Teaching Kids About Where Their Food Comes FromEmily McClements
We recently started buying our milk from a co-op that offers local, grass-fed, non-homogonized milk. It’s been a little bit of a transition for us, as the milk tastes different than store-bought milk, and it has the cream on top, so you have to shake it before drinking it, and you still get a small clump of cream sometimes.
One day, my kids were asking me why we switched to a different kind of milk. And I responded that the milk we get now comes from a farm that is close to our city, where the cows get to graze outside on grass and live a happy life. I told them that now our milk comes from “happy cows”.
And, of course, their response cracked me up.
“So our old milk came from mad cows?”
I laughed, but the reference to mad cows was not one I really wanted them repeating.
“No,” I said, “it just comes from cows that mostly have to stay inside all day, and don’t live as happy of a life, for a cow.”
It is really important for us to teach our kids about where their food comes from, and about making good and healthy choices for the types and kinds of foods we choose to eat. And I really believe that we can start doing this at a young age.
Although we don’t teach our kids the exact meaning of “organic”, we have several ways that we have begun teaching them about making good food choices.
· We take them to the Farmer’s Market.
We want our kids to understand that food, especially fresh produce, doesn’t come from the grocery store. At the Farmer’s Market they learn that certain fruits and vegetables are only available in our area at certain times of the year. They learn that there are actually times where foods are “in-season”, instead of the season-less produce that appears on the grocery store shelves no matter if it’s hot and sunny outside, or cold and snowy.
· We plant our own garden.
Last summer we had a decent sized raised-bed garden where we grew our own vegetables. My kids loved to help me harvest tomatoes, zucchini, snap peas, lettuce, and more, and bring them inside to eat for dinner. This year we have a small strawberry patch in our garden that my kids have been excited to see bloom and watch for the fruit to start growing.
· We go to U-Pick farms.
We have begun fun family traditions of heading out to local U-Pick farms in the summer and fall to pick large quantities of produce to bring home and freeze, or can, to use throughout the rest of the year. Again, this teaches our kids that fruits are only in-season for a certain time of the year. We get strawberries in June, blueberries and cherries in July, peaches in August, apples in September, and more. It also helps to teach our kids where food comes from, and how it grows on plants, trees and bushes.
· We talk to them about making healthy food choices.
Just like with our change in milk, we also talk to them about the other food choices that we make. We tell them about why we try to avoid certain foods as much as we can, and why we pass by the aisles of processed, packaged and unhealthy foods in the grocery store.
Our kids are still more likely to choose candy over fruit if offered the option, but we believe it’s important to teach them and help them to think about the food choices they are making now, and that they will learn to make better food choices on their own as they get older.
How do you teach your toddler about making healthy food choices?