Food and children, it’s complicated. Parents often struggle to get their children to eat a balanced and nutritious diet, and picky eaters are a common frustration. But food is essential for a child’s growth and development. As per the National Curriculum Framework (NCF), we need to develop a deeper connection between food, our body, our culture, and the environment to help improve the relationship between food and children. In this blog, we will explore how we can make the relationship between children and food healthier, happier, and more enjoyable.
The Early Years:
Children between the ages of 3 and 8 are on a journey to establish their identity and express their interests and preferences. Eating is no different. Children may not have a lot of control over what they do in their daily lives, but they can control what they eat. This is why our conversation around food should align with their emotional needs as much as their physical need for sustenance. Food should be an enjoyable experience, not a chore.
One way to make food more enjoyable for children is through storytelling. Remember Popeye? Spinach didn't make him a superhero, but he made spinach a superhero for children around the world through stories. Kutuki’s stories also communicate the benefits of food through real-life superhero abilities, like better vision to spot things far away, more stamina to play, and stronger muscles to carry something heavy. Children love it!
We also use descriptive noises to add an element of theatre around food. For example, children love to imitate the sounds of Kutu and Ki saying “karrum karrum” while eating something crunchy. Caregivers can join in too, making mealtime a fun and interactive experience.
Children feel thrilled to see the food that they eat in their homes in stories. Some of our stories like ‘Snack Time’, ‘Pickle Party’ and ‘Breakfasts of India’ talk about food from all across India, and children enjoy seeing their own food and discovering food from other cultures. Food can be a great way to explore the world and learn about other cultures. It's a great opportunity to introduce children to the diverse flavours and tastes that exist beyond their comfort zones.
Connection to the Environment:
Despite the culture of cooking being so strong in India, the disconnect between what we eat and the environment is quite stark. To address this, we wrote stories of Kutu and Ki visiting a typical Indian market, exploring life on a farm, growing their own food, and cooking as a family.
Our story ‘Bee Hotel’ subtly explores the impact of climate change on bees, setting Kutu and Ki off on an exciting adventure to save them. By helping children understand where their food comes from and how it is produced, we can foster a deeper connection between them and the environment.
Food is essential for children's growth and development, but it should also be an enjoyable experience. By using storytelling, cultural exploration, and connection to the environment, we can help children establish a positive relationship with food. As we continue to navigate the complex relationship between children and food, we must remember that it's not just about the food on the plate, but the experience that surrounds it. By making mealtime a fun and interactive experience, we can help children establish healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime.