The Finicky Child Does Eat Vegetables

Delta Winds cover 2000Delta Winds: A Magazine of Student Essays
A Publication of San Joaquin Delta College


The Finicky Child Does Eat Vegetables

Velma Young

No matter the child, male or female, five years or older, s/he will continue to love to eat a variety of vegetables if s/he is involved at the beginning -- choosing, preparing, and serving the meal. Most of us have heard the phrases "He just hates vegetables," "She's so picky about what she eats," "My child won't eat the green stuff," and "He only wants to eat at McDonald's." What a shame and a missed opportunity for everyone to bond together for a good cause. Just stop the hair-pulling and nail-biting excursion now. Stop wherever you are, and begin anew to change your attitude and disposition regarding the formidable task of child rearing, employment hassles, and budgetary decisions. Get the picture?

Try harder, really experience the color and texture of fresh vegetables to the fullest magnitude, and appreciate them with the child. Discuss openly his likes and dislikes of vegetables. Could it be the food presentation, timing, or ill scheduling on your part? Are meals prepared and presented in a hurried fashion, and is this one of those "have to" household chores? Put yourself in the child's place. Envision yourself being the so-called nuisance to every meal: No one seems to know why, or everyone appears to be too preoccupied with everyone else and everything to really notice you and your feelings. Just try a more positive stance, sans the dreaded task at hand, and feel the difference with his cooperation.

As soon as possible, take some time set apart from the usual hurried pace of the so-called daily grind. Take him with you to the garden, supermarket, farm, or fruit and vegetable stand. Let him choose, with your gentle encouragement, in a fun and non-confrontational way. This change of pace will benefit you and the child. For one, conversation will flow easily and comfortably between the two of you. "We will get something for dinner or a snack." The slant of the mission has begun to change with "we" and not "I."

We are very fortunate to live in the San Joaquin Valley; some of the world's best agriculture is here. Besides, this is our home. Choose a multiple variety of color and textures for the meal and/or snack time. Let him experience the assorted vegetables: carrots; broccoli; green, yellow, and red bell peppers; zucchini; yellow squash; flying saucer squash; and tomatoes -- pimento, beefsteak, roma. Take a look at the Swiss chard, lettuce -- Romaine, iceberg, red leaf -- mustard greens, and kale. Do include potatoes -- red and white -- all sizes, scallions, onions, and garlic. Let him touch the items freely; engage him in the preparation possibilities. Converse aloud about the many colorful and tasty treats he could make. Find the shelves with a variety of dips and salad dressings for the menu; note his amazement about the selections and the personal prospect of his preparing something for the family. Ask him what vegetable dip, salad dressing, and/or condiment he prefers and let him select them.

After paying for the goods and putting them in bags or baskets, let him help carry the bounty to the car and gently place it there, securely. Get his point of view about the choices, the store, the people, the service, and so on. Little people are bright and wonderful beings who deserve some time when we actually "listen" and respond to their concerns. Notice the gentle persuasion of you the adult, with fewer hassles and complaints from the child.

Bring your goods home to your kitchen. You and the child keep the conversation lively, and the two of you wash your hands thoroughly. Wash the vegetables in the sink and place them on paper towels to dry; each of you can take turns to do this. Place at least six to eight choices in a colorful array before him; he, "the new chef," will choose those and more. Cut the vegetables in a variety of shapes -- round, strips, crinkles, conferring with him about the sizes thereof. Due to the knife being so sharp, you will do the chopping for him until he is older. Time, along with his young age, is in your favor. Yet, he is still contributing to the process.

Let him choose the dip or condiment, the serving dish, and display the chosen bounty. The salad, with all that color and texture, will be his next adventure when he feels the lettuce in his hands and prepares it for the bowl he helps to choose. His actual choice of serving platters, bowls, dressing, or dip is unimportant. He is becoming aware of where the dishes are kept, and his selection is a positive, loving memory in the making for you and for him. Keep it simple and "follow" his lead as he has "the best idea" how to make this a tasty and good-looking meal. Let family and friends know immediately about the "new chef's" endeavor.

You now have a willing partner, not an enemy at your table, enjoying the fruit of his labor with the rest of the family. He is not threatened with "what's good for you," but is satisfied that he is worth more than gold, your new promotion, the banquet you will attend this weekend, or even the new car you are planning to buy.

Compliment with hugs and adoration. You now have a health-conscious child on the horizon of life without the fuss. Enjoy your mealtime with a new and improved attitude. The entire family will have relaxed and enjoyable mealtimes, far better than tug of war beforehand.

Repeat the above steps as many times and for as many meals as you desire. Live longer, healthier, and wiser with the former "finicky eater."