Sam Flatman, Educational Consultant for Pentagon Sport, knows that healthy eating is important and wants to make sure our children do too.
We’re always trying to do the best for our children: making sure they get enough exercise, have plenty of time to play outdoors and eat a healthy, balanced diet. The only problem is that recent research from Wholegrain Goodness has shown that three out of every ten children think healthy eating is boring, and a massive two thirds of children think that healthy eating is unimportant. How then can we get our children to see the better side of fruits and veggies? We need to get them interested and excited about eating healthy food, which can actually be quite simply achieved from a young age with these fun and simple approaches.
1) Get hands on
A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about why we should let our children play with their fruit and vegetables. It turns out that when it came to eating a spoonful of the green stuff, children ate 66% of the fruit and vegetables that they had previously played with. Letting children touch and play with vegetables is an excellent form of sensory play. Encourage your child to run their hands over the head of a broccoli and then compare it to the skin of a melon, discussing the differences in texture. Let children have fun as they explore and experiment so that they can familiarise themselves with healthy foods.
2) Pretend play
Children love pretend play and it really is a great way for them to gain social, emotional and intellectual understanding. Introduce the concept of cooking to your children when they’re toddlers by pretending to be a cook in the kitchen and create an imaginary meal. You don’t need a whole plastic kitchen set to engage your child in playing chef; just use pans and spoons from your own kitchen cupboards as well as some real fruits and vegetables. As an outdoor alternative, mud kitchens are also a fun way to experiment with the idea of cooking and will boost creative thinking skills.
3) Collecting food
Children love to feel involved in adult tasks, even the chores we dread, like food shopping. Grab some food magazines and create a collage together with your child of ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ foods. Explain why some foods are healthier than others. Ask them which foods from the healthy section they would like to try and take a trip to the local green grocer’s. Let them choose the fruit and vegetables that they would like to eat for dinner. See how many of them they can name, and make the outing into a fun game. Growing herbs or even vegetables in the garden can also be a fun way to teach your child about healthy foods.
4) Involve them in cooking
The study found that only a quarter of children regularly help to make meals at home, yet one in three children said that they would be keen to cook more often. If you have really little ones, then simple tasks like making a fruit salad are a great way to start. Primary aged children can take charge of mixing ingredients together and even have a say in what they would like to eat for dinner. Explain about the dangers in the kitchen and work with your child when cooking a family meal. This way they will be both involved and learning how to prepare healthy food safely. If you’re in need of some healthy recipes BBC Good Food and Super Healthy Kids are two great resources for children’s cooking ideas.
It’s not only our children who are keen to cook, in fact three in ten parents said that they would love their children to cook more. It seems that we all want to be learning about healthy food, so let’s get cooking!
About the Author: Sam Flatman is an Educational Consultant for Pentagon Sport. Pentagon have worked with over 5,000 settings to create innovative playgrounds and learning environments for young students. He has been designing playgrounds for the past 10 years and has a passion for outdoor education. Sam believes that outdoor learning is an essential part of child development, which can be integrated into the new school curriculum. He is currently based in Bristol with his two sons.