for home if you want to really see some changes is to make meal times as relaxed as possible and to find the time to play and laugh. My teen son still likes to handle his food – I struggle to allow him to do this at his age, because he now needs manners and not any encouragement to eat (copious amounts I might add) but to be fair my kids grew up in Vietnam and eating there with your hands is standard and acceptable.
If you can have a balance of allowing kids into the kitchen to help you prepare or at least to help you pop foods in the fridge or to wash fruits, then you will find they are more inquisitive. A new item in the fruit bowl may not be noticed, but if you let your child help you cut a mango or an apricot then they are equally as likely to want to try it.
In the school I mentioned above, we did cooking classes also. The purpose of those was to let the children see how their own meals were prepared so that there was an appreciation for the kitchen staff. We would all wander into the kitchen to say hi too, and to check out what goes on before a beautiful lunch was presented in the class.
Children love to be involved and tactile learning is natural. If you can allow kids to touch, feel and ‘play’ with their food you will find them very receptive to giving something new a try.
The initial study, mentioned above, was conducted due to the extraordinary results of surveys finding that kids in first world countries are still not eating enough fruits and vegetables. Charitable trusts have been established to keep the key messages simple and family friendly and come with heaps of their own wonderful ideas too. 5+aday Charitable Trust, here in NZ, campaign in schools and via social media to spread the important message around eating 5 serves of fruit and vegetables each day. Jump into their site for fresh ideas and lunchbox solutions for the kids and for the office!
My idea of getting families eating together and cooking together is a key way to encourage little guys to eat as much fresh and raw food as possible. If you are keen to get the children into the kitchen but you are not sure where to start then click through to this article where I give some tips and inspiration to get you started
If you are ready for cooking with your kids you will love my really simple e-book for kids which is available here at only $4.99
Please let me know in the comments if you let your kids ‘PLAY’ with their food and if you think it is a good idea – or not! Do your kids eat their 5 serves of fruits and vegetables each day? Do you?
It would be fabulous to hear from you.
Also, if you are interested in the Herald article you can read the whole article here: