WORDS: Larissa Sewell
Encouraging children to be adventurous eaters can sometimes be a challenging journey – so I’ve come up with a few fun strategies you can use to help foster their curiosity and willingness to try new flavours and dishes. Here are my top three tips for inspiring your little ones to embrace a world of culinary exploration.
Cooking with your kids
Involving children in the cooking process can be an excellent way to encourage their adventurous spirit. Let them help choose ingredients, assist in preparing meals, and understand different flavours. By giving them hands-on experiences, they develop a sense of ownership and curiosity about what they eat.
For kidlets that are able to read, I recommend the book, A Taste Adventure by our own MasterChef Judge, Melissa Leong – you’ll have your littles understanding key flavours and describing your dishes as ‘balanced’ and ‘umami’ in no time.
Bento style boxes – the simplest way to be creative
If you’ve followed me over the years, there’s no secret that bento-style lunch boxes have always been my go-to lunch box; they’re an excellent way to encourage adventurous eating habits in children. These cleverly designed boxes not only offer the space for a variety of food options but also provide an opportunity for creativity and exploration.
Fill the compartments with a colourful assortment of fruits, vegetables, proteins, and grains, allowing your child to mix and match flavours and textures on their own terms. Encourage them to create their own food art by arranging the ingredients into fun shapes or patterns.
I even have a selection of little food picks with googly eyes or animals on them… hey, if they’ll eat a broccoli floret because it has googly eyes, I’m all for it!
Embracing creativity in bento-style boxes not only makes mealtime exciting but also empowers kids to take ownership of their food choices. As they engage in the artistic process of building their meal, they develop a sense of curiosity and are more likely to try new and different combinations of flavours. Let their imagination run wild as they transform their bento boxes into vibrant culinary masterpieces. The best bit though? It’s easier than making a sandwich packed lunch and my bento boxes are dishwasher safe. My boys are 10, and we still use them to this day.
Make it a global cooking adventure
Some of the most memorable meals I have had weren’t just based on the dish itself – but the whole experience… Transform mealtime into a cultural exploration by organising a themed cooking night. For example, you could have a family Mexican night, where dinner might be as simple as nachos or tacos (which might be on your weekly rotation anyway…).
Dress up the table with colourful napkins, learn about the culture and cuisine through fun facts or games; bust out the bluetooth speaker and spotify some Mexican tunes in the background. By making it a fun and immersive experience, children will be more inclined to try new foods and expand their culinary horizons. Spaghetti Bolognese for dinner? Or are we transporting ourselves to Italy tonight? Fish and chips? Or are we wrapping dinner up in newspaper, making our own tartare sauce and eating vanilla wafer crackers blitzed up into ‘beach sand’ from buckets for a British seaside experience?
Creative experiences encourage children to explore and try new things – plus – it’s just SO. MUCH. FUN.
Growing food with kids
A fantastic way to encourage children to be adventurous with food is by involving them in the process of growing their own food, even if you don’t have a large garden.
Whether it’s a small plant pot on a windowsill or a balcony container garden, nurturing herbs, strawberries, or leafy greens provides a valuable opportunity for children to understand the cycle of food, outside of the plastic wrapped iceberg on the supermarket shelf. They can witness the growth from seed to harvest, gaining a deeper appreciation for the ingredients they consume. When children have a personal connection to the food they grow, they are more likely to be curious and willing to experiment with the ‘fruits of their labour’ (see what I did there?). So, get your little ones involved in the joys of gardening and watch their excitement grow along with the plants – bonus, it always tastes better when it’s home grown!
I hope these few tips can help you create a positive food environment and foster your child’s adventurous spirit when it comes to trying new foods. Cooking together, growing – even the simplest – foods, embracing bento-style boxes, and embarking on global cooking adventures will not only introduce them to diverse flavours but also create lasting memories and a lifelong appreciation for food exploration.
For more of Larissa’s food adventures: