A pit stop at your local market fish stall or fishmongers offers youngsters the perfect opportunity to get involved in learning about where their food comes from and how it gets onto their plates. During a recent trip to Pike Place Market – a world famous coastal farmers’ market in Seattle, Washington, even I had fun discovering strange sea creatures and watching fishmongers throwing fish to one another in front of a large, cheering crowd! My visit there reminded me that there are so many ways of getting the kids interested in fish and seafood beyond the familiar fish fingers and chips.
Whether you’re at the market, or perhaps visiting a seaside coastal town, you’ll find that children will use their natural inquisitiveness to learn more about fishing or the work of fishermen catching sustainable fish, and that they will love touching and feeling different types of fish and seafood to learn more about their peculiarities!
And since most children seem happy enough to eat fishcakes and fish fingers, as they grow in understanding and confidence they’ll become more adventurous when it comes to enjoying other types of fish and seafood at mealtimes. I noticed in Seattle that there were plenty of fish dishes for kids to choose from on the local menus, including grilled Alaskan salmon with fresh veggies, Dungeness crab omelettes and kids-friendly clam chowders. Since coming home, I’ve also enjoyed making this basic corn chowder recipe - a warm and comforting soup, which encourages the kids to add in their own cooked flaky pieces of fish or strips of smoked salmon in amounts they can handle.
Some parents might be a little cautious when it comes to serving fish or seafood to children, probably because we’re warned about seafood and shellfish allergies when it comes to babies and weaning. The current advice is that it’s fine to introduce fish and seafood to children over six months old, as long as you look out for any allergies as when introducing any new food. Always make sure that fish is well cooked and stay away from shark and swordfish (though they are probably not likely to eat much of that!) as they can contain high amounts of mercury. Fishcakes are a lovely, healthy way to cook and eat fish with kids, and you can find Jamie’s fishcakes recipe here.
When it comes to preparing fish and seafood, there are plenty of videos that you can watch with your older children to get used to preparing and handling fish. You can watch Jamie’s top fish-buying tips, where he talks about using all your senses and how to avoid fishy-fish and dodgy fish! Picking a crab can also be great fun. Watch Pete from Jamie’s food team breaking up a huge crab and taking out all its meat in this video on how to prepare a crab before having a go yourselves at home.
Why not experiment with some of your own holiday-inspired recipes? Perhaps a Spanish paella with plenty of prawns, mussels and squid thrown in, or simple spaghetti with tomato sauce and handful of prawns or tuna. There’s plenty of fun to be had with shellfish, with new flavours, textures and experiences to enjoy by the bucketful!
Ren Behan is a food writer and a mum-of-two. Find out more at www.renbehan.com