We love fresh, beautiful, good food! Experiencing food can bring families together, teaches about culture and adventure and health and pleasure. If you're like us, you want all of this for your kids and even more, you want to raise foodies! Follow these 10 great tips to avoid struggles, help your picky eater, grow closer as a family and inspire future gourmets.
Is there any time for family meals? Even between toddlers eating early and the busy sports/school/work schedules, we hope so because the benefits are proven to be well worth the effort! Studies show that family dinners are the perfect setting for trying new foods, getting a good intake of veggies and fruit, controlling portions, promoting health and happiness, relieving stress and giving us a chance to talk (about food and life). We're in!
Babies are naturally adventurous with food! Proof is in the pudding (or amazing video above), as they say.
"Believe it or not, flavor shows up in utero. What mom eats finds its way into the amniotic fluid that baby swallows, and flavors like vanilla and garlic are just a few of the many flavors that can be detected in the womb. Science shows that early exposure to a variety of flavors can encourage your child to try more savory cuisine later on in life." [-Education.com]
Beyond your pregnancy, think outside of typical baby food during those months when solids are new and exciting and share a variety of flavors and textures (perhaps your own dinner, mashed or pureed).
Based on this foodie mom's years of research (read: family dinners), "the key to expanding kids’ palates is to bring them along with you on the weekly food shop. As the theory goes, when they select the pack of pomegranate seeds themselves — or the leeks or the avocados — they’ll be more likely to try it all at home." [-Dinner a Love Story] Plus farmer's markets and food halls and specialty shops are a true + thrilling adventure for everyone, "like another corner of the universe."
Dad and food writer Matthew Amster-Burton says, "Food is an opportunity to have fun sharing something with your baby. It's something my daughter and I can enjoy in the same way and on the same level - it tastes good to both of us, and so we're enjoying the same experience... You're both going to have to eat anyway, and having fun with it keeps it from becoming a chore."
More than sharing, our mini-me's are learning from us, so why not teach them to love strawberry rhubarb pie for a birthday treat, anticipate steamed artichokes on special Friday nights and prefer their grilled cheese to be made with crusty bread and Fontina?
What good is fun food without fun and friendly tableware? We have gathered our kid favorites to make meal time simple + cool + exciting. The Puj Phillup makes drinking water fun again and lightens your load (literally- less dishes, less mess).
Can they help without you losing your mind? Julie Negrin, nutritionist and kids' cooking teacher, says yes! And here's why we should try: "Mini chefs are more likely to eat what they make and become more adventurous about trying new foods. By the age of 8, they can make simple meals such as scrambled eggs. By 10 years old, they can help prepare dinner before you get home from work." Read her 9 tips on cooking with kids (and keeping your sanity) here.
Creating food helps us trust it and love it! Sharing recipes that they can follow can become a fun family activity, will give them a confidence boost and teaches skills they'll use forever.
Have a look at some of our favorite resources for fresh kid-friendly recipes and meals:
The kitchen can be so exciting for our curious kids! Rather than teach them to fear the sharp knives and hot stove, we love showing them the rising bread, the steaming rice and the colorful minced veggies. We can teach them age-appropriate tasks (while supervised and stressing safety, of course), perhaps helping with muffin liners, tossing a salad, cracking and egg, assembling a pizza, stirring a sauce, reading a recipe. Find some other age-appropriate tasks right here.
We like being a fun family but we also want to do ourselves (and our kids) a favor and help them learn how to be polite and gracious. Table manners don't have to be stuffy! ("No elbows on the table!") What to teach? From saying "please", using a napkin and chewing with your mouth closed to cutting with a knife and knowing which direction to pass the food, here's a helpful list for each age group.
Once you decide on your family's favorite table manners, have fun remembering! Maybe you can practice with a fancy candle lit dinner or a clever game. Then rest easy feeling confident that your kids won't be burping their abcs at the next dinner invite.
Download our simple placemat - 19" x 13" or print small and hang on the wall as a helpful reminder!
"Setting the table is a good way to show we care about the people who will sit down to eat with us -- it's an act of dignity, respect, and love." -Martha Stewart
It's a bonus that our kids can help us with this pretty simple daily task! Do you remember which side to put the fork and spoon? Refresh your memory or learn together with Martha's setting the table guide (from soup and salad to dessert).