When we had our first kid, I read an article about how we as Americans teach our children to eat versus what other countries do. How our beginning foods are bland, at best but other countries tend to make their baby food with the same herbs and spices as their own. But we start bland and wonder why our kids don’t progress past chicken nuggets and french fries. It really resonated with me. So when our daughter started solids, we made a lot of our own food (which is super easy by the way! We have a tendency to complicate it so much). As I boiled beans, I added garlic and pepper. When I cooked down chickpeas we added all the herbs we enjoyed! Broccoli with lemon pepper and a dash of salt, yes please!
There’s something to be said about allowing your kids the experience of taste. As we’ve progressed, both in her cuisine and in siblings, we’ve learned lessons along the way and I’m here to share them with you! Now, I’m not a professional nor do my kids eat EVERYTHING, but we definitely enjoy more than nuggets and french fries. Here are some tips and tricks from the years.
Did you know tummy time had more purpose than to strengthen muscles?
Its true! As those tiny babes are trashing around whipping their heads back and forth, protesting everything that is tummy time, they are experiencing textures. Their mouths are brushing against rough surfaces, and soft surfaces, smooth surfaces, growing and expanding their senses with each new encounter. How crazy is that!?
Let them play with their food.
I know, I know. There are a lot of moms out there that cringed just reading that, because kids are SO messy! And who really wants to allow a kid to make more of a mess but stay with me for a moment. Remember how we just talked about tummy time and the exposure to textures? Food play provides your kids the same benefits. Foods vary in their taste and textures. I for one don’t like bread pudding. Sacrilege in these parts, I know, but I don’t love the mushy texture, I don’t like mushy foods. Here’s the thing, the more you allow your children to explore the more they experience and the more you learn about them. Some kids hate yogurt, but if you add nuts, dried fruit, or granola they’ll devour it! Sometimes food play will help you as their mom as much as it helps them.
Let them try the foods they ask for.
This one comes with a cautionary “within reason.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been out with friends and a kid asks, “Can I try X?” and it never fails that some adult will tell them, “Oh, I don’t think you’ll like that” or “You don’t like that” or even, “That’s hot, you won’t want it.” But we have a rule in my house: they ask, they try. When my eldest begged for a spoon full of Crisco, I gagged, but gave her a spoon. (Don’t worry, she wasn’t a fan!) When she asked for raw cranbabies (cranberries), I obliged. Again, not a fan, but it was hilarious to watch! When kid 2 asked to try Mom’s favorite snack, Wasabi Peas, it turned out he LOVED them! So much so that I had to hide the cans because he’d devour them if given the chance. Now, both kid 1 and kid 2 will eat them. They discuss how they will burn in your nose, for just a second, but then they taste good! Kid 1 wants to love cherry tomatoes, her friends do and so does her brother, so on occasion she will request one on her plate. But the second that tomato bursts in her mouth she regrets that decision. But the important part is that SHE got to decide she still didn’t like them, it wasn’t me telling her.
Don’t yuck someone else’s yum.
This is a table rule at our house. Let’s face it, so much of childhood is a game of peer pressure. (Like kid 1 wanting to like tomatoes) When my kids sit to eat, it only takes one of them to say, “Eww, I don’t like this!” for mealtime to domino into a rejection fest. So we have a look, and I know the look and I’ll nod or request two bites and we all know the drill. But it helps keep the other kids from jumping ship; especially with new foods!
You Pick Dinner.
This is a compilation of a dinner my family used to do & something my sister-in-law did with her kids. Take your kids to the store, or the produce stand, allow them to pick out 2-3 foods, you can set parameters: 1 food you know you like and 2 new ones. Then you go home and prepare them, together! My kids love white asparagus but not green. They don’t like sweet potatoes at all. They think purple potatoes are hilarious. Dragon fruit is bland, but starfruit is delicious! Moondrop grapes taste just like grapes; muscadines are delicious but the skin is weird. Yellow and purple broccoli are a cause for giggles, game day fun, and a favorite colors dinner! When we do You Pick dinners, we usually serve it family style or charcuterie style. Mix it up, make it fun, change the dinner environment! This gives them a more relaxed atmosphere. We even have a spit bucket for the rejected foods and while we don’t force consumption, we do require each kid to try the foods they selected. Sometimes we walk away with total fails, but often we find new foods and new recipes!
Encourage their participation in meal prep.
Again, I know, kids are messy! I know not all moms are prepared to hover over their 3 year old wielding a knife as he carefully chops green beans and carrots, but can I tell you it is SO worth it! The other day, my six year old and three year old MADE dinner! They made vegetable soup, mostly alone, in the instant pot! AND they ate copious amounts before asking for leftovers from the night before. And that’s leaps and bounds more than what they’ve tasted of soups in the past! Give it a try, sometimes pride in making something is more important than the mess. Also, take these moments to teach them HOW to clean up after themselves!