In a guest post, Katharine Tate, the Herts-based Food Teacher, explains how the dreaded home schooling can actually provide great opportunities to improve our children’s long-term health by engaging them with food
Ensuring our children are healthy, mindful and equipped for the months ahead can be a constant challenge but with so much help and support on our doorstep this time can be an opportunity to make a difference.
Statistics about increasing childhood obesity, tooth decay and even rickets often take centre stage with the media. These all illustrate the need to inspire children and families to cook and ensure children understand food, where it comes from and most importantly how it affects our bodies.
If we put food education at the heart of both our schools and our homes we can truly begin to feed our children’s stomachs and minds. As Jamie Oliver stated, “You don’t die young because you didn’t do your geography homework. Kids die young because they don’t know how to feed themselves.”
As a qualified teacher, registered nutritional therapist and parent launching The Food Teacher™ in 2014 was an opportunity to make a difference and develop food education and nutrition for youngsters. Aside from three award-winning books for schools, our greatest success to date has been our Young Chef Award. This was launched in 2017 in Fleetwood, Lancashire and was paid for by their Clinical Commissioning Group who recognised the impact such an award could have on the long-term health and well-being of the community. Due to its success, the award is now available to all UK and Irish primary schools.
Why children shy away from vegetables…
Food education can start at home with very young children and is typically child-led and focused on sensory play where everything ends up in the mouth. Providing that opportunity to allow children to get messy, touch and taste foods can help to reduce anxieties and fears. A fear around certain foods such as vegetables is common in young children and is believed to be an evolutionary-rooted response. It served as a protective mechanism to ensure as hunters and gatherers we didn’t eat something poisonous which would make us sick. Our ancestors developed their diet around safe colours, smells and textures and as some foods – specifically vegetables – have a naturally bitter taste, acceptance of these foods was challenged.
Learning knife safety
As children begin to expand their taste palette, interest in food and willingness to help in the kitchen we can begin to introduce knife skills and combining ingredients. Allowing children to use knives comes down to adult judgement and readiness but cutting soft foods with scissors, safety knives marketed for children or butter knives can be a great start. This can then evolve with confidence into using sharper knives and cutting harder foods such as root vegetables.
In the Young Chef Awards we educate children about safety and knife skills sharing different techniques and the importance of using these when preparing ingredients. Just like our child’s exposure to the Internet if we educate them how to use them safely they are better equipped and feel more confident.
In our award for ages 9 to 11 children plan and prepare a three-course meal for their hero, which includes a soup, main, dessert and drink. The outcomes are outstanding and pupils rising to the challenge, which would see them passing GCSE Food Technology with flying colours.
Whilst children are home-based it’s a great opportunity to engage them in the kitchen. All our awards include a make/cook at home link, which has open access. Why not try a couple of these recipes together if you have young children or encourage your 9-11 year olds to create some of the dishes more independently? Check out our recipes below:
Please do share your creations at our Facebook page.