Wining & Dining
Kids in the Kitchen—Cultivating a Love of Food & Family
6/1/2019 1:00:00 PM

Summer is here! Caregivers and students get a mental break from homework, uniform washing, and carpool lines. This is a perfect time to get the kids away from the TV and into the kitchen and garden with you! One of the best ways to encourage "picky eaters” is to involve them in the process of preparing the family’s meals. So, get out and grow something—even if it is just a small pot of herbs. Kids are more willing to try foods they have had ownership in growing, selecting, or cooking.  

Repeated exposure to new foods with gardening, cooking, and food play gives kids the positive practice opportunities they need to become familiar with these foods before ever tasting them. The initial goal is not to have them eat the food—although it is awesome when they do! Most kids go through a normal stage of "picky eating” and we want to encourage them to become confident in exploring new foods and expanding their food repertoires. Taking a plate from boring beige to a beautiful rainbow of fruits and vegetables takes time. Children often mimic what their parents eat, so take a look at your own plates—it really is possible for kids to make healthy choices and love them! 

Remember, small kids have small stomachs. We’ve lost perspective on appropriate portion sizes due to the super-sized meals we encounter at restaurants and fast-food chains. So, just offer a small scoop of each food and don’t sweat it if they don’t eat it all. Do praise them for their help in preparing the meal: "Wow, you seasoned the beans just how I like them!” or "Thanks for putting the broccoli on everybody’s plates tonight!” Kids can easily help wash/dry produce, measure or stir ingredients, chop or peel with supervision, and sprinkle herbs/seasonings. 

Farmer’s Markets are a fantastic way to expose your kids and teens to a variety of fruits and veggies. Fresh, local produce tastes amazing because it’s in-season and harvested at peak ripeness. Allow kids to touch different produce items as you help use words to describe it (ex. "Look at how smooth the skin is on that purple eggplant!” or "Let’s see which yellow squash is heavier!”). The best part about going to a Farmer’s Market is speaking with the people who grew the lettuce, okra, figs, peppers, beets, and so on. Encourage the kids to ask questions and use that time together as a way to expand knowledge and vocabulary. You’ll also expose their sensory system to a variety of textures and smells as you browse the selections. You may even be able to taste a few items along the way and can discuss whether it was sweet, tangy, juicy or spicy.  

Favorite Family Resources—Adventures in Veggieland by Melanie Potock is an amazing parent/child-friendly resource book packed with 100 fun activities, colorful photos, seasonal tips and delicious recipes designed to help kids in her 3 E’s approach: expose, explore, and expand. Additionally, reading to your children about various foods provides opportunities for teachable moments and exposure to a wide range of food options. Shared reading helps reinforce topics such as identifying foods, learning where they come from, and naming the vibrant colors in foods. You can compare and contrast healthy foods vs. junk foods with Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Or, you can play "I spy” with Eating the Alphabet: Fruits & Vegetables from A to Z by Lois Ehlert.

Spending time in the kitchen and at the table with children and teens can improve their physical, mental and spiritual well-being. Nourish those relationships and have fun as you cultivate a love of food as a family!  

Stephanie is a local speech-language pathologist/pediatric feeding specialist and wellness coach.  She enjoys helping families become happy and healthy adventurous eaters.  



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