Involving Children in Food

by Amber Strocel on August 4, 2010

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I breastfed both of my babies. Once we got the hang of things, it was easy. When they were hungry, or wanted comfort, they nursed. Simple. Then I introduced solid foods, and the world changed. Feeding with love and respect took on new meaning. Food altogether took on new meaning. Suddenly, there was a question of what and how much to offer. Suddenly, I could see exactly how much my child did (or didn’t) eat. And frequently, I worried.

Thankfully, I found a lot of gentle and common-sense wisdom on feeding kids. I realized that just as at the breast, I could trust my children to set their own pace and schedule with solid foods as well. As long as I generally offered them healthy food, I could leave the rest to them.

Hannah and her seed packets

Even after making this realization, I am still not as zen about my kids’ eating habits as I would like to be. Sometimes when they’re being really picky I still sweat it. And sometimes they really chafe against the healthy options presented. I decided that presenting healthy options wasn’t enough – I needed to get them involved in the food they ate.

After all, I am raising people who will hopefully feed themselves one day. I want them to know where their food comes from. I want them to appreciate the impact of their choices on their own health and the health of the planet. And I want them to have basic food preparation skills. And I think that steps I can take now can help.

I grow children, too

I involve my children in food a few ways:

  • They help me prepare meals. This doesn’t always go smoothly, but most of the time I can find tasks that are age-appropriate and fun. Sticking fruit on skewers, stirring and pouring are 3 favourite food prep activities for my preschoolers.
  • We work in the garden together. No food tastes better than the food you’ve picked fresh yourself. And growing your own fruit and veggies provides the ideal window into where food actually comes from.
  • We visit farmer’s markets and buy fresh, local, whole foods. I chat with the growers, sample heirloom tomatoes, and give my kids a window into a world where food doesn’t come in boxes with cartoon characters on the front.
  • We visit farms. Our home is in the suburbs, so my kids don’t get to see chickens or cows in their daily life. By heading out to the country they can see where their milk and eggs come from, and how the animals live.

By following my children’s own hunger and thirst cues, I am teaching them that I love and respect them. By providing them with healthy options I am trying to ensure that they eat a nutritious and well-balanced diet. And by involving my children in the food that the eat, I’m teaching them that there is a whole lot of backstory to every bite they take. I hope that by knowing that backstory, they will come to appreciate their food much more.

How do you involve your children in their food? I would love to hear!

You can catch up with Amber’s regular adventures in food on her blog at Strocel.com.

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Amber Strocel (28 Posts)

Amber is a hippie mama to two, a writer, a dreamer, a student, an erstwhile engineer and a lover of chocolate. She lives in suburban Vancouver with her family and one very cranky tabby cat. Keep up with her on her blog at Strocel.com.


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Lorette Lavine August 4, 2010 at 6:38 am

Years ago in the 1950′s to be exact when I was very little girl I was not very fond of eating. My grandmother was very concerned and took me to the pediatrician and he said something very simple but very profound!
“When she is hungry, she will eat.” His name was Dr. Ahouse and his office was in Yonkers, NY. He was the beloved pediatrician to many of my kindergarten classmates and even made home visits.
A simple statement but so true. I have carried these words with me in raising my own children and now I have a grandchild. Healthy meals and my grandmother’s love of preparing them are always with me when I prepare a meal for my family.
Our legacy carries on through our children. Keep up the wonderful work with your children and most of all enjoy food and celebrate the meals and snacks with your children.

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John Farrell May 15, 2012 at 12:42 pm

Dr. John Ahouse (his office was on South Broadway, I think) was a great physician. My brothers and I loved him so much we continued to see him well into our teens until he retired. And yes, he made house calls and like all good physicians of his era drove a Buick. They don’t make them like him anymore.

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Michelle @ The Parent Vortex August 4, 2010 at 12:21 pm

Great post! I try to involve my kids with their food too, by gardening and visiting farmer’s markets, and by letting them participate in cooking and baking too. We’re learning a lot together, which is great fun… we’ve recently started making our own yoghurt and jam, as well as baking bread and cookies. We also went picking raspberries at the u-pick farm. YUM. :)

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MamanADroit August 4, 2010 at 10:50 pm

We just started our first experiment in gardening together! He just turned 1, so he mostly does things like put rocks into the planter and carries around a toy watering can. But I think he likes seeing the pumpkin vines we planted get bigger every day, and hopefully I can make pie or something this fall with them!

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