By Bethany Whitemeyer
Every parent I meet, be it socially or through my workplace at Bright Horizons Preschool, would agree that eating well is a goal for their family. No parent sets out to have a child that eats only macaroni and cheese, or chicken nuggets. Learning to eat a balanced and varied diet doesn’t happen overnight, but it can happen!
One of the best ways to encourage young children to try new foods is to let them be a part of the process of preparing them. When children know where their food comes from and have a chance to talk about it and learn about it we find that they are much more willing to try it. So instead of just preparing fruits and vegetables and serving them to your family on a plate, be sure to involve everyone in getting them ready.
In our South Shore Organics delivery last week we had BEAUTIFUL purple carrots. I was so excited to share them with the Preschool and Kindergarten Prep children. I took a few other items from the bag, like an orange carrot, a few small tomatoes, two apples, a potato, and an avocado. I named each item for the children, then they helped me wash the vegetables. This part was fun on its own! Our sinks in Preschool are nice and low, but with a step stool and the right tools your children can help with this at home too. After the vegetables were clean we spent some time making predictions. We guessed if the produce would be the same color on the inside as it was on the outside. Then we guessed which of our items would have seeds. Everyone had a chance to participate in the conversation, even if there initial contribution was “I don’t want to touch that.”
After we explored the outside of the produce I cut the items in half and we looked at the color and determined if there were seeds. Then I cut a few very thin slices of the carrot and potato for each child. We held them up to the light to see the pattern more closely. After they looked at the slices everyone took a bite of their purple carrot. Everyone tried it, and most of them liked it. Then we ate the apple and the orange carrot too. The key to our success that was we took our time and everyone had a choice. If they didn’t like the carrot slices they could have the apple slices instead. Or they could have both! Be sure to give your child lots of choices. The children also thought it was fun to try things together. It was almost as if they drew courage from each other. Try to share meals with your family and friends regularly. Your whole family might learn something, and you might teach something to your friends.
Bethany Whitemyer is the Center Director at the Bright Horizons in Pembroke. She holds a Bachelors’ Degree in Political Science from UMASS Amherst and a Masters’ Degree in Education from Lesley University. Bethany has worked with young children and their families since 1992. She lives in Rockland with her husband David, sons Evan and Lucas, and cats Cleo and Sunny. Some of Bethany’s favorite activities are knitting, reading, baking, and gardening.