Teaching Children About Nutrition
Activities and games are a great way to begin laying the foundations of a good diet and healthy attitude towards food with your child.
Fundamentals such as the importance of eating breakfast, drinking lots of water and trying to eat a variety of colours for each meal can be gently encouraged, but the best way children learn is through fun.
The following are some activities that embrace the concept of learning through enjoyment, creating a firm basis to build on and promoting a lifetime of great eating habits.
- Sing-a-song-of-food: Singing is fantastic method by which to teach important messages. When it comes to nutrition there’s loads to choose from, such as Hot Potato or Fruit Salad by The Wiggles. Dancing to foodie songs is also a great choice – get them to use their imagination as they make up dances about certain food groups, such as veggies and fruit.
- Food tasting: Trying different foods as part of a game is ideal, as it’s not being associated as a meal that ‘has’ to be eaten. Discuss colour, smell and texture, as well as getting your child to consider how much this can change with different cooking and preparation methods.
- Do the food alphabet: A great dual-aspect learning game – ask the child to cut out pictures of various foods that they recognise and match them to the letters of the alphabet.
- Utilise age-specific nutrition books: Such as Jasper McFlea Would Not Eat His Tea (Lee Fox and Mitch Vane) and Monsters Don’t Eat Broccoli (Jean Barbara Hicks).
- Grow your own: You don’t need to start a full-blown veggie garden, but a few pots can be a great method to bring food fun into the equation. Growing your own tomatoes or carrots is an slow-burn adventure that’s fascinating for all involved. Add in a further element with age-specific gardening books, such as Growing Vegetable Soup (Lois Ehlert), and you’ll be instilling an all-important curiosity that will hopefully lead to a lifelong interest in creating tasty, healthy, home-cooked meals.
- Read books: There’s loads of good nutrition books that you can read with your child. Examples include, The Vegetables We Eat (Gail Gibbons) and Good Enough To Eat (Lizzie Rockwell), both focusing on fun reading combined with nutritional education, with the latter also including some really good child-friendly recipes.
- Get cooking: Preparing food with your little ones isn’t just an educational experience, it’s also a wonderful bonding activity (not to mention fun for all involved). It’s also putting down a fab foundation for the importance of creating your own meals, rather than buying ready meals or relying on the local take-out.
- Visit food locations: A wonderful method of teaching children about different foodstuffs is to take food excursions. This can simply be a visit to the local supermarket, bakers or butchers. Farm trips are a fantastic day out, with activities such as watching cows being milked or eggs collected sparking great topics of conversation, such as how yogurt is made and the all-important subject of animal welfare.
What not to do when teaching good nutrition
Children are like sponges, absorbing everything around them – positive AND negative – one thing to try not to do is to label foods in a detrimental fashion. Much as it’s hard not to, avoid saying that foods are good or bad, or healthy or junk. Instead, focus on the different food groups and the positive benefits of each. Labelling something as bad simply lays the foundations for temptation at a later date.
And remember – lead by example. Making sure your child sees you eat a healthy combination of foods is the best method of driving the message home as to why it’s important to eat a combination of all food groups.
At Nido Early Schools the experienced staff are committed to carrying on the great work that parents and caregivers do at home. The idea is to gently guide children to build a basis of nutritional understanding, encouraging enjoyment in food and a willingness to try different things. And, of course, they are very aware that pre-school age children often go through the ‘picky eater’ stage. That’s why they always work with parents to address each and every child’s individual needs.