Children learn through touching, smelling, feeling, exploring and looking at things. That happens with learning about food, too. When standing in front of a table laden with fresh, colorful, real food, all those senses will come into play. Then we can start learning about eating the rainbow and forget the, I don’t like this or I don’t like that.
Ways to promote healthy eating through color, playing, and learning:
Children like colors. Food is colorful. Learning a child about food can start with color. Each kind of food has a known colour and every color is representative of certain nutrients. For example, a carrot is orange and contains beta carotene that is needed for good eyesight.
Children play with shapes. Food has different shapes. The shape of foods can be connected to shapes of everyday objects, for instance, Broccoli is flower shaped and oranges are round.
Children touch and feel new things. Food differs in texture and it feels different. Touching a smooth apple skin will feel a lot different from touching a pineapple or a head of lettuce.
Children smell stuff. Every fruit smell different from another. With vegetables, it might be more difficult. Some veggies do not smell nice while cooking where others, like carrots, have a nice odor. Engaging a child in the preparation and cooking of a food can counter the smell.
Children learn through play and repetition. Their attention needs to be held by what is happening or going to happen. They also learn through a routine, doing regular things, regularly. For instance, knowing that at nine-o’clock it is story time or at 11-o’clock it is tea time with a snack.
As you can see there are lots of ways to engage your child in getting to know the best choices in food. You can play color games, for example, what is the color of the food eaten at the moment. Let them look, feel, smell and taste when the food is raw and when it is cooked. You can encourage them to help with the preparation and plating of the food, creating a colorful plate of food.
Be relaxed around food and give interesting facts while working with food. Children listen even when it seems they do not. They will learn more through constant contact with healthy food and through encountering a positive outlook towards food.