Slumped at the back of the class, it was clear Susie hadn't had breakfast. Carl on the other hand, was bouncing off the walls. I suspected it was the sweets he had eaten on his way to school.
Teaching children taught me a lot about the impact food has on the health and concentration levels of our children. I've seen first hand the impact a poor diet has on a child in the classroom.
I wish nutrition had been more permanently on the curriculum when I was a teacher. It's a subject that's easy to grasp - more so than reading and writing - for many children. And while I'm no dietician, I was a teacher and I am a mum. This is what my experience in the classroom, kitchen and dining room has taught me about kids and food.
Food is easy to understand
Forget fad diets and complex carbohydrates. All kids need to know is:
- It's all about balance - teach your children to enjoy all foods in moderation.
- Always eat fruit - it's yummy, colourful and sweet.
- Know what's in your food - because then children can learn to make informed decisions about eating it.
- Know where your food comes from - connecting the dots helps to build context and reason around food choices.
Involving children works
Help them understand where food comes from. Involve them in cooking, baking and preparing evening meals. Expand dinner time conversations to include chats about what's on their plates. A simple guessing game can help kids connect the food on their plate to the world around them.
Lead by example
If you don't eat fish, your kids probably won't eat fish. If you leave the salad but expect your kids to eat it, they'll kick up a fuss. One of the key steps towards getting kids to eat right is taking full responsibility for your diet, and theirs.
Get them growing their own
Space need not be an issue - herbs are simple to grow and take up very little space. They're also delicious and grow quickly. In my experience, pungent herbs like basil are more exciting to kids than cress, although you can't beat cress for topping a ceramic pot in the shape of an animal...
Make food fun
A 4-year old has around a 16-minute concentration span before POOF! they're on to the next idea. Eating the same thing every day gets boring. So does sitting down in a cafeteria when it's sunny outside and there are games to be played.
For more inspiration
Head to my blog, The Toy Hunter. I've collected my favourite toys, games and activity ideas that help make food fun for kids.