Texture is often the primary reason we choose or refuse foods. We may crave the way something feels in our mouth and, though we like the taste, it’s not our primary reason for wanting it. Or we hate the way something feels in our mouths and even if we loved the taste we still wouldn’t put it in our mouths because of it’s texture. Kids are the same way. We want them to taste foods to see if they like them, but during those tastes kids are also deciding if they like the way the food feels and that may be their primary reason for choosing or refusing it when they see it again.
As our feeding skills develop we develop food preferences based on how they taste, feel and break apart in our mouths. So, even if you’ve never thought of it, your child probably already has texture preferences!
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Getting kids to eat healthy food, including fruit and vegetables, can be a struggle. Recently I discovered this awesome little machine, which makes fruit peeling and coring into a fun activity for kids. The novelty of using it doesn’t seem to wear off and it also seems to make them want to eat the fruit afterwards. Our Kindy had one of these and I noticed that all the kids there loved it. So when we came across one in a hardware shop, and discovered it was only $15 (NZ) , my hubby and I decided to grab it. One of the aims of this blog, “The Forever Years” is to share anything which might be useful to other parents. Part of Child Advocacy is to support one another as parents, network and share ideas which have been useful. No one is an expert on everything and everyone has something to offer. This post will be short, but hopefully useful, particularly to anyone who had been struggling to get their kids to eat fruit (or vegetables, for that matter). This little machine is called an “apple cutter”, but we have also used it to slice carrots, pears and peaches (with the stones out). The chopped fruit or veg could also be used to make smoothie. I have put a video below of two of our children using this machine. Good luck and let us know, here at “The Forever Years”, if you have come across any similarly useful things. We love comments and welcome articles from guest writers. Have fun creating “curly fruit” (my 5 year old’s name for the end result).
“You need a class to tell you how to feed your baby?” my dad laughed down the line to London, where I live. I was en route to a workshop on introducing my six-month-old daughter to solid food and was hoping to find clarity on which approach to use: traditional purées or this thing called “baby-led weaning” I’d heard English moms chatting about. Some swore by it, but others derided it as just another silly offshoot of bohemian urban parenting. It was like breast versus bottle 2.0, and I wanted to know more.
Search American parenting sites for “baby-led weaning” and most of what you’ll find is advice on ending breastfeeding when the child chooses. But here in Britain, the term commonly means letting babies feed themselves from their very first mouthful of solid food at six months. No runny rice cereal, no applesauce, no airplane spoon games. Instead they start exclusively on easy-to-grab finger foods like steamed carrot sticks, hunks of banana, and even skinless chicken drumsticks, then progress at their own pace to more complex dishes. They share in family mealtimes and in the process, the theory goes, become more adventurous eaters comfortable with a variety of tastes and textures while acquiring a natural feel for portion control. It’s a method some American mothers use as well, but here, it’s a trend considered worthy of fierce debate.
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The Maasai are one of two tribal groups in Emali that ChildFund works closely with, the other being the Kamba. The Maasai are pastoralists raising cows and goats, while the Kamba are farmers, working the land to grow crops. It would seem like an ideal union but it’s a hand-to-mouth existence for almost all the families there. Invited by ChildFund and funded by the New Zealand Government’s Aid Programme, nutrition scientists from Otago and Kenyatta universities ran a study that found many children from both groups had anaemia, iron and zinc deficiencies. The children also suffered from frequent stomach upsets, fevers, and respiratory illnesses.
To combat this vicious cycle of illness and malnutrition, parents, local teachers and caregivers have started to learn about better nutrition. They are learning about concepts such as toddlers needing smaller, frequent and substantial meals.
Of course knowledge is power, but food and tools have to be available to put it into practice. Nutritious green vegetables, for instance, are easily grown in hessian or gunny sack bags. These gardens are put together with a sack, soil, an old pipe and gravel. Easy to make, using less water, space efficient, mobile, and able to grow a variety of greens, the gunny sack gardens are now being grown in preschools and home gardens in Emali, and provide much needed variety and nutrition for young children.
For Mother’s Day in New Zealand, Kiwi landscape designer Xanthe White has created easy to follow instructions so Kiwi families can experience the satisfaction of wholesome home-grown veggies by making their own Kenyan-inspired gunny sack garden. http://bit.ly/Gunny-Garden
As well as creating your own gunny sack garden, you can buy the gift of a nutritional training voucher for a mum in Kenya, or veggie seeds or chickens, or any number of gifts via ChildFund Gifts that Grow to help give children a better start in life. Because as every mum knows, the best gift for Mother’s Day is a happy healthy child. You can find out more about Gifts that Grow for Mother’s Day and ChildFund’s work at www.childfund.org.nz
Kiri Carter works for ChildFund NZ, the New Zealand branch of ChildFund, an international child supporting charity organisation. Kiri says, “I’ve seen firsthand what extreme poverty looks like for children. Through no fault of their own children suffer. As my mum used to say ‘we don’t choose the bed we’re born in’. But we can choose to help, to make a difference.”
When was the last time you fiddled with your fork and drew a picture in the last bits of sauce on your plate? If it was the last time you had a plate in front of you, you’d be in good company. Drawing in our plates is a form of food play we can all relate to, and it’s a good place to start with kids, too.
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