A Ruth Dawson guest post
It is a fact of life that most little ones prefer pizza to peas and sweets to salad. But, regardless of taste, giving children even the most basic grounding in food knowledge can help them to lead a healthier life now and when they grow up.
Last weekend saw the return of popular event Open Farm Sunday. For the past five years, over 400 farms have been opening their gates all over the UK and teaching members of the public about where their food comes from. The initiative is a perfect way to introduce your children to learning about their food.
Although organic, sustainable and free range are certainly all important food factors, learning the process of how dinner gets from seed to stomach at a young age will greater enhance your children's food appreciation – and might even get them to help with the dishes at the end of it all.
Try these top tips to make the whole family healthier and happier today:
Visit a farm
The best way to learn about where your food comes from is to see the growing process for yourself. Though Open Farm Sunday may be just an annual event, there are still hundreds of working farms around the country available to visit.
Tom Frost is an organic farmer based near Aberaeron in South Wales. For 30 years the Frost family have been growing organic vegetables and salads on the award-winning Blaencamel farm. Tom believes that getting children to engage with their food will help to break their inhibitions with healthy food or fussy eating.
|Tom Frost attends farmers' markets in Cardiff to sell |
“Growing up on a farm made me very mindful never to waste anything too,” says Tom. “Which has turned me into a pretty frugal cook which is one of the skills I value the most.”
Getting children involved in the kitchen
Market Kitchen's Matt Tebbutt is better known at home as dad to nine-year-old Jessie and seven-year-old Henry. Matt tries to get his children helping out with meal times at their home in Monmouthshire.
“They like it when they get dirty and covered in flour,” Matt says. “But it's a really slow process, kids like chips, they like fish fingers. You try and give them a really nice piece of poached sea bass or something like that and they'll turn their nose up. It's a very general introduction you have to do.”
Try starting off simple with sweet treats like fruit kebabs and work your way up to a dinner for the family.
Get children involved in the weekly shop
Getting your children involved in the weekly shop will not only give them a better understanding of prices and what goes into their food but could also help control diet related health problems.
Lisa Davies, from Swansea, is the mum of 10-year-old James. She found that changing the way she did the weekly shop helped control her son's problems with hyperactivity caused by a poor diet.
“One of the easiest ways to get him to eat the healthier foods on his plate was by letting him choose certain healthy treats when shopping and asking for his opinion on what he thought we should buy in the supermarket,” Lisa said. “He loved getting involved in planning the meal times and is still quite interested in food five years later.”
Grow your own
Getting your child involved in maintaining your vegetable patch will teach a range of life skills; save you money; improve our environment and could even save you a little time on the gardening too.
|Fill your plate with colours of the rainbow for a healthy lifestyle|
If you don't have the space to grow your own – or, for example, want to learn about rearing animals, it may be beneficial to make regular time to volunteer at a community farm.
Swansea Community Farm is just one such project committed to community integration and sustainable farming practices. Local resident William Lewis, 24, visits the farm regularly with his young nephews.
“I love bringing the boys here,” he says. “My sister is really keen on making sure they learn about the environment and its perfect here. They get to feed the animals, plant seeds and even harvest the vegetables.”
There are plenty of working farms around the UK open to the public around the year. Ruth has scoured the country to find the best centres to learn about organic, sustainability and animals.
Cirencester's Abbey Home Farm is run under strict organic and sustainable practices by a 40 strong team who share a passion for local and organic food.
Telephone: 01285 640441
Based outside the city centre, Swansea Community Farm runs a number of projects just for children and young people which make for perfect after school activities.
All projects on the farm are maintained to enhance local biodiversity and encourage nature conservation.
Telephone: 01792 578384
Cruckley Farm is a family run working farm in East Yorkshire. Visitors can watch demonstrations as well as pitch in with feeding the animals.
Telephone: 01262 488337