Tag Archive for: growing food

Is Your Child a Fussy Eater?

Today's article offers a handy guide to dealing with toddlers and preschoolers who are fussy about food.Is your child a fussy eater? If so, it can be rather frustrating for parents or guardians. It could also lead to a poorly balanced diet, which would be bad from a number of health and wellbeing perspectives. The good news, though, is that there are lots of things that parents can do to potentially cure the problem. Today’s article offers a handy guide to dealing with toddlers and preschoolers who are fussy about food.

Don’t Stress

If they’re in their early years, food fussiness is rather common, so you’re far from alone. When they transition from milk onto solids, everything is new to infants, from tastes to textures — and even colours when you think about it. While some little ones take to the new sensory stimuli with relish, others seem put off initially by many of these new food experiences. After all, most of them will not be as sweet as the milk they’ve been used to. Being wary of new food is perfectly normal too, even instinctive for many. After all, they don’t know what’s good or bad for them at such an early age.

Some Think They Don’t Like it

Another major factor in disliking certain foods is that children often think they don’t like it. That’s common to many children and, indeed, even to some older children. It’s even common for adults to later eat and enjoy foods that they wouldn’t have given the time of day to during childhood, simply based on a misplaced early belief that they didn’t or wouldn’t like it.

Try, Try and Try Food Again

Infants may need to try a new food as many as fifteen times before they accept it.

It can sometimes take 10 to 15 attempts before children will learn to like a particular food.That, above, is one of the main secrets of encouraging children to accept a particular food i.e. getting them to try, try, … and try it again. It can sometimes take 10 to 15 times before they’ll realise that, actually, it tastes pretty good now they’re used to it! It’s the very definition of an ‘acquired taste’ when you think about it and this seemingly odd facet of human nature is worth explaining to under-fives. It could encourage them to try more things.

Showing empathy to a child around their food misgivings can also help. They may well pick up on your advice eventually, even if it takes several tries before they learn to ‘trust’ and accept a particular food. Being enthusiastic about a food they’re wary of may also help.

Disguising Food

Hiding or disguising food is another useful approach for parents/guardians of children who won’t eat a specific food. A particular vegetable, for example, can be made into a mash, mixed in with a salad, made into a sauce or soup or even chopped up and used in a garnish. This will get the child used to the taste without realising they are eating something they weren’t keen on attempting.

People eat first with their eyes.

Make Food Fun!

Food can be made into a picture on the plate, to make eating more fun for little ones.Another way to encourage children to eat foods they are not keen on trying is to make them more appealing and entertaining. A plate of food could be made into a picture, for example. Broccoli could be used to represent trees, a mound of peas could represent a hilltop and cut up carrots could be made to look like a sun, perhaps. Pictorial themes might include faces, the countryside, space and exploration, animal shapes, rainbows, the seaside, the weather and so on. Children will naturally engage with this concept and it will make food fun.

Similarly, you might allow children to use plates and bowls that have fun designs that are revealed as food is consumed from them.

Pretending the food on the spoon is a train, car or plane coming towards them makes every mouthful fun!Then, of course, there is the old favourite for the youngest of the children — pretending the food on the spoon is a train, car or plane coming towards them! This, with suitable sound effects from the parent, makes every mouthful great fun!

Build Bridges

By that, we mean ‘food bridges‘. These are a way of harnessing a child’s liking of one food to introduce another. An example would be where, if they like boiled potatoes but not cheese or apple, you would sprinkle a little grated cheese or apple purée on top of the potatoes. Work with small amounts first and then they’ll gradually get used to the tastes.

Get Children Involved with Food

Getting children involved in choosing and preparing food can help encourage them to eat it.Getting children involved in all aspects of food may also encourage them to try different things and to accept them. Examples would include letting them choose the vegetables or fruit from the supermarket shelves, allowing them to be involved (under supervision) in the meal preparation and even helping them to grow their own food. Allowing them to decide how food is presented on the plate is another example. All these things make food fun and less intimidating.

