Yummy Fruit and Vegetable Fun for Kids


Tell stories in the kitchen with toysCredit: Sue Visser

Having fun with food and sharing time in the kitchen with young children is a win-win situation. Share some quality time with them and learn to make happy associations with healthy food. Here are some ideas that will make a big difference!

A lettuce wrap inspired by the storyCredit: Sue ViserFresh green paranaCredit: Sue Viaaer

Encourage Children to Love Food and to Play with it!

Dinner time can be an ordeal for small children and their parents. We may not know the reason some food is offensive to them or why they spit it out and refuse to touch anything at all. They will sit and scowl at the meal on offer and refuse to open their mouth. Perhaps they feel nauseous or are simply not hungry. But resistance should be squelched before these little people grow into adults that live on junk food and refuse to eat vegetables.

Kids are cunning creatures and can manipulate us at feeding time. Maybe they feel empowered by resisting our culinary attempts. They can get more attention by refusal and a well-choreographed performance. You know what I mean – all the food that is splashed around, the bowl is upturned and nothing is eaten. They can get you worried, angry, upset and frustrated. They can waste your time, make a lot of mess and in the end, try to show you who the boss is.

This kind of behaviour arises from physical as well as psychological reasons and for the developing little personality it is a win-win situation. They even try projectile vomiting when the spoon is forced into their mouth. There is usually nothing wrong with the food. Young children develop likes and dislikes at a very early and impressionable age even without first tasting their food. Many of them are based on unreasonable associations. Forcing them to eat something will not work either.

Associating food with fun is a neat tactic that really works

The banana busCredit: Sue VisserTurn food into cars for boysCredit: Sue Visser

Rather take the effort to turn your child into a food lover; an authority on taste, presentation and the purpose of eating. We forget that the main reason we eat is for enjoyment. After that, we eat to satisfy our hunger and lastly we eat for nourishment. Rewarding young children with sweets when they have eaten their food makes no sense. It associates eating with a task that is disliked or unpleasant. Get it over with, satisfy the demand of the adult in charge and then you can relax and eat the sweets. If you don’t eat the “nice healthy food” you get punished and lose the sweet reward.

When it comes to learning all about fruit and vegetables and showing young children how to make themselves delicious snacks, nourishment is taken for granted. It is more about sharing some quality time with them. Tell them stories, involve them in the action. Let them taste, combine and create meals and snacks that are associated with the stories you tell. Fill the time with love and laughter. Listen to children; ask for opinions, suggestions and their special recipes. How about eating green beans with bananas and peanut butter or using a salad dressing or dip that they have mixed up?

Everybody wins! One cunning Mom told wonderful stories about hills and lakes made of mashed potatoes. She filled the lakes with the sauce that the children had mixed up out of mayonnaise and tomato sauce. Then she asked them what they could use for trees. They saw the broccoli on the kitchen table and begged her to cook it so they could plant the trees next to the lake. Sliced carrots became stepping-stones and so the dish developed into a family favourite. Blanched broccoli is bright green and crunchy. Never over cook it into a grey sludge that smells like cabbage. That is enough to put everybody off.

Make food togetherCredit: Sue Visser

Some children eat broccoli raw, even in preference to bananas and strawberries. I saw this happen when I once spent some time with a very fussy little madam who refused to eat with the family. After her new associations with the food and fun story telling she turned out to be a star in the kitchen. With a little help she prepared beautiful fruity snacks that she served to her family with pride. She felt wanted, appreciated and inspired to help her Mother in the kitchen.

She was taken shopping and could choose the fruit and vegetables she had become familiar with, due to the stories and pictures that were shared with her during what was known as cuddle time. The vegetables she originally hated became those she loved to cook – her way! This is a good example of a change of mind-set and one day her family will take it for granted that good food is to be enjoyed, shared and appreciated. Treats do not have to be unhealthy and sweet things are part of a well-balanced and nourishing meal. But they are not a substitute for food.

