If it were up to them, children would choose to eat hot dogs, mac and cheese and \chicken nuggets for every meal. Since kids tend to cling to what they already know, convincing them to try new foods can be a challenge like no other.
However, behind those naughty grins smeared with spaghetti sauce lies a growing sense of independence. Make cooking—and eating— an adventure for your children while they’re still young. Taking the time to invest in their relationship with food now will give you the chance to get creative with them while they cultivate invaluable skills in the kitchen. The following five steps will show you how to introduce a sense of taste and culinary appreciation to the little ones in your life.
1. EXPOSE THEM TO THE SOURCE
Whether at the grocery store or the farmers market, demonstrate where food comes from. If you get the chance, visit a community garden or start your own in the backyard. The more involved kids are, the more likely they are to try the foods they see. Engage them by talking about which produce items are in season and how to know when fruit is ripe. As curious human beings, they’ll ask a lot of questions, giving you a perfect lead into connecting them with what’s on their plate.
2. COOK TOGETHER
Excite your kids by selecting a few recipes and making a grocery list together. Promote well-rounded meals and allow them to imagine the kitchen as a learning space, rather than just a peanut butter storage unit. The experience will illustrate the value in cooking and the culture behind it. Having a delicious end product also gives them something tangible to take pride in and shows them the value of creating their own meals. This could even be a promising alternative to material possessions when considering gifts for special occasions.
3. INTRODUCE ETHNIC CUISINES
Spice up the week with something other than your foolproof standby and introduce your children to different cultures via their dinner plate. Don’t be afraid to make a sly transition at home or even go out to a restaurant the kids have never been to. Compare ingredients and textures to the foods they are familiar with, making sure to explain that the main difference is in how another culture prepares that same food. Rather than ordering from the kid’s menu, encourage them to try the restaurant’s specialty, or share your meal with them.
4. EAT THE SAME DISHES
Accommodating your child’s limited tastes sends the message that the food you eat is not important, or is only for adults. Unless there is a particular reason, make it a point to have your kids eat what you eat, especially at dinnertime. Let them know what is being presented, and hold back on giving them the option of diverting to something their underdeveloped taste buds may find more familiar.
5. SET THE EXAMPLE AND REMAIN PATIENT
Of course, meltdowns happen and tempers can run thin. However, persistence is key. Even if they refuse to budge on the spinach tonight, don’t give up tomorrow; the long-term benefits far outweigh silly fights at the dinner table. Children are led by example, so it’s important to show an interest in trying new things and eating healthy to inspire your young ones to try for themselves.
Chiara Licari is a Writing and Advertising/Public Relations double major at GVSU venturing out in West Michigan and getting a taste of the writing life.