How to get children excited about veggies

Monday, January 16, 2017

It’s thyme to turn(ip) the tables on that age-old complaint of broccoli-hating children and teach our kids to love their veggies!

At the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation we love this photo of a Geelong Grammar School student making cauliflower soup. It captures so well the joy children feel when preparing delicious dishes made from fresh produce they’ve grown themselves.

We see photos like this and hear stories of students trying new foods all the time. After more than 15 years of supporting kitchen gardens in schools and learning centres we’ve learnt that the secret to children loving their veggies is actually pretty simple – let them get their hands dirty.

Children enjoy getting hands-on in the garden and kitchen and discovering for themselves how a small seed becomes a juicy, ripe, tasty tomato. When a child actively participates in growing a head of broccoli, they’re incredibly proud of their achievement and cannot resist the urge to taste the fruit of their labour.

It’s the same when they slice and dice a ripe zucchini and turn it into a delicious fritter or curry. You’ll be amazed by what children are willing to try when they’ve cooked it themselves! 

Louise Vaughan, the Kitchen Garden Teacher at Colac Primary School, constantly faces parents asking “how did you get my child to try this?” Louise explains to parents that when “children really take ownership of the whole process and are excited at the end result then they can’t wait to taste it”.

Research into the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program supports the stories we hear from teachers. A national evaluation, funded by the federal Department of Health, recorded that the Program “has led to statistically significant overall improvements in student’s food choices (as reported by students)”.

Yet another evaluation of the Program, by Deakin University and the University of Melbourne, found that it is encouraging positive health behaviour change in participating children.

You can get these results at home, too.  Involve your child in growing veggies in a few pots in whatever space you have available, and also let them lend a hand when preparing a meal. While it requires a little planning and patience, the results make it worthwhile. 

You can also plant the first seed of a kitchen garden program at your school or learning centre by starting a conversation with your Principal or centre manager, parent council or committee, and teachers or educators – or even just talking to other parents.

Passionate parents can have a big impact on the positive food education of their children, and we warmly encourage you to make your voice heard.

The Foundation welcomes all early years learning centres, primary schools and secondary schools to become members of the Kitchen Garden Classroom. Get in touch if you have any questions about how we can help your school or learning centre get started.

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