Remember the days when trying a new food with your baby was as simple as opening a jar? Those chubby cheeks would squeal with delight when a spoonful of squash or peas landed right on their taste buds. Once your children are old enough to tell you they don’t want to try the green beans, or push their plate away because they can see tomatoes in the spaghetti sauce, you may be wondering where your once-adventurous eater went!
Grow Your Own Food
A really fun way to get your kids curious about fruits and vegetables is to help them to grow their own. I found great success in getting my children to try new foods when we garden as a family. You can do this whether you have a garden at home or simply have some patio pots lying around.
There are a lot of vegetables that can be grown in containers big or small: lettuces, mini carrots, radishes, green onions, beets, beans, peas, potatoes, and even zucchini. There may not be a lot of time left to grow some of the plants, but in July, you can certainly try to grow radishes, lettuces, cucumbers, beans, and some others from seed. If you aren’t sure what you can grow, check the back of the seed packet as a guide. Some plants really enjoy the shade, so know that you are not limited to the amount of sunlight your plants receive!
|Plants||Amount of Light|
|Beans (bush variety)||partial sun|
|Green Onions||full sun|
Full Sun = more than 8 hours of direct sunlight
Partial Sun = at least 4 to 6 hours of direct sunlight
Partial Shade = no more than 2 to 4 hours of direct sunlight a day,
or filtered sunlight all day
A good way to start is to plant one seed, remembering that you’ll get one plant per seed. In some cases, you can plant two seeds to make sure one of them germinates. If they both sprout, just snip off the weaker one with some scissors. For really tiny seeds, like lettuce and carrot seeds, a pinch will do. Again, snip off the weaker sprouts. Also, be sure to note the “planting depth” on the back of the seed packet.
As you will see, the plants go through stages as they grow. Even as a tender seedling it’s hard to tell which plant it will turn into. Once the plant is ready, have your kids harvest it and clean it off.
Time to Eat!
Work together as a family to look up some interesting recipes and chose one that they like. You’ll be surprised at how much more enthusiastic kids will be when trying new foods if they get to decide! Another idea is to find an age-appropriate preparation or cooking task for them to get them involved. Keeping them involved from seed to table is a great way to encourage what I like to call “adventurous eating” (seriously, what kid doesn’t love the word “adventure”?).
Make Gardening a Game
- Match the Seed to Its Plant: Make a grid on some paper, or put seeds in a baggie and try to have the kids guess what the seed will turn into when you plant it. The kids love to feel the seeds and try to guess. Even I was surprised at first!
- Guess the Seedling to Its Plant: This works if you planted a variety of seeds. To keep the fun going, pick up some note pads, or make your own mini research notebook. Have your child draw the seed, then the seedling, and keep notes as it grows. What do the leaves look like? Is the stem fuzzy, smooth, prickly? What do the flowers look like? And finally, what grew?
You may not turn that picky eater into a foodie over night, but this is a great way to make healthy eating fun. Before you know it, you’ll have fewer plates pushed away at dinner and more children asking you to make that bean dish again!
– Joohi Schrader is a nutrition and food science major at Wayne State University, a mother of three amazing children, and a certified Square Foot Gardening instructor. She’s also a Parenting Program volunteer.