Every parent tries to find innovative and sneaky ways to get their kids to eat more vegetables. Although our three year old twins are generally good eaters, we also have our moments of resistance and outright refusal to eat the leafy greens and rainbow-hued goodness of the earth.
Since they were able to toddle around by themselves, we have been including them in all aspects of the produce food chain, from growing our own, to grocery shopping and putting the produce away in the fridge, to preparing and plating salad.
Step 1: Lil’ Growers
Last summer we grew a small assortment of vegetables and herbs in our garden including parsley, basil, mint, and cherry tomatoes. It was Mister and Missy’s job to water the plants every day after ‘chool (daycare) and watch them grow. They would also pick (and eat!) the ripened cherry tomatoes and even munch on the herbs straight off the plants.
Strangely enough, they usually would not touch the same items if they were put on their plates. It seems they prefer to eat veggies and herbs fresh off the plant, go figure! This spring our plan is to grow some vegetables from seed inside the home before planting them outside in May once the Canadian growing season officially begins.
Step 2: Lil’ Shoppers
If you are brave enough to take your little ones shopping, it can be a great learning experience. Mister for example wants to choose his own avocadoes (he loves their creamyness and will devour a whole one for breakfast). Missy wants to choose the apples and puts them in the plastic bag before placing it in the cart. Back at home, they will race to help put the groceries away. While removing each item from the grocery bag, we will talk about what it is and where it goes like: “This is a banana and banana goes in the… fruit basket!” or “What’s this? Cucumber, right! And it goes in the… fridge!”
Step 3: Lil’ Cooks
The final step in the food chain is to move that vitamin-packed roughage from plate to mouth. We found that by getting Mister and Missy involved in preparing a dish like salad, they would unwittingly start munching on the raw vegetables! I remember doing the same thing when I was younger. What chef can resist tasting their dish as they prepare it? One evening after daycare, Mister and Missy got to work in making salad for dinner. They were armed with 2 small mixing bowls, 2 stools and an assortment of salad ingredients.
First they took their step stools to the kitchen sink and washed the vegetables in their bowls. (Under adult supervision, of course!) Then, I cut up the vegetables one by one while my little helpers started helping themselves to the carrots, sweet peppers and cucumbers. Mister even helped me to peel a whole clove of garlic! Next, with an equal amount of salad in each bowl, it came time to season the salad with salt, pepper and dry herbs with their little hands. With beaming faces, they proudly displayed their creations at the dinner table.
They barely ate the finished product of course but I know they have had enough vegetables throughout the process to make me a happy Mama!