I breastfed both of my babies. Once we got the hang of things, it was easy. When they were hungry, or wanted comfort, they nursed. It was simple.
Then I introduced solid foods. The world changed. Feeding my babies with love and respect took on new meaning. Food altogether took on new meaning. Suddenly there was the question of what and how much to offer? Suddenly I could see exactly how much my child did, or didn't, eat. Frequently, I worried.
Thankfully I found a lot of gentle and commonsense wisdom on feeding kids. I realized that, just as at the breast, I could trust my children to set their own pace and schedule with solid foods. As long as I generally offered them healthy food, I could leave the rest to them.
Yet, even after making this realization, I am not as zen about my kids' eating habits as I would like to be. Sometimes when they're being really picky, I still sweat it. Sometimes they chafe against the healthy options presented.
I decided that presenting healthy options wasn't enough. I wanted to get them involved in the food they eat. After all, I am raising people who will hopefully feed themselves one day.
I want them to know where their food comes from. I want them to appreciate the impact of their choices on their own health and the health of the planet. I want them to have basic food preparation skills. I think there are steps I can take now that will help.
I involve my children in their meal times in a few ways:
- They help me prepare meals - This doesn't always go smoothly, but most of the time, I can find tasks that are age-appropriate and fun. Sticking fruit on skewers, stirring, and pouring are three favorite food prep activities for my preschoolers.
- We work in the garden together - No food tastes better than the food you've picked fresh yourself. Growing your own fruit and veggies provides the ideal window into where food actually comes from.
- We visit farmers markets and buy fresh, local, whole foods - I chat with the growers, sample heirloom tomatoes, and give my kids a window into a world where food doesn't come in boxes with cartoon characters on the front.
- We visit farms - Our home is in the suburbs, so my kids don't get to see chickens or cows in their daily life. By heading out to the country, they can see where their milk and eggs come from and how the animals live.
By following my children's own hunger and thirst cues, I am teaching them that I love and respect them. By providing them with healthy options, I am trying to ensure that they eat a nutritious and well-balanced diet. By involving my children in the food we eat, I'm teaching them that there is a whole lot of backstory to every bite they take. I hope that by knowing that backstory, they will come to appreciate their food much more.
How do you involve your children in their food?