Teaching Kids about Healthy Habits!
Three ways to build learning into everyday moments
Original Content by: Erica Danziger, Holistic Health Coach and Owner of Nature Girl Wellness
As a Mom, I watch my children grow and learn about the world around them. I see their little minds picking and choosing habits and behaviors to take with them on their journey toward adulthood. I love littering their path with healthy options so making healthful choices becomes easy for them. Whether it’s a carrot picnic in the yard with my 2-year-old or encouraging my 4-year old to attend his yoga class, my goal is to expose my kids to a wide variety of ways to help their bodies feel good. If I’ve done my job right, one day, when my kids go off to college to guzzle down beer and chicken wings as their primary meal of the day, maybe they’ll also sneak in kale chips or carrot juice, too. As a Health Coach, I help my clients build healthy families by creatively increasing their fruits and vegetables, changing the way they talk or behave when it comes to mealtime and helping them reduce stress when faced with a picky eater or a family member with food allergies. Together, we find strategies so they, too, can make healthy and attractive food and lifestyle options easy and accessible for their families.
Here are three ways I’ve taken every day opportunities and turned them into educational moments for my children to learn about health.
Sample #1: T is for Tomato
When my son joined a new pre-school this past fall, like most pre-Kindergarten classes, they started to explore the alphabet. To emphasize their learning, the teachers used food. The first letter they studied was “M” and my son came home with marshmallows pasted to matzah (a white flour cracker) with vanilla frosting. I wanted to gag. My son wanted to devour it. We wound up striking a compromise that sounded something like, “Two bites then we throw it away.” At this point, I knew I had a choice that many parents face. One option was to confront my son’s school and express my disappointment that M wasn’t celebrated with mango or melon. My other option was to shrug my shoulders and use the “a little junk food doesn’t matter” approach. I chose to talk to my son’s school and address the issue head-on. I also wanted to offer a helpful solution. If purchasing fresh whole foods for the children on a weekly basis wasn’t in their budget or agenda, I would offer to do it for them (one mango cut into 14 slices wasn’t going to break my wallet!). Then I went a step further because pioneering change doesn’t mean you have to stand alone. I contacted all of the other parents in my son’s class and asked if anyone else wanted to volunteer to share this task of helping the children learn the alphabet while helping them learn about fresh whole foods. I’m pleased to report that four other Mothers offered to help. We shared responsibility throughout the school year. Last week, we completed the alphabet and the children celebrated the letter “E” by each eating a half of an organic hard-boiled egg.
Some of my favorite foods from this experiment:
Homemade whole wheat waffles for the letter “W”
Grape tomatoes for the letter “T” (children in the other class came home with Tootsie Rolls)
Quesadillas for the letter “Q” (in the past, the school said they skipped food for this letter)
Sample #2: Frozen Rainbows
I love browsing home schooling blogs and Facebook pages for creative learning ideas I can do at home with my children. I send my children to school outside of our home but we really enjoy educational activities at home, especially those that are hands on! I heard about these ice pop molds from a Facebook page and thought they looked great. My son decided we should make smoothies in each of the colors of the molds. To each of these blends, we added just enough water to help the ingredients break down in the blender.We used what we already had in our house.
To make a red ice, we blended strawberries with beets
To make a blue ice, we blended blueberries
To make a green ice, we blended frozen grapes and little dried greens powder
Then we mixed the leftover red and blue smoothies to make purple
My son wanted to make a “rainbow” ice in the yellow mold so we poured in the purple ice, let it freeze for about 20 minutes and then poured the leftover green ice liquid on top to make a layered effect.
Sample #3: From Seed to Table
Last year, my family joined four other families from Holistic Moms Network – Bergen County, where I am a co-leader, and shared a plot in a community garden in my town. We didn’t expect to grow much, as amateur gardeners, but our goal was focused on involving our kids in the process and helping them see the life cycle of our food, from seed in the ground to our kitchen table. One important lesson I learned was that kids memories are short. When we discovered that the kale and spinach we had planted in the fall had miraculously grown into a harvest in the spring, my son didn’t share my excitement. He simply didn’t remember planting those seeds. Oh right — four months ago was a lifetime ago in my son’s world. Involving kids in the garden can be a great way to explore healthy foods.
Start small – with just one crop, if you like.
Examine everything with your child – the size of the seed, if it smells like the vegetable, poking your fingers in the dirt, covering up the seed with a “soil blanket” and nurturing it with minerals, water, sunlight and even a story or song.
Herbs are a great first seed for kids. They grow quickly so there is a fast reward and they smell great, which uses more than just their sense of taste to explore it. I learned this year that parsley also doesn’t need a lot of sunlight so give it a try!
Add raw herbs to salads, soups, grains or pasta. Maybe your “picky eater” will want to try it just because he was a part of it from the very beginning.