Any parent will tell you that getting their children to eat healthily can be a struggle. Taking time out of your busy lifestyle to plan and prepare meals from scratch is hard enough, but convincing your young ones to finish their vegetables can feel like a battle every single mealtime. Let me share a few ideas with you on how your mealtimes could be improved.
Adopting Healthy Eating Habits
Maria Montessori’s model of child education has a lot to say on how to encourage children to be independent. In this post we show you how even young children can be involved in preparing their own meals and snacks. Montessori’s ideas were all about letting children take responsibility for their own learning and discovery, and at mealtimes this means presenting children with plenty of healthy options and good habits rather than forcing them to eat the type of food we want them to eat.
Let Them Get Involved
Having your toddler help out in the kitchen might challenging at times, but the best way to teach children about healthy meals is to get them involved in cooking. Depending on your children's age it can be easy as counting out 10 potatoes and putting them in a bowl and washing them to beating up raw eggs (make sure they are old enough not to lick it) or cutting boiled eggs with an egg cutter, or cutting vegetables with the crinkle cutter. For a list of cooking activities check our previous post here. When children take an active role in meal preparation it helps them take ownership of their food and feel a sense of accomplishment when everything is ready.
Setting the Table and Cleaning Up
Montessori method allows children to practice setting up the table at mealtimes, putting utensils and plates on the table. (CLICK HERE TO FIND A FREE TABLEMAT PRINTABLE). At Montessori schools children are encouraged to pour with pitchers and serve themselves water or other drinks. Cleaning up after meals is also very important, it teaches children responsibility and awareness about their environment.
Offer Them Healthy Options
When offering your kids a snack, present a range of healthy options and let them make small choices, like picking a fruit to eat. Also, try to give your child some input or choice about what’s on the menu. Giving your child that sense of control will make them much more receptive to food and much more willing to try food they haven't had before. If children are involved in the food preparation it's more likely they will eat it, as they made it themselves. However, a good trick is to give serve vegetables first at mealtimes when children are still very hungry, which will increase the chances of vegetables being eaten. Cutting new vegetables into small pieces until children get used to the taste can also help. However, if children don’t immediately take to what you’re offering, don't give it up immediately, they might eat it the next time. It takes time for children to get used to different flavours, it can take a few attempts before they finally eat something.