Why a Positive Meal Experience Matters for Children: Understanding its Importance


Why a Positive Meal Experience Matters for Children: Understanding its Importance

Santa Lasmane, Quality and Personnel Manager at Preschool “CreaKids”

A positive meal experience is not just breakfast, lunch, or dinner – it’s an experience shaped by several essential elements: time spent together, table setting, table manners, the meal itself, and joy. It’s an opportunity for children not only to enjoy delicious food but also to acquire various skills, learn to choose their own food, and enjoy a meal together with others. A positive meal experience is also an educational process because children are involved in both meal preparation and learning table manners.

Sustainable thinking from early childhood

Nutrition and child health are important aspects when considering overall well-being and development. It’s also a way to encourage children to make sustainable and environmentally friendly choices from a very young age. In preschool, children learn many new skills – from initially holding tableware to eating with it, and later on, the skill of assessing how much food to eat and serving themselves portions, among others. In fact, choosing appropriate portion sizes can sometimes be a challenge even for adults, but there are solutions to help children. For example, by choosing appropriately sized dishes and with a little support from a teacher or parent, it will be much easier for a child to understand how much they can eat. This, in turn, helps reduce food waste.

Another way to encourage children to think about not wasting food is through weighing food waste together. “CreaKids” implements such an activity, and we have found that children are very engaged in it; they understand why it’s done and try to reduce the amount of food waste created. Through interesting and engaging projects, children develop an understanding of sustainability and our footprint on nature. In our preschool, most of the food waste occurs during the cooking process, so we have also found a solution for that by creating a so-called compost house. We have purchased containers where compost worms live and process organic waste. Accordingly, food waste goes to the worms, which then process it into compost. We use this compost in our little garden. Children participate in this process from weighing food waste to working in the garden, harvesting, and cooking the produce. Thus, they also gain knowledge about the origin of various plants and vegetables.

Balanced meal – the basis for a healthy future

A balanced diet is important throughout a person’s life, but it’s particularly crucial in preschool. Our colleagues from Norway have repeatedly emphasized that Latvian preschools’ advantage lies in special attention to children’s meals, the use of local products, and so on. As a positive example, it is highlighted that the quantity of necessary dairy products, meat, fruits, vegetables, and other elements for children, according to their age, is also determined by regulatory requirements. Care for children also manifests in promoting healthy eating and lifestyle habits.

A healthy attitude towards new flavours

Often, children, like adults, can be very cautious when trying new flavours or healthy products, but with patience and determination, this can be changed. It’s important to remember that children “eat with their eyes” – if a product or food doesn’t seem visually appealing, it won’t encourage the desire to taste it. Trying a new food or fruit, vegetable can be made part of an activity or game, fostering a child’s interest in the new flavour. Parents or educators should be open and understanding because a child may simply lack the courage to try something new. Calm and positive encouragement will certainly help. If a child says they don’t like something, they shouldn’t be forced to eat it or dismiss the idea altogether; it’s best to try offering it again after some time. If a child doesn’t like a certain product, it doesn’t mean it should be permanently removed from the menu. Experience shows that over time, children develop a taste for new things, even those that initially met resistance. Moreover, this approach fosters children’s understanding that exploring new flavours is interesting. Sometimes adults can also employ positive tricks, for example, noticing that children don’t like dock soup, mainly because of its colour, we started calling it “Shrek soup,” which the children now eat with the greatest pleasure.

Working together in the kitchen

Promoting a healthy attitude towards food, positive emotions, and the development of various skills are also facilitated by working together in the kitchen. Although cooking together may create more mess in the kitchen, the positive emotions and acquired skills are definitely worth it. Children love to get involved in the cooking process – helping to weigh, measure, mix ingredients, stir, knead dough, etc. This not only fosters children’s interest in cooking and food but also develops self-confidence and an understanding of their abilities. Such joint activities in the kitchen are essential in the upbringing process of preschool-aged children. We have included it as a regular activity in the preschool program and often organize events where children can cook together with their parents, such as pizza making on Father’s Day or gingerbread workshops at Christmas. Such events promote the development of healthy eating habits and create shared family memories.

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