Positive Signals & Encouragement

Children often do better with encouragement and its place around food is no different. So, some enthusiasm from parents/guardians in this regard will go a long way. “Ooh, that’s yummy!” or “It’s so tasty!” type comments will send positive signals to the child as they eat. Be positive about food, the different tastes and textures and how good food is for them. “It will make you grow up to be big … strong … energised … and healthy” etc.

Negotiate!

Some children can be quite stubborn so, if they’re refusing a decent food for no good reason, try negotiating with them! For example, “If you eat all of your peas, we’ll go to the swings” and so on. Focus on encouragement i.e. rewarding them rather than punishing them if they don’t eat. It’s the ‘carrot’ not the ‘stick’, to use the metaphor, as you want positivity around food, never negativity.

Teach by Example

Children instinctively learn from their parents, guardians, adults and role models.If a child is hesitant about trying a particular food, let them see you eat – and enjoy – some of it. You are their primary role model, after all. As we said before, remind them, perhaps, that it’s ‘yummy’ or that their friend or TV hero enjoys it. Children instinctively learn from their parents, guardians, adults and role models, so this is a very natural way to encourage them to eat things they really should be eating.

Don’t forget, it can take multiple tries, so don’t give in! Gentle perseverance is key when it comes to children trying food that they’re wary of.

Healthy Eating at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston

Leaps & Bounds nursery & pre-school is in Edgbaston, Birmingham B16, near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood & Smethwick

Our childcare professionals know all these approaches, of course. So, if a child is reticent about a particular food, we know just what to do to encourage them to try it, without undue pressure. Parents can also discuss their child’s food and eating with our childcare practitioners — we will always take on board their preferences and advice.

Healthy, fresh, balanced meals, snacks and drinks are all provided at Leaps & Bounds nursery/pre-school — they’re included in our fees. The nursery also adopted the ‘Startwell’ programme some years ago and this is a way to keep children eating healthily and keeping active. Learn more about the Birmingham Startwell programme here.

Looking for an Outstanding Childcare Service in Edgbaston, Birmingham?

Try Leaps & Bounds, a childcare nursery & pre-school in Edgbaston, Birmingham, near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood & Smethwick

If you’re searching for the best nursery and pre-school in Edgbaston, Birmingham or near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood or Smethwick, please contact us. We’ll be happy to show you around the setting, answer your questions and welcome your child to our lovely nursery and pre-school. Please choose a button below:

Microgreens: Fun Food Growing for Under-Fives

Growing microgreens is an exciting activity that results in hundreds of nutritious baby shoots that children can eat in salads and garnishes.In our last post, we featured fun food growing activities for under-fives. Today, as promised, we follow up by explaining how children can grow ‘microgreens’. These are easy, fun and educational for children to grow and indeed food-growing activities have many benefits for little ones. Growing microgreens is an exciting activity that results in hundreds of nutritious baby shoots that children can eat in salads, garnishes, stir fries and more. Growing microgreens is also a nature-based activity for children and one that requires very little space or equipment. It can be accomplished entirely indoors — just a well-lit windowsill will suit.

What Are Microgreens?

First, though, what exactly are microgreens? Also known as micro leaves, they’re the very young shoots of edible plants like herbs and vegetables (more about those later). When young and grown from seeds, these can grow into a thick ‘blanket’ of tiny growing shoots that can be harvested and eaten as food. They’re very tasty, totally natural and extremely nutritious.

Microgreens are great in salads, in sandwiches, or used as garnishes with meat, fish, burgers and pasta.Children will get to enjoy every stage of growing them — from sowing the seeds, watering them, watching them sprout and later snipping off the blanket of shoots ready to use in meals. It’s another great way of teaching children where food comes from and, what’s more, it’s really easy, inexpensive and is faster than growing most other types of plant-based food.

Which Seeds Can be Grown into Microgreens?

