Involving Children in Food

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.

The community communion table

2808759067_de40a54f47Food is a big deal in my family and in our community. Meals, especially dinner, are when everyone gets together. They are loud and they last a long time. No one seems to be in a hurry to get them over with.

Dinner prep is usually fairly chaotic with everyone in and out of the kitchen and the kitchen overflows with smells. We cook spicy and ethnic food a lot so curry and chili are regular smells in our kitchen.

Dinner is a community communion of sorts. You can feel the joy of eating when our clan gets together. We make food that is nourishing, made of as many whole foods — and organic when we can afford it — as we are able and food that is full of flavor. Our policy is that everyone should leave the table full in every way, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

Since shortly after my son was born he sensed that dinnertime was special. That there was something special about sitting down together and that it made eating something more than just nourishing our bodies but that it is something that nourishes relationship, something that nourishes the soul.

By the time he was a few months old he demanded to “sit” at the table with everyone. Usually on my husband’s or my lap. He wanted to be a part of what was going on.

As my son started to eat food I watched him enjoy food. My son loves both curry and chili. Granted he is now a very normal toddler and I have to come up with creative ways to introduce healthy food in to his diet but I am satisfied knowing that the meals we put on the table are full of nourishing food but it’s more than just the food he is putting it to his belly. My son sits at the end of our large dinner table and he engages in the conversation and laughter that happens. I am happy to see my son be nourished in every way around the community communion table.

Jasmine is a co-housing community living mama with a passion for fierce writing.

Photos used from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/forever5yearsold/2808759067/

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