Fostering a Healthy Mindset Around Food

Creating an environment that encourages a healthy mindset around food is important to us.  Do we encourage Eliana to play with the food on her dinner plate?  No.  Do we create opportunities for Eliana to think about food in positive ways?  Yes.  At our home we are continually working toward a positive mealtime environment for the whole family and try our best to foster a healthy mindset around food.

Children Helping in the Kitchen

When children help in the kitchen, they are getting acquainted with foods in different ways.  They are smelling it, feeling it in their hands, looking at its appearance.  It can be intimidating to try something by first tasting it.  A child may feel guarded before accepting a new food into their mouth.  By allowing them to hold it, look at it, smell and play with it prior to mealtime allows them to become more familiar with the foods and hopefully more accepting of them when asked to "try and taste it" later.

Eliana loves to cook with me and she is often times my Sous Chef.  She loves to mix, stir, pour and measure.  But sometimes I am doing tasks in the kitchen where it would not be safe for her to help.  I can most often distract her by creating a "very special helper task" of stirring a bowl with a single ingredient to make her feel needed.  But sometimes we like to break out of this routine and get even a little crazier...why not paint with the food we are making?

Eliana using a pepper to stamp and paint with while I chop peppers and carrots for dinner.

Eating is a Multi-Sensual Activity

Caregivers often see the first signs of independence when it comes to food and mealtimes.  When a child tastes a food, they are not only using their sense of taste.  They are also using these sensations:

  • Touch
    • They are feeling the texture of the food inside their mouth.
  • Smell
    • They are smelling the food more strong as it approaches their mouth and as they bite into it.
  • Proprioception
    • They are getting feedback on things such as the firmness of the food while they chew.   

Eating truly is a multi-sensual activity that can very much be overwhelming if not approached the right way.  Rather than jumping to "just try it" (meaning "just taste it") let them use their other senses first.  Such as, "try holding it" or  "try smelling it" and maybe even "try squishing it!".

How We Painted With Peppers:

I first unrolled craft paper onto the kitchen island.  I then cut one pepper in half and supplied paint.  Eliana used the pepper as a stamp by pressing the pepper into the paint and then pressing the pepper onto the paper.

Eliana had so much fun making her stamped pepper paper while I chopped peppers for dinner.  After painting she asked for some of the chopped peppers and I gladly let her "try".  She came back for seconds and thirds and then couldn't wait to show Daddy how she had helped with dinner this night!