Struggling to get your little ones to eat their greens? A new study may have the answer.
In some areas of the UK, up to 40% of pre-school children refuse to eat their vegetables, and only one in five children consumes the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables per day. Getting children to eat their apples and enjoy those sprouts isn’t always simple, but letting children play with them could help.
Children who are introduced to unfamiliar fruits and vegetables during play time are almost a third more likely to give those foods a try when it comes to mealtimes, according to the recent study. It is hoped familiarising children with healthy foods at an early age will also kick-start a healthier diet as they grow up.
As part of the study, children aged between 12 and 36 months were introduced to sweet potato, broad beans, rhubarb and pomegranates, during play time at nursery school every day for four weeks. Children chose to touch and taste the fruits and vegetables that they had played with earlier in the day, but were less keen to take on board the other vegetables that they didn’t know.
Dr Carmel Houston-Price, who led the study, said: “Our study showed that introducing new foods through fun familiarisation activities such as letting children poke their fingers inside foods, smelling them and drawing pictures of them, increased toddlers’ willingness to touch and taste them at mealtimes – especially the vegetables.” She added, that the “research could help parents to introduce more vegetables into children’s diets, and encourage children to make healthy food choices and actually enjoy eating healthily as they grow older.”
Why not try out these fun, hands on activities with your children and see if it makes them more keen to eat green:
Edible Fruit Paints: These easy to make paints are great for littles ones who love licking their sticky fingers! Simply puree fruits to make the paints. Use fruits with strong colours to get better paints, such as pomegranates for red, blueberries for blue, and passionfruit for orange.
Veggie Stamps: Potato stamps are a childhood favourite for many of us, but we don’t need to just use potatoes. Try carving shapes into other root veg, such as butternut squash, swede and turnips, and cutting up unusual shaped veg such as okra and cauliflower. Once the stamps are made, children can create patterns using their coloured fruit paints.
Rainbow Lollies: Cut up a variety of fruits into cubes and let children enjoy threading them onto wooden lollipop sticks ready for eating later as delicious icy treats. Soft fruits are better for this; try using watermelon, cantaloupe, bananas and kiwi. The best part: everyone can eat them afterwards!
Author Bio: Sam Flatman is an Educational Consultant for Pentagon Sport. Pentagon have worked with over 5000 settings to create innovative playgrounds and learning environments for young students. He has been designing playgrounds for the past 10 years and has a passion for outdoor education. Sam believes that outdoor learning is an essential part of child development and can easily be integrated into the new school curriculum. He is currently based in Bristol with his two sons. He is also an uncle to a 2 year old niece, who loves playing with her vegetables!