If your home is anything like mine, you’ll have children with varying eating habits and approaches to food.
I have a Teen who would happily eat nothing but Nutella sandwiches or the occasional Thai Beef Salad if it was placed in front of him. He has zero interest in cooking or being in the kitchen despite my insistence that he get involved if only to set the table each evening. Of interest to me; is that it’s not that he dislikes food ~ he will eat whatever is put in front of him; more that he sees food as a way of refuelling. There is nothing convivial about his approach to the harvesting, preparation or eating of food.
My Tween is the complete opposite. She scours cookbooks, regularly asks to cook for the entire family and has a repertoire of recipes that she enjoys building upon each week. She’ll willingly try new flavours and cuisines and is developing an intuitive and expansive palate. She happily tends her vegetable patch and fairly shivers with pride when something is ready to harvest.
It flummoxes me that I provided them with exactly the same food experiences growing up and yet they are so very different. I refuse to believe that their habits are specific to their genders, nor do I believe that either approach is right or wrong (although I personally prefer the latter). Instead, I continue to focus on making eating a family affair. To surround it with conviviality and happiness. To foster an eagerness to explore and enjoy the world of food in the hope that my son will eventually come to the party.
I am fortunate not to have any fussy eaters; although I guess I should mention the cat who’ll eat nothing other than a particular brand of dry food. If I did have a selective eater, I would do my very best to subscribe to the view that it’s OK. That, on the whole, kids self-regulate their food habits as they approach adulthood. There are many websites that confirm my view and offer good advice on how to manage the process. You can find one here. The wonderful Ruth at Gourmet Girlfriend regularly offers good tips on children and food and has also started a fab initiative called the Kool Kids Cooking Club Recipe Pack.
Food should be fun and engaging. Here are a few tips on how to get Tweens into the kitchen. None of my suggestions are rocket science but they do work.
- Let them choose one meal per week. Encourage them to help you cook it; better still get them to give it a go by themselves.
- If they choose take away, that’s fine. When I was little, we were allowed to choose our dinner each Thursday. I think we had fish and chips every Thursday for about 5 years.
- As often as you can, eat together at the table. I think this is really important. Sometimes it’s the only chance the entire family has to come together, relax and debrief on the day they’ve all had.
- Remove all distractions ~ particularly technology. No TV, iPads, iPhones or computers.
- Put on some classical music. My promise to you, is that your Tweens will enjoy it. I blew my kids away the other evening with the Flower Duet from Lakme. Click here and listen to it while you continue to read…
- Have your children take turns to set the table each night. If you can, use real serviettes, candles and flowers. Give them a reward for the most creative table setting they can come up with. See here for a fun post I did on kid’s setting the table using found objects from nature. The reward could be something as simple as choosing the menu for the next day or a special food treat.
- Make food fun. For example, why not try preparing a three course meal together, using only one colour?
- Introduce a variety of cuisines. Encourage them to find out 3 fun facts about the country of origin of the food they will eat. Thai cuisine? Did you know that Bangkok’s full ceremonial name is Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit. Crikey! Thailand has over 1430 islands. The Siamese cat originated in Thailand where it is known as Wichian Mat.
- Encourage them to have one friend for dinner each week. Together, let them choose the menu and don an apron.
- For recipe ideas to tempt Tweens, visit Caro & Co
Good luck and have fun!