Homeschooling isn’t just for big kids—it’s for the little ones, too. One of the most important lessons parents can teach their young children is how to choose good food. Obviously, you aren’t going to lecture your eighteen-month-old about how the apple is healthier than the cookie, or how they do not need a second cupcake because one is enough. You’re simply going to provide a wide variety of foods of different shapes, colors, and textures, and hope that among that variety, they choose to eat enough different foods to get all the nutrition that they need.
However, little ones learn all day, every day. In all that they do, they are learning. As they get older, they may model that learning for you in a variety of different ways: pretending; playacting; and choosing their toys based on the things that they see Mom and Dad using. How many little ones would rather sit and bang on pots and pans in the kitchen than play with an elaborate set of drums? How many prefer Mom’s cell phone to having one of their own—even if the toy one makes a lot more fun noises?
The same is true of learning about food. Children who are allowed to play with and explore foods on their own are much more likely to make better choices. They may not eat a new food the first time it is presented. It may be played with, mushed, and generally made a mess of long before it goes anywhere near their mouths. Eventually, however, they will likely at least try it—though they may have to try it several times before they decide that they like it!
One way to help introduce food and make it less intimidating is to let young children have their own play food to pretend with. Playing with their food means that it is familiar, and it might take a little bit less time for them to recognize a new one. In addition, as they get older, it will be possible to interject some discussion about healthy eating choices into their play.
Unfortunately, good play food tends to be expensive. Luckily, with a little bit of effort and some felt, you can make quite a bit of your own! Depending on your crafting skills, you may choose to sew it together or glue it together. Mod Podge for fabric holds felt very, very well—but be wary of children who will tend to keep their toys in their mouths. Any glue can eventually come off, and you don’t want small pieces to end up in their mouths. Be sure to supervise play with any toys with small pieces.
Check out the slideshow for some ideas!