Seeds that are suitable for use as microgreens include those for the following herbs, vegetables, root vegetables and leafy greens:

  • Basil for tasty, aromatic leaves — great on pizzas, in salads and perfect for making pesto sauce.
  • Rocket, a peppery and flavoursome addition to any salad or pizza.
  • Coriander with its strong and unique taste — a personal favourite and a great addition to salads, curries, chopped onions and stir fries.
  • Spinach microgreens are mild and extremely nutritious — perfect in salads, pasta and risotto.
  • Broccoli shoots taste quite different to fully-grown broccolis with a slightly spicy taste that will liven up any salad, omelette or risotto.
  • Beetroot leaves make any salad, garnish or fish dish look gorgeous with their red stems and rich micro leaves.Red cabbage micro leaves are teaming with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. With the highest level of Vitamin C of any microgreen, they’re the chef’s favourite for use in soup, garnishes, salads, vegetables or with meats and stews.
  • Radish microgreens, like their fully-grown counterpart, taste a little bit fiery — great in salads, sandwiches and in stir fries.
  • Mustard microgreens also have a certain heat to their taste and are suited to use in salads and stir fries.
  • Fennel micro leaves taste a little of aniseed, giving flavour to soups, risotto, pasta, salads and stuffing.
  • Beetroot leaves make any salad, garnish or fish dish look gorgeous with their red stems and deeply coloured micro leaves.

Depending on the seed chosen, most microgreens take from just a few days to two weeks to grow large enough to harvest. Red cabbage is amongst the fastest of them all if you’re in a hurry for results. Broccoli, rocket, radish and mustard micro leaves can also be harvested in just a week.

What’s Needed

Children will love it if they use empty egg shells for their microgreens.Essentially, children will just need seed shallow seed trays or other containers, some compost, the seeds and a well-lit windowsill.

The seeds, trays and any ‘drip trays’ (or equivalent to catch water underneath) can be purchased from garden centres or online. They’re not expensive, especially if you shop around. Other alternatives to commercially available seed trays include flower pots, recycled yoghurt pots or used food trays that you may have left over from ready meals. So long as they have drainage, they should work fine, so some holes may be needed underneath if there are none. Another option is used egg cartons or children will love it if they use empty egg shells with their tops sliced off so there’s an opening to fill. The children will typically draw faces on those and then, when the microgreens grow, it’ll look like hair!

For the compost, ‘multi-purpose compost’ or ‘seed and cuttings compost’ are suitable but try to buy a peat-free variety as it’s kinder to the planet.

How to Plant the Microgreen Seeds

  1. Seeds can be either sprinkled or hand placed into small indents, so they're evenly spaced out.Compost should be used to fill the containers almost to the top if they don’t have much depth. Otherwise an inch-and-a-half or so is ample.
  2. It should then be patted lightly so it’s flat.
  3. Then the seeds can be either sprinkled or hand placed into small indents, so they’re evenly spaced out (not too densely otherwise problems will occur later on).
  4. Optionally, a light dusting of more compost can then cover the seeds.
  5. Then they’ll need either a light watering or the pots/trays will need to sit in shallow water for up to an hour so the water can be drawn up through the soil.
  6. If more than one variety of seeds are being grown, it would also be good to label the trays/pots appropriately. Wooden lollipop sticks marked with a pencil would be perfect, although any way of marking the trays will be fine.
  7. A sheet of paper towel, newspaper or cling film can then optionally be used to cover the seed pots or trays until the seeds germinate.

Growing & Harvesting the Microgreens

As soon as the seeds begin to sprout, any covering should be removed.The rest is easy! The trays or pots should then be placed on a well-lit windowsill and children will need to check every day that the soil is moist and doesn’t dry out. Ideally there should be ventilation too. As soon as the seeds begin to sprout, any covering from step 7 above should be removed. After anywhere from a few days to two weeks, the seeds will have grown into a low ‘blanket’ of densely growing seedlings with thin, short stems and tiny leaves at the top — the tender young micro leaves that lend microgreens their name.

To harvest, the beautiful blanket of seedlings can be snipped near the base of their stems (for safety, a supervising adult may need to help with this part if children are very young). Snipping instead of pulling up by the root will allow children to harvest and re-harvest them because the seedlings will grow into microgreens more than once in many cases. They can then be rinsed to clean off any of the soil and then added to salads, garnishes or used as a food ingredient.

