Vegetables are something so many parents and caregivers struggle with when it comes to the toddler years. However, the key for helping young children embrace veggies in their life might start with the simple act of playing with their food!
You know that old saying “it takes a village to raise a child?”
In my opinion, that statement is absolutely 100% true! However, it also takes a village to help collect ideas and inspiration for how to navigate the different seasons of parenthood.
Especially during the toddler years.
Which is why I have brought in one of my favorite and inspiring parenting bloggers, Krista Happ. Krista is a toddler mom, seasoned early childhood educator and overall amazing lady who shares her beautiful ideas for play based learning and natural living over on her blog HAPPy Healthy Casa and on her Instagram. Her ideas are simple and doable, yet can make all the difference in your child’s learning. Even though we are past the toddler season in the TNN house, Krista’s page is one of my favorite places to to hang out for real mom talk and ideas to recreate with Alice.
Soak up her wisdom, friends. And enjoy her guest post.
Hi everyone! I’m Krista from HAPPy Healthy Casa. I’m a holistic health enthusiast, teacher and stay-at-home mama to an almost 3-year-old. And I could not be more thrilled to be here on The Natural Nurturer today to share in my absolute favorite way to encourage every toddler to love their veggies!
Now if you are reading this and thinking, “you haven’t met my toddler”, hear me out. First, let it be known that it is perfectly normal for toddlers to go through phases where they do everything from clear their plates to not touch a thing, to indulge in something one day to turn around and poo-poo it the next. They are learning how to not only exercise their newfound independence, but also about textures, tastes and more, which in turn, often comes out in their eating habits. Because of this, I encourage you to continue to put vegetables on their plate time and again, in different shapes, forms, etc. because you never know when they may just give it a whirl. But beyond simply serving it on their plates, we employ another “strategy” in our home, that not only exposes our child to vegetables, but encourages him to love them over and over again.
What is it you may ask? Play!
Giving children opportunities to play with vegetables can be incredibly valuable in encouraging a positive life-long relationship with them. The following is a list of some of our favorite ways we incorporate veggie-themed play in our home:
1. Paint with them.
Have you ever painted with veggies instead of paintbrushes? It is such a fun way for children to become comfortable with simply picking up a new vegetable and getting to explore its shape and texture before that veggie shoes up on their plate! We’ve had a blast in our home making everything from celery stamped flower bouquets to broccoli stamped tree tops. Every veggie creates a unique painting experience!
Looking for a more natural paint option? Chop up a few beets and let your child go to town stamping them and letting them see the natural juices act as paint. Prefer to use a vegetable themed paint brush? Hearty carrots or parsnips work really well for painting many a masterpiece.
2. Create a sensory bin.
Little ones love exploring through the use of their senses, so why not encourage them to do so with vegetables while they are at it. Traditional sensory bins with sand, water and rice can be a blast. But my son has just as much fun with a tray full of cabbage that he can shred apart or spinach that he can shift and move with his favorite tiny trucks. The nice part with using vegetables for this is that you can truly create a sensory bin at a moment’s notice with just about anything you have on hand. Not only that, but my son has sampled the veggies as he plays with nearly every one!
3. Build and create with them.
One of the things I have loved to do since my son was really little was create “art” with his food. Not only do I enjoy the creativity of it all, but the joy on his face upon seeing the silly faces, monster trucks or spring time flowers I’ve placed in front of him for him to eat, makes it all worth it. Even the smallest of children can begin to grasp this concept on their own as well by stacking vegetables or making a simple face with eyes. As they grow, encourage them to build more complex structures or works of art with their vegetables. They may just snag one or two for a bit of added brain power while they work.
4. Connect to literature.
What could be better than building a foundation for our kids to be lifelong vegetables consumers? Building a foundation for lifelong veggie eaters and avid book readers, of course. Anytime we can make a story come alive for kids is pure magic. Tap into that by reading books like Vegetables in Underwear by Jared Chapman and encouraging your kids to deck out their own veggie characters in their favorite bottom covers. Or try another personal favorite of ours, Sophie’s Squash, by Pat Zietlow Miller and Anne Wilsdorf. The little girl in this book treats her squash like a baby, taking it everywhere with her, tucking it in at night etc. After reading, you better believe we set to work creating a squash baby of our very own.
5. Develop math and science concepts.
Encourage kids to count, sort, cut, smash, engage their five senses and more as they “play” with the vegetables laid out in front of them. Have them take part in investigations to determine which vegetables float or sink, how water travels through them or test them to determine which weigh more or less. Encourage them to ask questions about the vegetables, make hypotheses, test things out and explore to their heart’s content. The possibilities are truly endless with this one.
6. Engage in “real life” play.
I love watching my little one’s imagination go wild as he creates a variety of “meals” in his play kitchen on the daily. And while he is certainly capable of making a mean salad from a few pieces of wooden lettuce and several Hot Wheels cars mixed in, he also loves when I provide him with the real deal to work with. I love giving him stems of fresh kale, sliced carrots and peppers, whole cucumbers, you name it, to see what he creates with them. For some additional fun, fill up their play kitchen sink or a basin of water, for that matter, and let them “wash” their veggies before they prepare the meal just like you do. Any of those “real life” things you engage in while preparing a meal, can be both fun and important for your children to be a part of too, to foster habits and skills that will last a lifetime.
So what do you think? Would your child enjoy one of the above activities? Whether you utilize one of these ideas or one of your own, one thing is certain – play is an enjoyable part of childhood. So, it only makes sense that we tap into that to ensure that vegetables earn that rightful title as well!
For more ideas on everything from how to encourage your little ones to love vegetables to kids’ activities to holistic living tips and tricks for the whole family, you can find me on Instagram @happyhealthycasa or by following along at my blog HAPPy Healthy Casa. I love connecting with other moms and supporting one another on this journey of raising healthy families and encourage you to reach out at any time! Special thanks again to Taesha for inviting me into this beautiful “veggie-loaded” community she has created alongside all of you!