Jaf and Lou Lou, if you haven’t guessed, are Multicultural. I, their Mom am Hawaiian and their father Lebanese, which automatically gives them a ton of advantages. We introduced them to accept the new and unusual when it comes to foods.We’ve taught them that trying new things means being brave. It’s being the cool kid in other kid’s eyes. So our children have grown to see cultural diversity as an adventure. Visiting new countries, meeting new people, eating and sampling new cuisines (with the risk of not liking it) makes their experience more worth it… more meaningful. They now practically eat almost anything and have developed a palate that always seeks out new flavors and textures. So, how do you turn your children into a kid foodies?
Well, transforming your child into one can be mind-boggling since kids already are picky eaters. However, I know parents who successfully incorporated the habit into their kids. At a young age their children were already eating Japanese Nori (seaweed) and have mastered the art of using chopsticks.
As parents, we introduce solid food to babies at four to six months, basing it on the baby’s readiness and phase. At this stage, they only understand the concept of delicious food and prefer tasty and sweet foods. As they turn three, this is the best time to incorporate new foods into their life.
Another time to take advantage in transforming your child to have a multicultural palate is during summer, when fresh fruits and vegetables are in season.Below are different ways to encourage your child to try new ethnic foods;
- Watch movies set in different countries such as Rugrats in Paris, Lady and the Tramp, Ratatouie, etc. Ask them questions about the foods from that country, engage their curiosity by asking if they’d like to try it together the next time you eat out.
- Be a role model. Of course, you don’t want kids to hate you for trying something they don’t like, so try it first. Gauge their taste and find a food that you know they’ll be interested or at least like.
- Try new recipes at home and let them help. Trigger their enthusiasm by talking about the food you found in a movie, a restaurant, or something you tried when you’re out at work. Tell them how much it looks so good to eat and that it includes their favorite ingredient.
- Don’t stray away from their comfort zone. If you’re eating something new in the table, let him have his preferred sauce for his pasta or let him mix another ingredient he wants for his food. When a child is trying something new, the tendency is for him to experiment as well. Let him explore on his own, and he will eventually find his own feet after a series of trial and errors.
- Pick restaurants of different cuisines that you’ve already tried and let them choose where to eat. Children love and appreciate it when their opinions are valued. We know how excited children are in growing up, so when you include them to decision making, they feel like an adult already.
- During out of town or country trips, prepare finger foods such as Japanese crackers, pita with hummus or other ethnic foods they can nibble easily.
- Eat different cuisines in happy occasions. Make eating a happy and enjoyable event. Share happy and funny stories. Attaching a happy memory to an experience gives children security and assurance. Since they enjoyed it, they will certainly remember that trip and the food they ate. They’ll surely want to do it again.
- Show them something they’ve never seen before and make sure to take a picture of that moment. Some countries have recipes with unusual ingredients. Show them the ingredients like a very big fish being caught. Take a picture of it. It’s an experience they’ll love to remember and enjoy.
- Travel. Show them houses, restaurants, and buildings with different decorations or take them to museums. It gives children novelty, because in our time now, kids are easily bored and they would always love to see something new.
- Have multicultural friends. It will not just expose them to new cuisines; it will also expose them to new traditions and practices. Most importantly, it will open their eyes to something more, that they’re own culture is not the only culture there is. It will also help them to be accepting of other people who are different from them.
Once school starts, teachers ask students to write or share with the class what they did during summer. Your child will certainly share the different foods he tried, the biggest fish he’d ever seen, and the places he’d been. He’ll want to share his picture with the big fish or him eating unusual food. It is a cause and effect. Other kids of his age will think he is cool and will certainly tell their parents to do something like that too. Parents will also thank you for exposing their children to other cultures and experiences.
Exposing children to something new is risky and scary, but once they get over their fears. You’ll have a child who is open to different perspectives, possibilities, and thinks out of the box. The most important part here is you had fun with your child trying new things when they’re young.
It’s a bond you’ll both remember for the rest of their lives.