Children start developing eating habits right away. From the time they get teeth and begin to eat solid foods, children already have a pattern to their mealtimes and are beginning to determine what foods they like and dislike. This is why it’s so important to teach nutrition early! With the right teaching, children can learn how to choose healthy foods and determine what their body needs to feel good, making it easier to continue those healthy habits in adulthood.
Daborah Kayton Michals’ book Up, Down, Move Around: Nutrition and Motor Skills provides fun games that teach children how to make healthy choices. From songs to simple movement games, this book provides hours’ worth of activities that illustrate different kinds of foods and how they help a body grow healthy and happy. Check out these simple and fun activities to start teaching your kids about nutrition today!
Good for You Foods
This activity helps children learn how certain foods are healthy for specific body parts.
- Start by talking to the children about the parts of their body they use every day. What do bones help us do? How about muscles? The heart?
- Gather photos of each food you want to discuss. If possible, bring in samples of these foods for the children to explore and taste
- Ask the children to stand with enough room around them to wiggle about
- Tell them they are going to learn about foods that help certain parts of their bodies. As they learn about each food, they can show how that body part might move when it gets yummy food
- As you hold up a photo or real example of each food, tell them what that food looks like to help them remember the body part that food is good for. Refer to the list below for inspiration
Food Looks Like Why is it Good for You?
- Broccoli A tree (florets and leaves) Makes you healthy and strong like a big tree
- Celery A long, straight bone Makes your bones strong
- Walnut A brain, squiggly & halved Makes your brain stronger
- Carrot An eye (round when cut) Makes your eyes healthier
- Tomato A hearth (red with chambers) Makes your heart strong
- Ginger A stomach (the same shape) Takes away stomach aches
Five Healthy Choices
This activity teaches children how to make healthy choices in a restaurant.
- Before doing this exercise, make a simple picture menu using cutouts of photographs of food commonly found in fast-food restaurants or on children’s menus. Include some healthy choices and some not-so-healthy choices
- Invite the children to sit with you on the circle-time rug. Say “Let’s pretend we are in a restaurant.” Ask the children to name a restaurant that you can pretend to visit
- Ask “What happens when you go to a restaurant?” Encourage the children to tell you what happens in a restaurant: the customer looks at a menu, a waiter or cashier takes the order, a cook prepares the food in the kitchen, and the food is given to the customer
- Say “This is the menu for our pretend restaurant. What do we have to choose from?” Go over the menu with the children
- Ask “What will we choose for our lunch in our pretend restaurant?” Listen to the children’s suggestions. Ask “Are these healthy food choices?” Discuss what healthy choices can be in a restaurant. Guide children to some healthy food and drink choices, such as roast beef sandwiches, grilled chicken, a plain hamburger, carrot sticks, corn, apple slices, skim milk, and water
- Guide the children through ordering food. “Let’s help order our food. Ready? Let’s say our list together. ‘May I please have (healthy choices from each food group)?’” Repeat this a few times to give the children some practice
- Pretend to pick your food up off the counter. “We said please when we ordered. What do we say now?” Listen to the children’s suggestions. “Right. Thank you. Let’s say it together: Thank you. Now let’s pretend to eat our healthy food.”
Do the Dip
This activity encourages children to try new vegetables dipped into healthy dips like low-fat or nonfat yogurt, low-fat mayonnaise, reduced-fat cream cheese, and hummus.
- Ask the children to stand in a circle. Explain to them they are making the shape of a dipping bowl, and you will all be choosing different vegetables to pretend to dip in the bowl
- Name the kind of dip that will be in the center of the circle. Start with yogurt. Have children pretend to pour the dip into the center with big arm actions, then use a giant spoon and stir it up
- Call out the name of a vegetable ( you may show a picture of it or hold up an actual vegetable) and encourage the children to make the shape of that vegetable with their bodies
- Say “Let’s dip the vegetable in the dip. Do the dip!” Encourage the children to raise their arms high above their head and pretend to dip by bending over toward the center of the circle and then standing back up. Repeat three times
- Pretend to eat the vegetable. “Crunch, crunch, crunch. Yum!”
- Name another vegetable and do the dip again.