How to Help Your Kids Enjoy New & Different Types of Food
I receive a lot of emails on this subject and have a few ideas that I try to relate but this week I read an article in the Philadelphia Inquire by Karen Heller about a new cookbook by Jessica Seinfeld, the wife of actor / comedian Jerry Seinfeld called Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids to Eat Good Food.
The article, Mrs. Seinfeld's recipe to raise picky eaters, is a great read, informative and humorous itself, but I was more interested in Karen Heller's own "tricks" to get children to eat more adventurous foods at the end of the article. They are right on.
Not that there is anything wrong with Jessica Seinfeld's methods, they just differ with Ms. Heller's philosophy. I have not read Mrs. Seinfeld's book yet so I will reserve my editorial to a later date.
Ms. Heller suggests presenting "interesting food to children" as early as possible so they are "more likely to adopt an interesting diet". I couldn't agree more. It's not easy, but I ask my kids to at least try everything I prepare and if they don't like it, which is more often than not, they can spit it out in my hand. Sometimes I think they fake not liking it just so they can spit in my hand.
And you will be surprised by what they like and don't like. For example, my youngest does not like hamburgers. I'm thinking, "What kid doesn't like hamburgers?" but she and her sister both love steamed clams. When I was a kid I didn't even like looking at steamed clams.
Ms. Heller also suggests taking kids out to restaurants so they can learn to eat different ethnic foods. I could not agree more. Not only do they experience new styles of cooking, they get the whole experience of dining out and how to behave in a nice restaurant. Be careful how young you start taking them out to be considerate of the other people in the restaurant.
One of the first times we took our oldest daughter out to a restaurant as a baby, I was holding her in my arms with her head looking over my shoulder at the table behind us. They thought this was cute until she threw up. Luckily we knew the people and they were ok with it but it could have been a really bad experience for everyone.
Cook With Your Kids
The most powerful suggestion Ms. Heller writes is "Cook with your kids. Children love to cook. They love to eat what they've made."
This is so true. I can't tell you how much my kids like to help in the kitchen especially my 7 ½ year old with cerebral palsy. We have a special stander that brings her up to counter height and she helps me prepare meals. She gets great satisfaction out of being able to help and she is definitely more likely to try eating something that she was involved preparing than something I throw in front of her.
I get emails from parents all the time asking me about cooking classes for their kids. They are around and I am going to put together a list and post it on my web site but I always respond to the parents by suggestion them to start in their own kitchens. At these early stages, most of us parents have all the skills we need to be our kids' culinary arts instructors. Besides, it's a great way to bond with your kids.