Mealtime is an opportunity to provide babies, toddlers and young children with a wide range of experiences that involve their five senses. Incorporating activities around food — and the various cultures from which dishes originate — can help children expand their worldviews and develop stronger brain pathways.
It can be fun, rewarding and impactful to celebrate cultural food practices with children. Activities don’t need to be complicated, and they don’t need to directly involve physical food. Here are a few ideas to get started:
Not sure where to start for dishes? Try this Arepas recipe for children who love the movie “Encanto,” this rice paper rolls recipe to familiarize children with Vietnamese ingredients, or this sushi sandwich recipe.
Trying new foods with children is easier said than done, but there are strategies that can help make the process easier for everyone. Some children develop a fear of new foods around the age of two, but it’s completely normal. The aversion typically peaks between 2 and 6 years and decreases progressively as the child gets older.
The more flavors your child experiences at a young age, the more likely they are to eat a wide range of foods as they grow up. Herbs and spices add flavor to children’s food without adding less desirable ingredients, like sugar or salt, and help their palate expand to enjoy food from a variety of cultures.
It can take time for children to develop a taste for new flavors. Be calm and patient when reintroducing food that may not be a hit from the first bite. Exposure to variety and colorful options — paired with modeling good eating behavior — can lower children’s opposition over time.
Here are some tips for introducing new foods and flavors:
Intentional meals are just one way to boost the quality of care for children. If you’re ready to learn more, Step Up to Quality helps great child care providers become even better. If you’re a parent who’s on the search for providers who are committed to quality care, check out our search tool to find options near you.