How to Introduce Vegetables to Your Toddlers

Do you ever wonder what makes someone order extra pickles on their burger? Or why some people stay away from peaches because it’s fuzz made them cringe?

I grew up in the 80’s with hard working parents who migrated to Canada shortly before. I catch myself now with so much applause and questions about their choices; it’s most likely because I have kids of my own, but could there be more to that? Amongst all the fun and all the pairs of legwarmers I learnt to appreciate later, I do remember many events at the table. Like many kids, I wasn’t allowed to ‘play’ with my food. Could it have been because it seemed like I was ungrateful? Or maybe, like I was taking advantage of my privileges? Whatever the reasons there are no answers that could possibly outweigh my gratitude for them. However, kids don’t forget. And kids who have kids are determined to explore. How to Introduce Vegetables to Your Toddlers

Explore. What does this mean today? And what does this mean to you?

A few months ago I was preparing a beef roast and threw all types of onion in there. These white carrot things were calling me somehow in the market, so I included them too. No veggie left behind! During dinner, my Daughter, who enjoys exercising her taste buds, asks “Mom, what are these? Can I try it?” I replied, ‘They’re parsnips, and they’re soooo good!” Little did she know and the rest of my soccer team know, that it was my very first time trying parsnips alongside with her. For 37 years, they were just white carrot thingys.

Whether you have one child or twenty, I don’t feel that you ever become an expert. Learning and then learning some more comes with the role. And in turn, roles often reverse and the children teach us.

Fast-forward 32-34 years later, I am a proud Mama of three without legwarmers. But I am one of many adults that play with their food. I can say that being a mom and being someone who focuses on joy and intention, has made me an advocate for this, along with jumping in muddy puddles (insert Peppa Pig accent,) and with understanding that as children, there are windows. And as an adult, playing with your food has nothing to do with gratitude or respect for the privileges we are given. But it has everything to do with getting to know who we are as children and how we grow as people.

Parents.com recently posted, “according to developmental experts, manual dexterity is directly tied to cognitive development.” They included, “it’s through her hands that your baby demonstrates the link between thought and action,” says Rhoda Erhardt, a pediatric occupational therapist in St. Paul who specializes in hand function.

We all know the importance of strengthening fine and gross motor skills for every baby and child. Gross motors skill movements relate to large muscles such as legs and arms. Fine motor skills involve movements involving muscle groups such as those in the hand and wrist. One of the best tools we have access to, are produce! The way things feel will vary from item to item and this leads to the magic of exploration. Attaining understanding that a kiwi physically feels very differently from a sweet potato will eventually help them identify what varies with shape, texture and tastes. How to Introduce Vegetables to Your Toddlers

Desiree Nielsen, a Registered Dietician and the Host of The Urban Vegetarian on the Gusto channel, was asked what first foods should infants try. “Everything! As adults, we impose our concept of ‘kid friendly’ foods when really we should be exposing little ones to as many flavours as possible. At first, kids aren’t gaining much nutrition (they only eat a couple spoonfuls!) but we are teaching them to taste, and what flavours they can expect in family meals. That being said, iron-rich foods like red lentils and soft tofu are great first foods. And if doing baby-led weaning, certain veggies are easier to fork mash – green peas, cooked sweet potato, avocado and steamed edamame are great choices.” Nielsen goes on to say, “Texture is another game changer…so switch it up! You can puree steamed carrots into hummus to boost nutrition – or finely slice cucumbers on a mandolin for a Vietnamese-inspired salad. Roasted cherry tomatoes are a magical thing and go well with pasta, on eggs or smashed into a sandwich. How to Introduce Vegetables to Your Toddlers

When exploring new vegetables, I love encouraging my clients to head to the farmer’s market to buy one thing that is totally new to them…because with the farmers right there, you can ask them for their advice! When that isn’t possible, the magic of recipes on Google means you can buy a kohlrabi and cook it like a Master Chef without even knowing what it is first.” How to Introduce Vegetables to Your Toddlers

So maybe for the next few meals or maybe every Thursday evening, give the polite-police a little break and let your kids get down and dirty. Who say’s ramen noodles have to stay in a bowl? Or eating strawberries might taste better on a skewer? I think it’s also important to be reminded the benefits of playing with your food will stem until we are old and gray; and that we should also remember that it’s not just for kids, it’s for adults too. As humans, we never stop evolving. Everyone is born with their own lessons to learn, with our own paths. And whether you are two years old, or thirty or even sixty-five, making a mess at the table, out in the rain, or in a field with blooming tomatoes, will always mean we are growing and achieving our best selves. Have a playful life!


How to Introduce Vegetables to Your Toddlers

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