To harvest, the beautiful blanket of seedlings can be snipped near the base of their stems.Children will love the growing journey and will learn many lessons and new skills along the way. They’re sure to enjoy the beauty of the little plants, the wonder of nature and their part in the success of this lovely childhood activity. What’s more, they get to eat the tasty and highly nutritious crop and it could even encourage them to be more experimental and perhaps less finicky with their food choices.

Our Outstanding Nursery & Forest School in Edgbaston, Birmingham

Conveniently Near to Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood & Smethwick

Leaps & Bounds nursery & pre-school is in Edgbaston, Birmingham B16, near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood & Smethwick

Children grow plants and herbs at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston, Birmingham. Growing microgreens, herbs, vegetables and other plants is both fun and educational for children, especially in their early years. The activities also teach children about nature. As well as being a nursery and a pre-school, Leaps & Bounds is also a Forest School, so it’s natural for us to include activities around nature at the setting. We are an outstandingly good nursery and pre-school in Edgbaston, Birmingham and are also a convenient choice if you are looking for the best pre-schools and nurseries near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood or Smethwick. Contact us to arrange a visit, ask any questions or to enrol your child at the nursery. We’ll be happy to help!

15 Benefits of Teaching Kids to Grow Food

Children, particularly the very young, absolutely love growing and tending to plants and seedlings.Children, particularly the very young, absolutely love growing and tending to plants and seedlings. It’s an absolutely fascinating activity for them and gives them a real sense of both wonder and achievement. Growing fruit, vegetables and herbs is even better, though! They get all the fun and benefits of the growing activity and they then get to eat the results! Growing food is fun and it also has many benefits for children — today we’ll take a look at some of them.

“In every gardener is a child who loves to play in the dirt. In every child is a gardener ready to grow.” (LeAura Alderson)

Children don’t need a garden or allotment to grow food. A patio, courtyard, balcony or windowsill will do, so long as plants have water, soil and light.

1. Growing Food is Educational

Growing food teaches children about life, the biology of plants and about where food comes.Growing herbs, vegetables and fruit is educational for children on many different levels, as we’ll see. It teaches children about life and the biology of plants. It also teaches children about where food comes from and what skills and care are needed in the process. They’ll learn so much while growing edible herbs, fruit and vegetables — and also learn about themselves in the process. Growing plants, herbs and produce also supports several areas of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum.

2. Children Learn New Skills Growing Food

“Growing food was the first activity that gave us enough prosperity to stay in one place, form complex social groups, tell our stories, and build our cities”

The quotation above, from Barbara Kingsolver, pretty much sums up the enormous positive impact that learning to grow food has had on the human race. And there’s no reason why the skills necessary to successfully grow food shouldn’t start in the very young. From preparing the soil, germinating and sprouting seeds, tending to seedlings and caring for plants as they grow, these are all great skills for children to learn along the way.

3. Growing Food Helps Children Appreciate Nature

“Why try to explain miracles to your kids when you can just have them plant a garden.” (Robert Brault)

Growing food allows children to witness, first hand, the miracle of life as living things flourish and bloom.Growing food allows children to witness, first hand, the miracle of life and to see how tending and caring for a living thing allows it to flourish and bloom. It’ll give children a real sense of wonder about nature and life itself.

4. Growing Food Teaches ‘Green’ Values

“It’s more than just high quality food for the family table; it’s growing the food in a way that does not harm the environment.” (Robert Patterson)

Growing food is also more likely to give children a long-term sense of the importance of nature, the natural world and about caring for the environment. Studies have shown that children who are introduced to activities involving nature at a young age are more likely to lead ‘greener’ lifestyles — even into adulthood.

5. Home-Grown Food is Healthy

Teaching children to learn how to grow plants, fruit, herbs and vegetables is also likely to lead to long-term healthier lifestyles. As the website FoodRevolution.org puts it:

“Growing your own food may be one of the most powerful steps you can take for the health of yourself, your family, and your planet.”

6. Children Learn to Appreciate Trial & Error

Learning from mistakes is an important skill to learn. Indeed, many of the world’s most successful business owners say they would never be where they are today had they not made mistakes — and learnt from them — along the way. It’s therefore important that children come to realise that small failures are all part of longer-term success, so long as they learn from the mistakes.

