In the first post in this series (Sparking kids interest in food and nutrition – Part 1), I provided three fun ways to engage my child’s interest in food and nutrition https://tanyabrownrd.wordpress.com/2021/05/26/sparking-kids-interest-in-food-and-nutrition-part-1/. In today’s post, I will discuss the next four ideas.
#4 – Visit a farmers market or farm
Check to see if there are any local farms or seasonal community farmers markets that you can visit. Not only will you support local, small businesses, but the quality of products could not be more fresh. While there, take the time to chat with the farmers. They often have a wealth of food knowledge; I have yet to meet a farmer that is not willing to discuss their farm and the foods they sell (unless they are very busy!).
My family started using a small local family farm to source our pork products a number of years ago. The owners were a couple with young children my daughters’ age. My daughter asked to see the pigs and not only did we get to see the pigs but we also saw all of the other animals on their farm. We saw the pigs, cows, roosters, chickens and even a pony. We visited the barn where the animals lived and the fields where they roamed. All of my daughter’s questions were kindly answered, including about the foods their animals ate and how big they grew.
Everyone in our family learned something new. I learned about Tamworth pigs and why the farmers preferred that specific breed. Our conversations continued long after we left. Years later, my daughter still loves to go to the farm and see the animals anytime she can.
Farmers at a market often have great cooking tips/ideas for the foods they sell. Knowing how to prepare a food can give you the confidence to buy something new. You may also discover an amazing new way to cook a food you already love. Never be afraid to ask questions! I still learn new things about food all the time.
#5 – Grow your own food
Growing your own food can give children a new appreciation for what it takes to produce the food we eat every day. It can also spark further interest, discussions about food and increase willingness to try new foods. My daughter is much more open to trying new foods if we have grown them ourselves. She is very proud when a new seedling she planted pops through the soil or she can share the food she has grown with family/friends.
Whether you live in an apartment or a home with a backyard there is always some type of food you can try to grow. Small pots on a window sill can hold herbs or microgreens that can be used in cooking or salads. Tomatoes and cucumbers grow well on a balcony. If you have the space for a larger garden, the options are endless. To further her interest, we ask my daughter to help choose the seeds we purchase at the start of the growing season. We try to grow at least one new food each year. For the past two years, we have attempted to grow watermelon. The first year our dog ate the watermelon when it was only the size of a baseball; so we tried again the second year (with dog protection) and had great success. Our watermelon was on the small side but delicious!
This year we also learned more about pollination as our cucumbers had flowers but no actual cucumbers. After some online research we discovered it was because we had fewer bees and needed to pollinate the flowers ourselves. Eventually the bees came and we ended up with quite a few cucumbers. During the process we learned a lot more about plants, pollination and the importance of pollinators like bees or butterflies. We have purchased bee and butterfly attracting flower seeds for next year to help our garden and the environment in general.
#6 – Discover new foods
Don’t be afraid to try new foods. Take your children to the grocery store or farmers market and let them look around.
We all usually rush when buying groceries. Where possible, try and take the time to browse the wonderful variety of food available at your local grocery store.. Even if you only have the time once a month, let your children choose something that looks interesting. Even if you have never cooked with that food before, don’t be discouraged. A quick online search can reveal all of the information you may need to know about any food, including a wide variety of recipes. Including your children in this research can be educational and engaging for you both. You can also always ask the attendant at the grocery store or farmer at the market/farm if they have any cooking suggestions.
Don’t overthink it and have fun. Showing your children that you are willing to try new things and experiment with foods will help them become open to do the same.
Our family makes pizza at home every couple weeks. We make a basic pizza for our daughter and vary up the toppings on a second one. As I previously discussed, we ask her to try new foods at every meal. Because of this, has expanded from cheese only pizza to trying a variety of fun and healthy toppings.. She often snacks on the raw veggies while we are making the pizza. One of which is sometimes raw mushrooms, which hopefully she will soon enjoy on the pizza too!
#7 – Take a cooking class together
A lot of grocery stores now offer cooking classes which are usually run by a chef or dietitian. This can provide a great opportunity to learn together and have fun while trying new foods at a reasonable price.
While completing my nutrition degree, I was required to complete food science and food service management courses where I furthered the cooking skills I had learned as a child/teen. Even with all of this education and practice, I will always have more to learn. A few years ago, I took an 8 week culinary cooking class with my mother-in-law. I learned a lot, acquired some amazing new recipes and we had a ton of fun. In our class there was a father and son (about 13 years old) and they were having so much fun together.
There are also classes for children or teens only as well as summer camps that your child can attend if doing the classes yourself do not appeal to you as a parent. I am sure your child will be itching to bring home what they prepared or to show off their skills cooking for you at home.
Stay tuned for Part 3 of this series coming soon!
Disclaimer: The above information is intended for general public education and is not intended to be dietetic advice in any respect or to any person. Use of this information does not make any person a direct client of Tanya Brown,RD for any purpose and no such relationship will exist unless a formal client relationship has been entered into. Please consult your Doctor or a Registered Dietitian for individual recommendations prior to making any dietary or lifestyle changes.