Teaching Children about food
Teaching Children about food
Written by Christine Sorbello, Dietitian/Nutritionist
Teaching children about food and getting them interested in food right from when they are toddlers is key to helping them develop healthy food habits and food skills for later in life. The good thing is many food activities don’t have to be specially planned. Getting your child to participate in the daily tasks of food preparation, cooking, setting the table and grocery shopping are all great ways to teach them about food. Just be aware that you might have to put aside a little more time and expect a lot more mess than usual!
What is it? Where does it come from?
It may seem basic, but when all children see is packaged food purchased from a supermarket is it easy for them not to have accurate knowledge about food. Get children to name the food (use the real food or a picture – catalogue cut outs are great) then ask where it comes from. Start with simple foods like fruit and vegetables then move on to more complex foods that might have a few steps e.g. Bread – baked in a bakery – made from flour – made from wheat – grown on a farm.
You might like to organise a visit to a farm or even a food factory. Many places now welcome visitors. For some ideas on local places why not visit the Bundy Pride website (www.bundypride.com.au) or contact Bundaberg Fruit & Vegetable Growers.
Most kids love cooking and the benefit is that they are more likely to eat something they’ve helped make. Let kids try raw ingredients during the cooking process (you might be surprised what they try here but not at the table) and also make sure they help with the clean-up!
Here are some cooking tasks broken down into age brackets (all cooking tasks should be supervised by an adult)
Cooking Experiments – a few ideas
– Pop popcorn kernels on the stove using a glass lidded saucepan so kids can see the popping in action
– Bake bread from scratch and watch how it rises
– Make meringues and see how the egg whites change from clear and runny to white and fluffy
– Make honeycomb or Anzac biscuits allowing children to add the bicarb soda to the syrup mixtures (extra careful supervision is required as hot syrup/sugar mixtures can cause severe burns)
Growing food takes a bit more effort and patience but the rewards are good for both teaching kids about food and adding to your household food supply. Here are some ideas from the simple to the more complex and time consuming.
– Sprout heads – put a little soil and some sprout seeds (you can use a bird see mix or herb seeds too) in egg shells, egg cartons, old stockings. Keep moist and watch the sprouts grow over a week or so.
– Carrot tops – plant used carrot tops in a shallow tray of soil (you could use an old takeaway container). Water regularly and watch the tops regrow
– Pot plants – lots of herbs, vegetables and even some fruit can be grown in pots. Choose some quick growing/fruiting varieties like cherry tomatoes so young children can see the rewards a bit quicker
– Vegie Garden – you can go all out with a vegie garden and plant a whole range of fruit, vegetables and herbs. If you don’t have much space or time why not share a garden with a neighbour or family member or encourage your school, childcare centre or playgroup to make a shared garden
– Chickens – most backyards can manage a couple of chickens. Small chicken tractors can be readily purchased (or made these days). Children can help to feed, water and collect eggs plus they are great at turning kitchen scraps into compost!
Stories and Songs about food and eating
There are plenty of stories and songs about food and eating. A quick google search will bring up more than you could possibly remember or you can make up your own! Get children to draw their own illustrations to make a book. Some ideas to get started could be:
– Choose one of the above food stories and substitute the foods for their favourites
– When Grandma was a little girl… (talk to grandma about the foods she ate when young and base your story around this)
– If I lived in (pick a country), I would eat (pick a food to match that culture)
Most importantly make learning about food a positive experience. Don’t worry about the things that flop (like the wonky cake or the vegie garden that ended up food for grasshoppers) – talk and learn from these experiences. If you don’t feel confident in an area like cooking or gardening, why not invite over a friend or relative (grandparents can be great here) who is passionate and you can learn something new too! Enjoy and have fun with food!
Food Activity Resources
If you are a child educator you might like to check out the following resources. All About Food
Stuck for song or story ideas, here are a few to help you out.
– Spaghetti Bolognaise (Peter Coombe)
– On Top of Spaghetti, All Covered with Cheese (I lost my poor meatball when somebody sneezed)
– Ba na na na na na – make those bodies sing
– Hot Potato, Hot Potato (Wiggles)
– Animal Crackers in My Soup (original Shirley Temple)
– Watermelon (Justine Clarke)
– The Lighthouse Keeper’s Lunch (by: Rhonda and David Armitage)
– Goldilocks & the Three Bears (retold by: Prue Theobalds)
– The Very Hungry Caterpillar (by: Eric Carle)
– The Great Big Enormous Turnip (by: Alexei Tolstoy)
– Pasta (by: Kate Haycock)
– Scallywag (by: Jeanette Rowe)
– Tucker (by: Ian Abdulla)
– Let’s Eat! (by: Ana Anorand)
– Mealtime (by: Maureen Roffey)
– Fruit (by: Jillian Powell)
– How do I eat it? (by: Shigeo Wantanabe)
– The Little Red Hen (by: Louise Pifanner)
– Wombat Stew (by: Marcia Vaughan)
– Growing Vegetable Soup (by: Lois Ehlert)
– Giant Hiccups (by Jacqui Farley)
– Green Eggs & Ham (Dr Seuss)
– Possum Magic (Mem Fox)
– I will not ever never eat a tomato (Lauren Child)