Getting Kids Food SavvyThu 12 Jul 2012
Story by Glenda Gourley
Forget the latest computer game or toy – one of the greatest gifts you can give your child is some basic food skills. This is not a debate that you want to have with the child because it certainly won’t get any traction. In the greater scheme of things, being able to make good food choices and having some practical food skills is indeed a phenomenally awesome gift! Once established, it will be with them for their lifetime and will set them on a path of a long, healthy and happy lifestyle.
Mixing Nutrition & Common Sense
However whilst many parents know they should give their kids good food skills, the reality is many find the whole task daunting. Glenda Gourley, a food and nutrition educator has teamed with her teenage daughter Claire, to mix purist nutrition messages with a huge dollop of common sense and reality to come up with a raft of suggestions that parents and kids can relate to.
This mother-daughter team has established a strategy that inspires parents and motivates children to become more food savvy. Claire is the voice to teens and children whilst Glenda is the voice to adults. Claire shares her journey about getting ready to leave home and wanting to know enough about food so that she can look after herself. Glenda adds her perspective from a food and nutrition educator and parent. With two distinct target audiences and lots of resources, they have one goal – food savvy kids who can take good care of themselves.
Being food savvy is not just about cooking, although cooking is central, it also about giving children a range of food skills - from reading labels, food and kitchen safety to making good food choices.
One of the more innovative and exciting parts to their strategy is an online school holiday program where children cook their family dinner, in their home using their food. As part of the fun and highly interactive program there are live-chats and fantastic competitions – ranging from random-acts-of-kindness (children prepare and share food), to movie-making and over-the-top table settings. Whilst imparting food skills was the key goal, the feedback from families has been overwhelming. By encouraging family dinners (with TV switched off!) parents are reporting improvement in self-esteem, confidence, sense of contribution and family bonding. A totally unexpected bonus!
Whilst communicating directly to the children is important, Glenda believes a lot can be done ‘behind the scenes’ and that parents are pivotal. Parents should be encouraged to look on cooking the same way as they would a game of backgammon. The children are not going to play backgammon if there is no set in the house. They are more likely to play if the set is stored somewhere where they can see it. They are even more likely to play if you get the set out and arrange the pieces.
Similarly, children are less likely to cook if there are no appealing recipes, the right ingredients aren’t there and there is no encouragement or incentive. Things have to be set up for children so that the option of cooking becomes easy. It’s up to parents to set the scene. Things like leaving a kid’s cookbook on the bench for a few days or casually mentioning that it would be nice if they wanted to give it a go and that you are happy to get any ingredients can make all the difference.
There is no doubt that most parents want to do the best for their children and that kids who are food savvy have a huge advantage. Glenda and Claire aim to empower parents and kids to take the steps to gain skills that will make a difference.
About the author: Glenda Gourley first emerged with a nutrition degree and like most educators, started with a dogmatic intolerance to high fat, high sugar and high salt foods. Idealist and childless. Now, many years later with three strong-willed children and a career focused on nutrition education, she has morphed her philosophy to a relaxed consistency that is nutritionally robust yet sustainable, realistic and above all excessively tasty! Glenda has established many food education strategies and is an award-winning educator and author. You can follow Glenda on twitter @foodsavvykids or on her site at www.foodsavvykids.com
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