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by Nikki & David Goldbeck
authors of The ABC's of Fruits & Vegetables and Beyond
Everyone knows that if you want kids to learn things without resistance – languages for example – you should start them young. The same goes for eating habits. If parents want kids to have a positive attitude towards fruits and vegetables, it's time for a new approach.
Certainly the "eat your vegetables, they're good for you" scolding hasn't worked. What will work is introducing these foods early in life and in new contexts in order to develop an easygoing relationship with them.
David decided to address this idea via a book based on the alphabet. He vowed that if he could find something for the letter "X" the project would go forth. The result is The ABC's of Fruits and Vegetables and Beyond: Delicious Alphabet Poems Plus Food, Facts, and Fun for Everyone (Ceres Press). (You'll have to check out the book to see what he found for "X".)
He chose an alphabet book for the first half so kids' first words – their "ABCs" – would not be "B is for ball" and "T is for truck," but "banana" and "tomato," believing kids will feel a kinship with foods they were schooled on.
David now fantasizes about toddlers being fed while they (and their parents) recite:
C is for the carrots
That rabbits like to munch.
They eat them 'cause they love the taste –
Me... I like the crunch.
As they grow, their journey continues in the second half, Beyond the ABC's, with a mixture of food lore, recipes, jokes, geography, tongue twisters, unusual facts, shopping tips, recipes, and other amusing and thought-provoking activities so they enjoy becoming "food experts."
Children discover where many fruits and vegetables come from, learn some Spanish words, and are directed to related books and websites. The goal is for them to translate their new knowledge into willful eating.
If you want to entice children to put these foods to mouth, here are some effective approaches:
1. Don't make it a big deal
Research shows that a minimum of three exposures (and as many as 10) may be needed before kids become comfortable with new foods. Food behavior researcher Leann Birch of Pennsylvania State University says, "Be matter-of-fact. Many parents unwittingly short-circuit their efforts, appearing shocked when kids eat the vegetables on their plate and making comments such as, "That's amazing! I can't believe you ate that." This makes kids feel like they did something weird. Don't punish kids for not finishing the vegetables on their plate. It simply reinforces a negative association with vegetables. Don't offer rewards such as ice cream or television for finishing vegetables -- it makes kids believe that vegetables are something that must be endured, not enjoyed."
2. First reading lesson
Start right away by using food to teach kids their ABC's. Everyone will enjoy reading (and saying) lines like:
"Appreciate the D for date, a desert fruit found in Kuwait..."
Grapes "hang ... Continue
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