Stephanie Maze, author of "Healthy Foods from A to Z," offers tips for getting kids to eat their fruits and vegetables. The key, as you'll see, is to find ways to make healthy foods fun -- and that includes letting kids play with their food!
Millions of people make resolutions to improve their lives—both at the beginning of a new year and throughout the year. In addition to personal resolutions, parents often promise to make their children's lives healthier and more productive as well.
Since children love to play and are eager to learn, here are a few fun projects adapted from Moonstone Press's new children's book, Healthy Foods From A to Z / Comida sana de la A a la Z, that make eating healthier both simple and fun:
1. Try one new healthy food each week, such as a specific fruit or vegetable. All family members have to agree to at least taste the food item—especially if they haven't tried it before—making it fun for everyone. They can then share their impressions and decide whether they liked it or not and why. Was it too sweet, sour, or spicy, or did it feel too mushy, crunchy, or slimy? Perhaps a new food item is added to the regular shopping list. Whether it's an avocado, a pomegranate or some tofu...who knows! It could become pretty popular around the dinner table.
2. Create your own edible fruit or vegetable bouquet. Using cookie cutters or a knife (and with the help of an adult), children cut food items into various shapes, place them on skewers, and insert the skewers into half a cabbage. Once the bouquet is finished, young children can practice identifying shapes: are they squares, rectangles, triangles, circles, stars, or something else? After that it's time to eat the fruit—or vegetables—for snack or dessert.
3. Make an animal out of an apple or pear, using toothpicks to hold berries, nuts, and other healthy foods together for the ears, eyes, nose, hands, and feet. At the same time, discuss what types of healthy foods animals eat every day, and how they compare to those of humans.
4. Decorate an old hat with pictures of healthy foods from a magazine or a child's drawings. Use a glue stick or adhesive to create an “imagination hat.”
5. Make fruit/vegetable stamps: Carefully carve your own stamp into half a potato or apple, dip it in paint, and press it down on paper to create amusing designs. Once the ink or paint dries, use these creations as place mats.
Children learn through playing, and learning about new foods while "playing" with them will often take away any mystery or fear of something new. It may also make picky eaters more open to accepting a wider variety of foods--and even develop new favorites!
Stephanie Maze is the creator of Healthy Foods From A to Z/Comida sana de la A a la Z. This children's book, written in both English and Spanish, incorporates fun food faces made of healthy foods representing each letter of the alphabet. Children can practice colors, letters, shapes, spelling, and new language while learning about healthy food choices. Included at the end of the book is a template for children to create their own healthy food face, other healthy food projects involving math, science, and art activities, and a glossary for parents to learn fun and interesting facts about the large variety of healthy foods available today.