Sparking Kids Interest in Food and Nutrition – Part 3

In my last two blogs, I provided seven of the twelve fun ways to further engage my child’s interest in food and nutrition.

Part 1 –

https://tanyabrownrd.wordpress.com/2021/05/26/sparking-kids-interest-in-food-and-nutrition-part-1

Part 2-

https://tanyabrownrd.wordpress.com/2021/07/22/sparking-kids-interest-in-food-and-nutrition-part-2/

In today’s post, I will discuss the next three ideas.

#8 – Play restaurant

Playing restaurant can be a great way to engage children of all ages with food. Younger children tend to engage in playing chef, enjoying preparing food like their parents. Playing restaurant can, however, also be adapted for older children, by expanding the scope of the activity to include food supply and agriculture all the way through wait staff and customer. There are may ways to teach kids about food while also connecting them with their real life and school learnings.

For example, as a server your child can practice their writing, spelling and money skills. Having them create the menu can help them learn what a complete meal looks like. Many children will start by offering a menu that includes only items they like, such as pasta and chicken fingers. By asking for other options, we can expand their thinking and knowledge. My daughter’s restaurant only had pasta, cheerios, tea, chicken fingers and broccoli when it first opened. When taking my order I asked what other veggie and grain options were available to complete my meal. I also asked about dessert. It is important to teach balance and that most foods can be included in a healthy lifestyle.

As children become older, they may grow out of “playing” restaurant. Depending on the age of your tween/teen and cooking skill level, it may be a good time to try to change the activity from pretend to reality. Plan a parent/family date night at home. Then allow your tween/teen to plan the menu, decor and what ingredients they need. Encourage only a couple of choices for simplicity or pre-order menu option. Even a simple pasta meal with a couple of different side options can be a great place to start as it is easy to prepare. If needed, offer to help and make it a family restaurant. This type of activity can help build family bonds as well as boost your child’s confidence in their ability to prepare meals.  It can also lead to great conversations about how to plan a menu, including food selection, costs and quantities required.

#8 – Have conversations about food with your child’s friends and their families.

It is amazing what we can learn from our friends and family, especially about food.  We all come from different backgrounds, which shapes the types of foods we eat and how we prepare those foods. Getting together to share meals can expand our food knowledge and meal idea bank. It can also help to expand our palates and help us to become more adventurous in trying new or different foods.  I find that when with her peers, my daughter is more willing to try new foods.

Most people can think of one go-to meal that they feel confident sharing. If not, try making a meal with a family member or friend who has cooking confidence. This may in turn will help your skills and comfort level.

I have discovered so many new ways of preparing foods through potlucks or gatherings with friends. Not only have I learned new ways to prepare various foods but also about the culture and history behind the dishes. Once we are able to get together again, I hope to get together with friends of ours and learn how to make some traditional Indian cuisine, learning why certain spices are combined.

Another option for learning about other food cultures and cuisines are taking cooking classes, while travelling or in your local community. When I think of cooking classes abroad I think of a culinary weekend at a villa in Italy or France. If you do your research, there are often shorter more simple options that would be appropriate for children.

#9 – Have ingredient parties with friends

For a short period while finishing university, my husband (then boyfriend) and I lived apart. During that time my husband and his school friends started to have “condiment ingredient” parties. What is a condiment ingredient party? Simple! A potluck party where each dish must have an specific pre-agreed ingredient. In this case a specific condiment. They started with ketchup then moved to mayo. At each party the host and new ingredient for next year was chosen.

Once I permanently moved to Ontario I was able to participate and what a dietitian’s dream. My first condiment party was mustard, which turned out to be so much fun. Once we ran out of condiment options, the party officially switched to just an “ingredient party”. This expanded choices and we were able to include a bacon party and chocolate party.

Each person would sign up from a category (appetizer, main, dessert, beverage and side) which helped keep our potluck somewhat balanced. This led to a lot of experimenting with foods and recipes – there were certainly no preconceived expectations that every dish would be delicious. Recipes could be shared for any items that worked out well. It was such a fun way to learn about new foods and try new ways to cook outside of the box.

Our annual party ran for 10 years before life got a bit too busy. My favorite dish I made over the years was definitely “chocolate bread”, combining two things I love together – chocolate and bread.

Give it a try, but be sure to invite the adventurous!

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.

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