Nourishing our kids for both their physical and emotional needs requires tackling on two levels: firstly ideas on what to feed them and then further strategies on how to get them to eat it!
Nutritional experiences in early life have long lasting consequences so its well worth investing time in making positive moments out of meal times. A combination of the main carers attitude around food and the child’s personality will shape what type of eater the child will become in their early years before media and peers become major influencers too.
So let’s bring some fun and creativity into the mix. Even if our lives are full of busyness there is always time for food and kids love to get involved. During the craziest of weeks, I’ll still set aside one afternoon when we have a tea party. The kids arrive home from school to a table set with interesting items. There is always colour, texture, vibrancy and an array of small forks and knives for chopping and rearranging. I’m angling here for some play. For a child to make the table their own, create new patterns on the plate and position fruit around flapjack to get their own preference for flavour combinations.
Balance is key, especially for fussy kids. So be sure to place familiar items on the table juxtaposed with some new introductions. Perhaps it’s the season for fresh figs or you have discovered a different type of seedy muffin. Include plenty of protein rich foods for brain sustenance – the creation of all those neurotransmitters and the connection of neurons for memory forming requires plenty of amino acids; hummus type dips, soya beans, nuts and seeds, dippy eggs and chicken strips are all fabulous snacks to replenish after a long day of learning. Dips are fabulous for creativity – my kids love to blend chickpeas with beetroot, walnuts, garlic, mint and olive oil to make a pink and delicious mix. Initially, this could be entirely a play activity which if repeated over time can become ‘dip tasting for adults’ and then move on to the kids tasting too. No pressure.
Children love to embrace their identity by establishing likes and dislikes around foods. That’s fine. Avoid being pushy or creating a battleground. But remain firm and keep bringing the same foods to the table even if they are being rejected.
Evolutionary scientists term fear of foods in early toddler years as ‘neophobia’ – fear of the new. They relate this back to cave dwelling times when young children needed to develop fussiness in order to remain cautious of unfamiliar berries on head-height bushes.
Does this help when your child is tossing yet another broccoli floret to the floor? Perhaps not but don’t give up. All foodie effort will be worth it in the long term.
For the tea party pictured I set up a ‘Beautiful Blue Monday’ table with plump dates, blueberries and fresh figs. Alongside we had shop bought flapjack bites and Portuguese Tarts. All washed down with some hot chocolate frothed up in my trusty Lavazza milk frother (favourite Xmas present!)
Lovely foodie moments