I LOVE summer! Not because of it’s lazy, hazy days, but because it’s the easiest time of year to get kids (even picky eaters) excited about trying fruits and vegetables. Summer is the time for vegetable gardens and Farmers’ Markets! Both of which are fantastic ways to get kids interested in trying new foods. Why are these such powerful tools for getting kids to eat vegetables?
It’s All Mine: Toddlers and Preschoolers are in what I call the “me do it” stage. Independence, skill mastery, and learning how the world works are all highly important. Growing vegetables uses this developmental stage to your advantage. Many children will eat vegetables that they’ve grown themselves that they otherwise wouldn’t have touched with a 10-foot pole.
Variety is Inspiring: When you grow your own and visit the Farmers’ Market you get to experience a huge variety of vegetables and fruit that you won’t find in a grocery store. Engage your child’s innate curiosity to compare and contrast.
Veggies, Veggies, Everywhere: We’re creatures of our environment. What’s even better than role modeling eating veggies? Spending time growing veggies and at locations where everyone eats veggies – a.k.a. the Farmers’ Market! The underlying message that you’re teaching your child is that it’s normal to eat vegetables. This is a great way to counteract all the advertising that kids are exposed to for highly processed junk foods.
It’s Obvious Where It Comes From: Picky eaters are often little conspiracy theorists, highly suspicious of the food that suddenly appears on the plate in front of them. In contrast, when you grow a food yourself, you know exactly where it comes from. At a Farmers’ Market, all the food is out in the open. You’re encouraged to touch, smell, and meet the person who grew the veggies and fruit.
I want to end with a cautionary note. The effectiveness of these summer hobbies to inspire your picky eater to try new foods is related to the attitude that you bring. Yes, you! Make sure that you’re open to and excited about trying new veggies and fruit. Be a vegetable growing, buying, and eating role model!
Child-feeding expert Kristen Yarker, MSc, RD helps Moms and Dads support their picky eaters to try new foods on their own (without being forceful or sneaky). Get scientific evidence-based answers to real questions from real parents (recipes too!) by signing up for her 101 Healthy Snack Ideas at: kristenyarker.com