I couldn't help but smile as I watched my 13 month old daughter, who had picked up the colander I had been putting freshly harvested radishes in, chomping happily away on her first radish, dirt and all. Not only did she like it, but she went for a second. I was quite surprised that she didn't even put up a fuss about the spiciness of it. She seemed to rather enjoy it. I have also seen her try with all her might to pull a half ripe strawberry off the plant and when that didn't work she simply leaned down and ate it right off the plant.
There is absolutely no denying the fact that my kids love fruits and veggies. A couple of months ago, Jacob and I sat with our jaws hanging open in shock, as we watched our 4 and 6 year olds, eat a purple cabbage straight from the garden. It had been growing for over a year and a half and had never gotten really big, but it still had a head about the size of a softball. I had decided it was time to retire it and make room for something new. I handed it over to the kids and told them they could eat it. They snarfed it down like they hadn't eaten in weeks. We have often had to remind them not to pick the baby veggies, but to let them grow big so we can all enjoy them. Much to our sorrow they plucked and ate 12 broccoli plants just as they were starting to flower, last fall.
So, I have been pondering this idea of how we really get our children to like "good" things and things that are "good" for them. I think one of the important things we have to do is first expose our kids to good things. If we want our kids to like a variety of veggies then we need to provide them with the opportunity to eat a lot of different ones. We were at the store this past week and my 4 year old son spotted a big carton of mushrooms, "Mom", he said, "what do mushrooms taste like?" Well, that is a very hard question to answer. So I said, "Well, let's buy some and you can try them." He was so excited about it and also very willing to try them because it was his idea.
The second thing we need to do to help our children to like "good" things is to give those things value and importance. We often talk at the dinner table about the specific nutrients we are giving our bodies from the various things we are eating. The kids are very interested to know that a carrot helps them to have strong eyes and that potatoes give you energy to help you run fast. We remind them often as they are playing outside to not step in the garden beds and not to pick anything with out checking first. We also let them work along side us to help us plant and weed and water the garden. They take great pride in knowing they helped the things we are eating to grow. We also let them participate in the harvest at the appropriate time and help them to share their harvest with one another.
It seems that as we do expose our children to good things and help them to see value in them that they begin to develop a love for them. Now, that doesn't mean that my children absolutely love everything that I put in front of them at the dinner table. My oldest child detests lettuce and doesn't care much for beans. But I have also noticed that as I continue to serve these things to my family and we continue to talk about how "good" these things are for her the more willing she seems to try them. Plus she is watching the rest of her family enjoy some of the things that she has shied away from. She has never really liked lettuce and yet just last week she decided she wanted to try some lettuce on her hamburger.
As I have thought about this concept of getting our children to like good things in terms of veggies and other healthy foods, I have realized that these same principles really translate over to other aspects of life as well. For example, if you want your child to love t.v., let them watch a lot of it and sit down and watch it with them, or if you want your child to love reading, then read to them, provide them with good books, and let them see you reading and talk to them about the importance of reading. If you want your child to love God and attend church and keep the commandments, then you need to take them to church, teach them to pray, read the scriptures with them, and share your testimony with them. There are endless examples that I can think of where this idea holds true.
So, How do we teach our children to like good things? First we expose them to good things and give them plenty of opportunities to partake of those things that are good. Second, we give those things that are good value and importance. When our children know that we value and love those things that are good they will begin to follow our example.