Get to Know the Carrots
What a journey we take at the lunch table each day! Here is where we get acquainted with new foods, develop conversation skills and manners, and practice peeling, tearing, and using silverware. There are risks to take, experiments to conduct, and connections to draw between this plate and other past experiences.
“Did this carrot come from the garden?”
“These are cut into circles, and the carrots at my house are cut into sticks.”
“I tried the carrots last time and didn’t like them. I did like that one time they were cooked and soft and had salt on them.”
“I wonder what it would taste like mixed with my rice.”
The meandering journey of getting to know a food is different for every child, and never really stops, even into adulthood. Do children often approach food with judgement and suspicion? Certainly. We label it “picky,” but it is a natural human instinct to be cautious about ingesting unfamiliar foods. It takes time and repetition to get acquainted with new foods. Observing others eat it successfully, seeing it served multiple times, and learning about it slowly through sight, smell, touch, and perhaps tiny nibbles are normal ways to learn that a food is safe. Some children will plow through this process in one sitting, and for others it can take years to warm up to a certain food.
Trying something new at the lunch table is no different than taking on a new challenge on the playscape. One child may scale a rock with confidence and boldness, another may take a few smaller practice climbs first, and another may just stand by and watch others for a while. Children will assess and take risks at their own pace; prodding from adults is not necessary. They will climb that rock when they are ready, and they will take a bite of that carrot when the time is right. Ultimately, the triumph is not in the bite or in deciding you do like vegetables after all, but in the full journey of nurturing a healthy relationship with food—and that is a lifelong gift.