Teaching Children to Try New Foods: The Rice Roll Lesson
Children are amazing little creatures. Curious. Full of wonder. Full of questions. And incredibly open to new experiences....though they sometimes have to be convinced.
Like when trying a new food.
New food can be scary to young kids. As a seasoned teacher and mom, I know all the rhyme, reason and rationale behind children's leeriness to even tasting a new, unfamiliar food (See Why Your Child Won't Try New Foods...and How To Turn it Around). However, I also know it is our jobs as their personal amabsadors to the universe and how to function in it to help them past those fears and hesitations towards even touching an unfamiliar food.
I love seaweed. Love love love it. It is a healthy, easy and nutrient dense food that is the perfect thing for anyone with a bit of a salty tooth. And it is also a really wonderful food to get your kids to fall in love with because it can open the door for so many easy and awesome meals. I especially love the seaweed from SeaSnax, since it is organic, sustainably-grown, gluten free, and free of any yucky preservatives or other unnessisary junk. Just a little olive oil and a speckle of salt in those bad boys. I also love that SeaSnax makes their seaweed in easy snack sizes for lunch boxes of snacks on-the-go or full sheets for homemade sushi rolls. They even have a completely raw dried seaweed for those who want to skip over oil and salt all together! Yep, seaweed is awesome and is a food I totally think your kids will love once they try it.
Now, to get the kids to try the seaweed so that they fall in love with it. That's the trick.
Actually, no tricks are needed. Just an opportunity and some perspective.
Children, typically, really are very open-minded. They are constantly soaking up information and ideas and applying it to their own understanding of the world around them. Teaching children to try a new food, like seaweed, is just a matter of confronting their fears about the food and giving them a reason and an opportunity to try the new food.
Like a good conversation and a book. Truly. Those two things can be all it takes to get the little wheels turning inside your child's head and for them to be willing to give a new food a go.
Seriously, guys. In case my years and years of working with kiddos has failed me in the intuition department, I tested this theory out in the form of a little lesson plan...on all 50 of the students in my preschool. And of those 50, 45 children tried the seaweed. And of the 45, 39 liked it. Heck, most of those 39 came back for more seaweed! It was a total hit and success of a lesson.
And now I am sharing it with you. Each blow by blow in the lesson. A blueprint for the activity you can do with your child. A reason and an oppertunitey for your child to try a new food and maybe to become a seaweed lover too.
Disclaimer: Thank you to SeaSnax for sponsoring this post! My promise to you, my readers, is to only promote content and products that I truly believe in and buy myself. All opinions stated in this post are my own.
- The book, Yoko by Rosemary Wells. This is a great book about a little girl who brings sushi to school, only to be teased by her peers. However, once one friend is open minded enough to try the sushi, he discovers that he loves it.
- Sushi rice
- bowl of water
- seaweed wrappers. I used SeaSnax Grab and Go because they are the perfect size for little hands to easily work with.
- Shredded veggies (optional and might be best to opt for veggies that your child already enjoys so that they are open to trying the seaweed)
1. Cook sushi rice according to directions at least 1 hour prior to starting the activity. Sushi rice has the best texture and flavor after it has had at least an hour to sit and this time will also allow the rice too cool off enough for little (clean) hands to touch it.
2. While rice cools, sit down with your child(ren).
"What is your favorite food?"
After they reply, share with them what your favorite food is. Then say something like:
"You know, if you had never tried ________, you would have never found your favorite food. You had to be brave that first time and look how much you loved it! I feel like being brave today and trying something new."
3. Read the book Yoko with your child(ren). As you read, highlight how the other children didn't want to try Yoko's sushi because it was a food they were unfamiliar with. But when Timothy was brave enough to try Yoko's sushi, he loved it so much that he ate it all. Use the book as a segue into your children trying the new food.
A sample of what you could say is:
"Remember how the children in the book were so brave and tried a new food? And they ended up loving it? Well we are going to try a new food today too! Seaweed! It is really yummy and good for you too. Let's be brave together and try it."
4. Place the bowl of cooked sushi rice on the table along with the bowl of water and the seaweed wrappers. Make sure whatever surface you are using is low enough for children to comfortably reach.
5. Show the children how to make a ball of rice. Dip your hands in the bowl of water first, this helps the rice to stick together and NOT to your hands. Then take about a heaping tablespoon of cooked sushi rice and squeeze it into a ball in your palms carefully. Place it on the seaweed wrapper, fold the wrapper around the rice ball, and eat it kind of like a taco.
If you are not a seaweed fan yourself, try your best to keep your feelings to yourself so as not to influence how your child feels about the new food.
6. Help your child create a ball of rice in his/her hand and wrap it in the seaweed. Encourage them to try it.
7. If they enjoyed it, encourage them to make another. Perhaps flatten the rice ball this time and add a few shredded veggies to the rice roll (if using)
8. Repeat as many times as you and your kiddo want.
9. At the end of the lesson, ask your child what he/she liked or didn't like about the rice roll. Regardless of whether he/she liked it or not, end the lesson with:
"I'm proud of you for being brave and trying something new."
Children are figuring out the world, including what foods they should/should not nourish their bodies with. And while it can be tricky sometimes to nudge them in the healthy direction, it is little lessons like this that can make all the difference in how they see new and unfamiliar foods. And perhaps, even pave the way for more willingness at the next family dinner.
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