There is very little that kids can control in their lives, but they can control what goes in their mouths. So, depending on your child, they may be exerting a little control over this area of their life or a LOT (yes, I might be speaking from personal experience). One of the ways that you can help them accept new foods or different types of foods is to give them a role in the process of how the food gets to the table…and hopefully into their mouths! Here are some ways they can participate:
• When your child is with you at the grocery store, let them decide what vegetable to have with dinner that night or what fruit they want with their snacks that week. That way, you are guiding by letting them know that vegetables and fruits are the plan, but they get some control as to which one lands on their plates. My kids love farmers markets for selecting produce! The OSU-OKC Farmers Market is open all year long on Saturdays. And, of course, you can always take your kiddos straight to the source to pick your own produce by checking out this site for local farm info and availability by season.
• Let them help you prepare the food. I realize this sounds like it could be a disaster waiting to happen, but it doesn’t have to be. You obviously don’t want them in charge of chopping any vegetables, but they can help by washing them off for you or putting them in the pan to cook. There are also some great kid and family cooking classes offered at Platt College, Francis Tuttle and even some Metro Library locations!
• Let them pick a name for their dish that night. Encourage them to use their imaginations and think of a name for it other than just the name of the food. (Example: Alyssa’s Amazing Peas) This gives them ownership of the project!
• Invest in a kid's cookbook or two. Not all the recipes in these cookbooks are the picture of health, but many are good balanced meals that are kid friendly. Plus, the recipes in them are usually simplified so that it’s easier for your child to help. Make it a tradition that one night a week (or every other week if even reading this is stressing you out) is “Kids Cook Night.” The OSU extension office published a kid’s cookbook that might be a great place to start.
So, break out the kid apron and put them to work! It can be a great family bonding time as well as something to hopefully improve food acceptance at your table.
Kim Bilger is a registered dietitian with a passion for helping people optimize their nutritional health. She lives in Edmond with her husband and three kids who appreciate her love of baking but not always her love of vegetables.