Creating a healthy eater starts at a young age when kids are impressionable and quickly developing habits. Your kindergartner is old enough to understand the basics of nutrition and make her own choices about the things that go into her mouth. Most schools teach nutrition, but you can support your kindergartner's understanding of healthy eating with your own lessons at home.
Although children should generally be discouraged from playing with their food at the table, dramatic play in the kitchen allows your little one to play with her food as she learns healthy habits. A play kitchen is a simple way to incorporate healthy food ideas. Encourage your kindergartner to prep meals made with nutritious foods in her play kitchen. Another idea is to set up a pretend restaurant complete with a healthy menu. Take turns playing the server and the customer. Your old food containers offer a cheap way to stock the shelves of a pretend grocery store. This pretend play scenario teaches your child about healthy habits that start at the supermarket. As she plays, talk to her about the choices made on a daily basis about food.
By kindergarten, your child is well-equipped to tackle a variety of cooking tasks. Get her in the kitchen as much as possible; she'll love helping you plan and prepare healthy meals. Talk to her about healthy ingredients and best practices for making good choices all day long. She can begin making her own healthy snacks, which will give her a sense of independence in the kitchen. Your kindergartner can also help with washing, stirring, and measuring ingredients as you prepare more complicated meals. Reserve the potentially dangerous activities for an adult. She still shouldn't use sharp knives or handle hot pans herself. Mixers, blenders, and other kitchen appliances are also dangerous for young children.
Nutrition games teach your kindergartner about healthy eating in an entertaining way. Set up a scavenger hunt with a list of healthy foods for her to find. This idea works either at home or at the supermarket. A supermarket scavenger hunt familiarizes your kindergartner with the location of healthy foods and the concept of choosing groceries carefully. Another simple game is a sorting activity. Draw pictures of different foods on index cards. Your child can sort the food items into piles: one for healthy foods that you should eat frequently, and one for less healthy foods that you should only eat occasionally.
Literacy and Crafts
Books and crafts are great tools for teaching your kindergartner about eating well. "Blueberries for Sal" by Robert McCloskey, "Herb the Vegetarian Dragon" written by Jules Bass and Debbie Harter, and "The Edible Pyramid" by Loreen Leedy are all good examples. Your local librarian can suggest other titles that relate to healthy eating. Crafts can support the information your kindergartner hears in the books or learns from other activities. For example, your child can make a large replica of the food pyramid. Cut an old box in the shape of a pyramid, then have your little artist draw or paint pictures of foods that go in each category and paste them on the board. She can also create her own healthy meal by arranging some of her favorite pictures on a paper plate before pasting them on. Have clay or play dough in the house? Have fun helping your child shape healthy foods and put meals together.