- #10 Eat yours and smile. Set the example. That’s where to start.
- #9 Grow. Veggies that is. Even a window box of salad greens is fun for kids to snip, wash and tear into a bowl for you. If that’s the best your little one can do that day, then celebrate it! “Wow, this salad is filled to the brim with beautiful greens that you cut for ME! Looks DELISH and I bet it will taste that way too! Thank you!”
- #8 Hang out with your kids in the produce isle. Be creative as you search for the perfect veggie. Tell your child, “I need a crown of broccoli with 8 “trees” on it. Can you find one that size?" Hand him two bunches to examine. Now he’s holding broccoli, counting the trees and talking about that vegetable.
- #7 Polish up on your food jokes: “What do garbage men eat?” Answer: “Junk Food!” I’m serious here folks – food should be fun!
- #6 Cook with your kids and don’t give them the boring jobs, like peeling carrots. Learning to eat any new foods is all about exposing kids to the foods over and over and over. It has to be more than putting veggies on their plates. Even the littlest one can join in, especially if you use a safety tower to help them participate at the counter or the sink.
- #5 Dance in the Kitchen! This award-winning children’s CD is filled to the brim with songs that celebrate the joy of food! Play “On Top of Spaghetti” to signal everyone to come to the table for Pasta Night! Or, how about a silly operetta all about peas? Download it free here (good till December 31st, 2012).
- #4 Use “Family Style” serving plates or bowls. Pass the serving dishes around the table and establish the rule that everyone puts a little bit of everything on their plate. If your kiddo protests, give him the role of “Master Server”, allowing him to dish up everyone’s plate and thus, be exposed to the new foods several times in one meal. Sometimes the first step to eventually eating a vegetable is just spooning it onto a plate. Taking that first bite may be weeks away. That’s fine. Hang in there and proclaim him “the best at balancing Brussels sprouts on a silver spoon!”
- #3 Work your way to swallowing. Nothing wrong (except fashionably) with a little carrot lipstick, a big fat kiss on a piece of cauliflower or seeing how long you can hold a lima bean in your front teeth before dropping it back onto your plate. Food games help kids become more familiar with new smells, tastes, texture and temperatures of vegetables. Chewing and swallowing are a more advanced skill and sometimes take a bit more time.
- #2 Chase it. Make sure everyone has a water cup with a lid and a straw. A chaser of water is a simple way to wash down a new food. Remember your first sip of black coffee? You probably swallowed it pretty darn fast and grimaced at the bitter aftertaste. Now, you drive by that big green circle known as the Starbucks™ sign and suddenly, you HAVE to have a Latte. When kids chew a new veggie for the first time, the sensations can be overwhelming. Using a straw helps to wash down the new taste more efficiently than an open cup of water. Don’t call a lot of attention to it, but allow your child to chase his veggies with water until he can manage to swallow small, chewed bites on his own. And...
- The NUMBER ONE way to get your kids to eat their veggies…(drum roll please): Keep it joyful. Learning to eat new foods is a step by step process. Take it slow…keep it fun…enjoy the journey!
Melanie is speech language pathologist who specializes in feeding. Her work brings her into the homes and schools of her clients, kids, who for various reasons have difficulty with food or with eating. She works with kids and their parents to develop effective strategies that help children become “more adventurous eaters”. At least 50% of her clients have food allergies or intolerances, and for them, “adventurous eating” takes on a special meaning. Melanie is also the author of Happy Mealtimes with Happy Kids” and the executive producer of “Dancing in the Kitchen.”
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