Why kids should play with their food

Why kids should play with their food

  • 16 June 2020
On average, South Africans don’t eat enough vegetables. According to Knorr’s Plate of the Nation report, only 13% of the food we eat is vegetables - less than half of what is recommended

Vegetables are essential for both kids and adults. They are a great source of many vitamins and minerals, including folate, vitamin C and potassium. They're an excellent source of dietary fibre, and high vegetable consumption is associated with a reduced risk of major chronic diseases.

Although most of us know how important vegetables are in a healthy diet, it can sometimes be hard to get our kids to eat their veggies. Here’s a method from a study done in the Journal Apetite that might help get your kids to try more vegetables, and fruit too.

This study looked at the fruit and vegetable consumption of 3-4-year-old pre-school children. 62 children were recruited and split into 3 groups.

In the first group, the children were given bowls of fruits and vegetables like carrots, spinach, broccoli, blueberries, tomatoes, green beans and radishes and asked to create pictures from The Very Hungry Caterpillar book using the foods provided. They were encouraged to touch, squash and reshape the food as they liked. In other words, they were allowed to freely play and create with the provided fruits and vegetables.

One another group was given non-food items to play with instead, like sequins, pompoms, feathers, glitter and pipe cleaners.

The third group was allowed to play a similar game but with a researcher handling the foods rather than them.

Immediately after playing, the children from all groups were asked if they would like to try any of the food items.

Researches found that children from the first group tried significantly more fruit and vegetables than the other two groups.

Why did the kids who were allowed to play with their food more likely to try more fruit and vegetables? The researchers believe that when children are encouraged to interact with the fruits and vegetables by touching and playing with them, with no pressure to have to eat them, the foods become more familiar and they are more likely to want to try them.

So if you want to get your kids to try new vegetables - perhaps make a game with them and encourage them to play with their food with no pressure to try them. The more colours and variety, the better!