As adults, we know that including a variety of fruits and vegetables is important for a healthy diet. For children, this leads to “improved nutrition, decreased obesity risk and better school performance.” Unfortunately, only 22 percent of toddlers and preschoolers meet government recommendations for fruit and vegetable intake, and only 16 percent of children aged 6 to 11 do, this article states.
So, what do you do? Fortunately, many fruits and vegetables peak in freshness and flavor in the summertime, making summertime the perfect time to get your preschooler and other young children interested in eating these nutritional powerhouses. Here are tips on how to do that.
First, did you know that numerous farms in Northeast Ohio allow families to enjoy educational tours? Northeast Ohio Family Fun lists some of these, cautioning that you should confirm open hours before making the trip. While not all farms grow produce—and while some focus on fall crops—these tours provide great opportunities for your children to learn while having a wonderful time. Also consider stopping by produce stands by farms in the region and let your preschooler have a say in what is purchased.
But, you may be asking, how do I get my child to actually EAT fruits and veggies?
ParentsForHealth.org offers plenty of tips, including encouragement to persevere. Some children are naturally fussier eaters, but may try a new food if enough opportunities present themselves. Don’t force a particular food—after all, even as adults, we don’t like all foods—and be patient.
You can also make eating these foods fun, by cutting fruits into interesting shapes with cookie cutters or challenging your child to eat as many different colors of fruits and veggies as possible. You can create and display a chart to make successes more visible. You can also use cut-up vegetables to make silly faces on sandwiches. Be creative! The site also suggests that you keep a bowl of fresh, cut-up fruit in the refrigerator and say that it’s available for snacking throughout the day.
Have fun with fruit and veggie art. Take old magazines that contain pictures of food—cooking magazines, women’s magazines and more—and help your child to cut out pictures and then glue them on construction paper to make an interesting collage. If your child puts, say, pictures of grapes and melons together, ask him or her if this would taste good as a combo. What about, instead, grapes and broccoli? What makes one a better combination that the other? If possible, finish the art session by snacking on foods for which your preschooler gave a thumbs up.
Here’s another idea. In just about any bag of potatoes, there are a couple that don’t look all that great for eating. Cut out interesting shapes on the ends of these and let your child dip them into watercolors to create funky stamping art on construction paper or poster board.
It’s unlikely that you’ll ever run out of intriguing craft ideas involving fruits and vegetables. This link from Pinterest shows plenty of ideas—and a quick Google search will show even more. And when you find a strategy that helps your child enjoy nutritional foods, share it with other parents who are facing the same challenge.
Looking to enrich your child’s learning and life? Horizon Education Centers provides affordable quality care, including educational and enrichment opportunities for children in the following Northeast Ohio locations.