Growing food can save the household money!7. Growing Food Can Save Money

“Growing your own food is like printing your own money.” (Ron Finley)

A lovely by-product of children growing herbs, vegetables or fruit is that it can save the household money. That’s totally feasible, particularly when children’s food-growing skills have been well and truly honed.

8. Children Can Eat What They Have Grown

“Children who grow what they eat will often eat what they grow.”

As well as enjoying the whole food-growing activity and learning from it, children and their families can enjoy eating the result!That quote is so true. As well as enjoying the whole food-growing activity and learning from it, of course the result is something that children – and perhaps the whole family – can eat! It’s a win-win from every perspective.

9. Eating Home-Grown Food Can Make Children Try Different Things

“If kids grow kale, kids eat kale. If they grow tomatoes, they eat tomatoes. But when none of this is presented to them, if they’re not shown how food affects the mind and the body, they blindly eat whatever you put in front of them.

Ron Finley’s quotation above explains it very well. If a child grows something edible, it’s almost a given that they will eat the produce — or at the very least try it. Encouraging them to grow their own edible produce is a great way to make them more interested in eating healthier things like fruit and vegetables etc. It may even have the knock-on effect of making them more likely to try cooking and food preparation — yet more new skills!

10. Growing Food at Home Helps to Make Bonds

Growing herbs, vegetables, fruit and any plant will give children a real sense of wonder about nature and life itself.Children will inevitably ask questions and ask for guidance and help when they first start their food-growing activities. Parents or guardians will probably enjoy the task too and it’s one of those activities that’s bound to be a great joint effort. As such, this partnership can be a great way to bond.

11. Growing Food Gets Children Away from Electronic Screens

Such a natural activity is also a wonderful antidote to backlit screens, TVs, mobile devices and electronic games. It’s like going back to basics in some ways, but in others it will teach children so much more by getting ‘hands on’ with real-life, useful activities.

12. Children Learn to Become More Responsible

After all, caring for another living entity requires their attention, a responsibility and even empathy to ensure the wellbeing of the little plants and seedlings. These are great lessons and good skills to encourage.

13. Children Learn the Importance of Patience

Growing plants from seed or cuttings requires effort and patience and that's a great virtue to teach young children.In this day and age, everything seems to be more rushed than ever and there could even be a tendency towards instant gratification with little effort (from TV programmes, videos and electronic games, for example). Growing plants from seed or cuttings requires effort and patience and that’s a great virtue to teach young children. They need to understand that ‘good things come to those who wait’.

14. Home-Grown Food Tastes Better!

Food really does taste better, more often than not, when it’s home-grown. Tastier food, particularly the natural, healthy kind, is never a bad thing!

15. Growing Food is a Fun, Entertaining Activity for Kids

That’s important in itself. Children love growing food and plants! It brings them all these benefits and more but is also a very entertaining activity. It’s also a much more worthwhile one than many others. Teaching children to grow food is a win-win for everyone — children, families and the planet.

“By the process of directly working in harmony with nature, we do the one thing most essential to change the world — we change ourselves.” (Jules Dervaes)

A Wonderful Nursery & Pre-School in Birmingham, Near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood & Smethwick

Leaps & Bounds nursery & pre-school is in Edgbaston, Birmingham B16, near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood & Smethwick

Children grow plants and herbs at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery.Children are encouraged to take part in growing plants, including herbs, at Leaps & Bounds. We are also an outstanding Forest School, so children get ample exposure to nature and all the benefits of the natural world. If you are looking for a good childcare nursery in Edgbaston, Birmingham, or high quality pre-schools or nurseries near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood or Smethwick, please get in touch — we’d be happy to show you and your child around the setting and to answer any questions that you might have. You can also simply apply for a childcare place below …

Next Time …

In our next post, we develop this topic further by taking a look at some exciting food growing activities that children can undertake at home. Also don’t miss our subsequent article about growing microgreens — a fun, nutritious activity for under-fives.