Creating Enjoyable Food Experiences for Kids 子どもと紡ぐ食の記憶

Published on: July 11, 2020

Most parents worry about ‘picky eating’ habits of their children. What can we do to overcome this? Mao, a nutritionist, shares how to address it with fun and educational food activities.   By Mao Tsuchiya / Translated by Hanae Matsumura [日本語記事へ]   Ten years ago, in a fishery harbor in Senegal, I was excitedly preparing my native cuisine, shrimp tempura (deep-fried shrimp) for local residents who were going to taste it for the first time. The result – some were afraid of its smell, some removed its batter, some were simply turned off because it looked gross. They were afraid of trying the unknown.   Even for adults, we tend to avoid foods that do not look appetizing. So it’s natural that children, who have a more sensitive palate, would have difficulty in accepting tastes such as sour which indicates being rotten or unripe, or bitterness which is a symptom of poisoning. On the contrary, they have unlimited cravings for sweetness and saltiness, which may lead to picky eating. Unbalanced nutrition can cause physical disorders, obesity and lifestyle-related diseases, which in turn will shorten their life expectancy.   According to the survey conducted at Melodies International Kindergarten, where I work as a nutritionist, most children show a dislike of all kinds of vegetables. How can we overcome such aversiveness?   To change their preconceptions of food that they dislike and introduce them in a fun way, I conduct cooking parties using these ingredients at the kindergarten. Through these parties, I saw the positive change in kids—they no longer said “I don’t like it” before trying it, and they showed a more positive attitude toward foods that they didn’t like before.   The essence of this activity is to let the kids have more hands-on experience, and for adults to step back and see what kids can do by themselves. Using all the five senses to cook the food, rather than just accepting what is on the plate does help them to actually eat them! In addition, they have fun through cooking and eating together with friends and teachers.   Although actual cooking only takes a short time, there are many preparative activities; before the cooking, kids learn the region where the ingredient is produced, when its best season is, and so on. Let’s take carrots for example. At the party, kids imagine their taste by the smell, feel the achievement by cutting them into flower’s shape, and sense the flavor by actually tasting it. At each moment, children form their experience through various senses, actions and emotions.   You can do the same thing at home, and begin with easy ones, like rice balls or salads. Kids can concentrate well if you give them simple tasks with clear instruction, for example, “Could you tear the lettuce please?” At the kindergarten, I let the kids learn about the procedures before the cooking starts. Learning the procedures in advance allows them to better master the task, and allow them to perform the tasks with the right posture and with more confidence.    These fun activities with friends and families could help overcome a child’s picky eating habits. In Senegal where I used to work, meals were the center of everyday life. People started preparing their lunch just after breakfast. They manually removed dust and other substances from rice grains, cooked them slowly on an open fire, and the meal was finally ready after more than three hours. Then all the family gathered to have lunch together; and soon after that, the preparation for dinner started.   Now, in our busy everyday life, we tend to eat alone, eat only favorite foods, eat a lot of processed foods with excessive taste, or eat as much/little as we like. On the contrary, accumulating fun and real experiences — such as seeing adults enjoy eating, eating with friends, feeling achievement by cooking by themselves — will enrich the world of food for your children.   So, why don’t you and your children cook together next weekend?  
  誰もが一度は悩んだことがあるであろう、お子さんの”食べず嫌い”。私が実際にメロディー幼稚園で行なっている克服方法をご紹介します。   文:土谷まお   10年前、私はセネガルの漁港で現地の人々に海老の天ぷらを振舞っていました。匂いを嗅いで不安がる人、徐に衣を剥いで食べる人、見た目が気持ち悪いから食べないという人、そろそろと口に運ぶ姿は体内に未知の食べものを取り込む恐怖に満ちていました。   本来、食べず嫌いは大人でも克服が難しいものです。また、大人よりも鋭敏な子どもの味覚は、腐敗や未熟であることを知らせる酸味、毒の存在を知らせる苦味をなかなか受け付けません。反対に、甘味や塩味はいくらでも欲しがるため、これが偏食に繋がってしまうこともあります。栄養の偏りによる不調や肥満は生活習慣病の原因となり、健康寿命を引き下げます。   実際に、当園のアンケート調査でも、子ども達の多くが野菜全般を苦手としています。こうした食べず嫌いはどのように克服していけばいいのでしょうか?   例えば、当園では食材に対する思い込みを取り払い、楽しい食の記憶となる様なお料理会を行なっています。お料理会を通して子ども達からは、食べる前に嫌いと言わなくなるなど、これまで苦手としていた食材に対してポジティブな反応が出てきました。   この取り組みを通して私たちが気をつけていることは、子どもに主体性を持たせることです。基本的に周りの大人は子どもが自分でできる作業は見守ります。お皿に盛り付けられたものを食べるだけの受け身ではなく、実際に五感を用いて調理することによって食材への関心が高まり、口に入れるハードルを下げることができます。また、友達や先生と楽しく調理して一緒にテーブルを囲むことは、おいしさを感じさせる何よりのスパイスになります。   子ども達が調理をするのは短時間ですが、事前の取り組みとして食材について産地や旬などを知るところから始まり、食べ終わるまでには色々な出来事があります。人参を例にとっても、匂いで味を想像し、花型できれいにくり抜いて達成感を感じ、口にいれておいしさを感じるなど、各々の場面での味覚、行動、感情が記憶を紡ぎます。   家庭で子どもに料理をさせることに重圧を感じる必要はありません。おにぎりでもサラダでも簡単な物から始めましょう。「今日はレタスをちぎるところだけお願いね」等と作業内容を明確に伝えることで子どもは集中して行うことが出来ます。   園では調理を始める前に、子どもに手順の確認をさせています。事前に確認をすることで、当初の危なっかしい手つき、及び腰からは信じられない位、じっくりと落ち着いて作業に挑戦する姿が見られるようになります。   これまで食べず嫌いで食べなかったものが食べられるようになるきっかけは、家族や友達との食の楽しい記憶です。私がいたセネガルでは食が生活の中心でした。昼食は朝食の直後に米から不純物を一つ一つ手で取り除くところから始まり、直火でゆっくりと調理し、3時間以上かけて出来上がると、昼休みに家族が集って食べ、昼寝の後にはまた夕食の準備が始まります。   先進国では忙しさに追われ、1人で食べる孤独な「孤食」になり易く、好きな物ばかり食べる「固食」、手軽な加工食品だけでは味付けの「濃食」にも繋がり、好きな量だけ食べるようでは「小食」の心配もあります。周りの大人が美味しそうに食べる姿、友達と食べるご飯、自分で料理を作った達成感など、食の記憶を積み重ねていくことが子どもの食の豊かさに繋がっていくのです。   今度の週末、お子さんと一緒にキッチンに立ってみませんか?  

About the Author

Mao is a nutritionist at Melodies International Kindergarten and Nursery in Bangkok; she specializes in providing food-related educational activities for kids. She worked in Senegal on the mission of Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers by JICA, and used to work at a nursery in Tokyo. バンコクの日系、メロディー幼稚園の専属栄養士として食育活動を行う。JICA青年海外協力隊でセネガル赴任、東京の保育園での勤務経験有り。
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