The kids who are successful in school are those who remain curious even after the last bell rings, who notice the world around them, and who make connections among subjects and ideas. There are millions of ways to keep minds of all ages active and engaged outside the classroom.
The following article is part of a Noodle series about how to integrate learning into everyday life in order to instill a love of knowledge in your kids.
The Nutrition Edition
Learning about nutrition is key to helping kids make healthy choices that will positively affect them for the rest of their lives. If you want to help your kids learn more about what they’re eating, try integrating these fun nutrition activities at home.
This is one of the best ways to teach kids about nutrition. Cooking is also a valuable life skill, and it brings families closer together. Kids will appreciate having a role in preparing what they eat, and they'll build confidence as they share the things they make. Older kids will also enjoy demonstrating their independence.
Create fun challenges with your food.
See how many colors you can get on your plate with different fruits and veggies. Make faces out of peas and potatoes, or have a blind-folded taste test to see if you can tell the difference among red, green, and yellow apples. Get creative!
There are some great online games kids can play to learn more about nutrition. For example, Dining Decisions is a game in which players must pick out healthy options at the school cafeteria. Foodchamps.org has fun online games that teach nutrition for kids ages 2–8; the site also features activity sheets, recipes, and artwork.
For older kids, Smash Your Food is a game in which players learn what’s really in their food. Users are asked to estimate how much sugar, salt, and oil is in different dishes, and then the food is virtually smashed to reveal what’s inside. Kids get to compare their estimates, the actual contents, and the recommended quantities of the ingredients in each food.
Take kids to the grocery store with you.
Go on a scavenger hunt to find a veggie of every color, a cereal that has fewer than 11 grams of sugar, or a barbecue sauce with a first ingredient that isn’t high fructose corn syrup. Or better yet...
Go to the farmer’s market.
Meet the farmers, and chat about veggies. Try something you’ve never tried before. Look for carrots with legs or tiger-striped tomatoes. Allow your child to help pick out your dinner.
Read books about nutrition.
Look for books that encourage healthy eating and living. PBS has a list of books for kids of different ages. The National Association for the Education of Young Children also offers a list with books that cover a variety of health-related topics, including oral health, mental health, and nutrition.
Measure and portion.
Using Choose My Plate, a website with games and guidelines about nutritious eating, have your child help you measure out appropriate serving sizes. Using a scale is always cool, though most kids will just be excited to help out with dinner and apply what they know about how their plates should look.
Do arts and crafts.
Make potato stamps . . . or carrot, or apple, or celery. Make veggies out of salt dough or felt for continued food play.
You can sprout food scraps on your windowsill — try putting the top of a carrot in a shallow dish of water, and watch it grow. Radishes are also very easy to grow, if you are a gardening novice. If you have a little free time and dirt, you can grow a variety of healthy snacks and dinners. And nothing tastes quite as good to kids as something they just picked!