How Vitamin B 1 stimulates the appetite

Desperate mothers sometimes asked me what to do when their young children refused to eat. It has a lot to do with sugar initially. Sugar nullifies the effects of thiamine, known as Vitamin B 1 and not many people know that this vitamin makes one insanely hungry. Most children are given multivitamins or a tonic every morning and it does improve their appetite but if it is given with sugary snacks this effect is smothered and the child will soon be craving more sugar instead of proper food. So we used to short-circuit the cycle by slipping in some extra vitamin B 1. It worked!

If you are dumbfounded by this trickery I will give you the background story. We use thiamine (Vitamin B 1) to help pets (and humans) to repel fleas. Their blood changes and fleas no longer bite them. Neither do mosquitoes. I soon noticed that the animals then began eating more and more food. Their appetites became insatiable and it cost their owners an extra fortune in pet food.

I used thiamine to help my cat, Yindee. He was bitten by a venomous spider and we took him to the animal hospital. He had vomited yellow slime for two days and was not eating or drinking anything. He was given a saline drip overnight and was given anti-nausea pills and antibiotics. They said they could do nothing more for him. I took him home and immediately squirted a solution of thiamine down his throat with a syringe, followed by water.

He spluttered and coughed and finally his throat opened. Yindee started to eat soon after that and recovered from his anorexic state. Now you know what to do if people or animals of all ages refuse to eat! Consider a Vitamin B complex supplement and try to get hold of some extra Vitamin B 1 tablets. Conversely when people complain that they are always hungry I remind them not to have these vitamins on an empty stomach and then skip a meal.

Why children don’t eat big regular meals like we do

There are many reasons why children will not want to eat a lot at dinner time. As adults we expect little people to be as hungry as we are and tuck into a hearty meal, praise the cook and announce that we are well satisfied. We get upset and try to bribe or threaten them to eat up and finish the healthy, nourishing fare that is placed before them. I remember the grace that was said before the meal. “May the Lord make us truly thankful. Amen.” Oh how I wish the Lord could have helped me eat it!

Then we were reminded of all the poor starving Ethiopians who were dying of malnutrition. I used to gallantly offer my plate of slimy meat and bones and vegetables that tasted like sludge. This did not make me popular! I reverted to diverse ways of hiding or tossing food under the table. The family dog had a good appetite.

Then came the bribing: “If you don’t eat your dinner you won’t get any pudding.” I used to ask what was for pudding and if it included lumpy egg custard or cream I had a good reason not to finish my food. I had already established set likes and dislikes by the age of four and being forced to eat what was unacceptable made me feel traumatized. I finally became a vegetarian as an adult and no longer ate dead animals just to please my parents and orthodox dieticians who think this is the only way to consume “complete” proteins.

See food through the eyes of a child and tell them their own stories

Tell stories togetherCredit: Sue VisserOnce upaon a time a girl with fair hairCredit: Sue Visser

Babies begin with nourishment at their Mother’s breast: a liquid diet with a perfect balance of nutrients to foster their growth into a human being that develops teeth. Once equipped with a set of chompers they begin to bite and chew and explore different tastes and textures. At this very impressionable age babies begin to develop likes and dislikes instinctively. They chew their toys, furniture, and often things they pick up at random. But all too soon they are channelled, disciplined and goaded into orthodox ways of eating.

It is up to us to set the example of eating for enjoyment and allowing young children to test and taste what we eat. My children hated spinach and no stories about big muscles like Popeye the sailor would convince them otherwise. They didn’t want to be like him. But they loved the creamy spinach and potato soup I made in the blender.

Free presentations on fun food for your children

I have made you a beautiful PDF slide show: Yummy fruit and vegetable fun for kids. It shows colourful images of fruit, vegetables and cute animals with short captions. It will help you to foster in them the love of food for enjoyment as well as nourishment. I can e-mail this PDF slide show and the 16 page book called Yummy Yummy to you, free of charge. They can be downloaded for use on a laptop computer or i-pad.

Get familiar with the material and make sure you have a good choice of fruit and vegetables so you can have a fun-filled session with the kids in the kitchen after they have taken a look. Let them bring along their favourite soft toys, especially little animals like the ones you will meet in the show. Explain each picture to them and make up stories they like with their own favourite characters and the items they are keen to try.  After all, there is nothing wrong with playing with your food and eating it. Now enjoy the movie!

Yindee teaches the Kids about fruit and vegetables