If your kids think all their food originates at the supermarket, there’s a problem. Learning about how food gets from the farm or the wild to the table is essential knowledge for youngsters. It can inspire them to be more thoughtful about their diet and make healthier choices. But many schools no longer have the time or the budget to teach kids about food, so if you don’t teach them about it, chances are no one will. Check out these ideas for educating your child about how food is produced and why it matters.
If you wish your child ate more fruits and vegetables instead of processed snacks, some food education will definitely help. For many kids, the problem isn’t that they don’t know what’s healthy, it’s that a lowly carrot can’t compete with the marketing power behind their favorite brand of chips. So it’s time they knew just what went into making that carrot. If there’s a local farmer’s market near you, bring the kids along next time. They can meet the farmer who grew that carrot, and perhaps, if you make the effort to arrange it, the farmer will let you visit their farm. A farm visit can be an excellent opportunity to show kids how animals, fruits, and vegetables grow, and how much hard work goes into making what they eat. And if your child is truly interested in farms and farming, there are even some farm summer camps.
Investigating the sources of “real” food – i.e. food that comes from a farm not a factory – is not only fun, it makes that food more relatable to kids. But there’s a difference between relating to a vegetable and relating to a cute and cuddly lamb that’s soon to become a lamb chop. How do you explain meat eating to impressionable youngsters? Ultimately it’s up to you to determine whether your child is mature enough to hear about how animals are slaughtered, but once your child is ready to have that conversation, don’t gloss over the facts. “Why do humans eat animals?” your child might ask. Weigh in with your own opinion on the subject, but point your child toward some books, too. There’s plenty of literature out there about the moral thorniness of food production, some of it meant for younger readers. If you provide your child with some varied sources, it will encourage them to make their own informed decisions about what they eat, an important part of their development.
All this consideration of food might convince your child to consider changing their diet significantly. If they want to try out something new, support them, but also be sure to ask questions about how they feel. If they seem tired all the time or start losing or gaining weight drastically, it might be time to suggest a few tweaks to make sure their new diet is balanced. Consider consulting your child’s pediatrician.
If you can inspire your child to be curious about the origins of their food, you’ve done them a great service. When kids care about food, they automatically care more about eating well; apathy means they’re more likely to eat chips for breakfast. So next time you’re at the dinner table, it’s time to try a new conversation: where dinner really came from.