How to Help Children Enjoy Vegetables
It’s quite simple.
Don’t ask them to.
The other night I was weeding my garden, which is a rather simple garden, mostly tomatoes, cucumbers, beans and peas planted around my house and garage. The neighbor children, ages 10 and 8, had cousins and friends over to their above ground swimming pool, and I was enjoying the sound of their laughter.
All of a sudden I had a “bean sighting.” Could it be? Already a string bean?
I yelled, “A bean! I have a bean!”
I didn’t realize I yelled THAT loud, but soon all the children were jumping out of the pool, and running to the short fence between our properties. “A bean?” they asked.
They watched me as I danced around with this string bean, kissing it, and honoring its entrance into my world.
Last year, I didn’t have beans. Nor the year before. The bunnies chewed my beans and peas to the ground, despite numerous anti-bunny tactics. This year I put up a net fence, and so far, so good. This is why this string bean was such a welcome sight.
By now, the children had all run around the fence, and saw me take my first bite out of this string bean. I squealed in delight at the raw crunch and flavor of it. “It tastes like sunshine!”
Almost in unison, they asked, “Can we have a bite?”
I looked at them with my “teacher face.”
They knew that face and corrected themselves. “MAY we have a bite?”
“That’s better. Well, let’s go see what else is on the green bean bush…. but you must know, these are very prized beans. We can’t take them for granted.”
“Oh, no! We wouldn’t do that!” the children all agreed this would be a treat.
We found more beans on the plant, but I insisted that only I pick them. “We can’t be greedy pulling on the plant, or we may hurt it. We need to be gentle.”
The children crowded around me as I broke string beans in half and shared my first bounty. They danced around, just like me, chattering about how delicious the green beans were.
I invited the children to come back in a few days and we can enjoy them again.
Later that night the mom of the 8-year old boy next door came over and told me he told her about the “bean experience.” “I can’t believe it,” she said. “He won’t eat green beans at our house!”
As great chefs often say, “it’s all in the presentation.”
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