One of my main goals as a parent is to raise self-sufficient humans. Teaching my kids to clean up after themselves, brush their teeth and wash their bodies, put their clothes away, help out in the kitchen, and eventually wash their own clothes are all important functions of an adult. I don’t want my kids to have to rely on another person as an adult to be fed and clothed with clean clothes. We currently have our toddlers taking on simple chores around the house and learning to keep themselves clean. Now that Isabella is a little older she has an interest in helping out in the kitchen and I love it! My grandmother ultimately gave me a passion for food and cooking and I hope to share that with both my kids.
Starting at a very young age, you can walk the grocery store aisle pointing out all the fresh fruits and vegetables, discussing the colors, smells and flavors. This will build a foundation of your child’s knowledge of healthy foods. Grab a bunch of little bowls and chop up some healthy snacks for your little ones and let them have a chance to sample them.
My oldest toddler is almost four and super independent. I allow her to use a child’s knife (no sharp edges) to assist in making peanut butter & jelly sandwiches and buttering her bread. She loves the feeling of accomplishment! I’ve begun pointing out which foods contain protein allowing her to have lots of energy for playtime and which foods contain healthy vitamins for big strong bones. If ever I need something mixed, she will eagerly grab a spoon and get to work! These opportunities are the perfect time to open a conversation about the foods they’re eating and the purposes they serve.
While we’re in the kitchen teaching our kids the benefits of different foods, the National 4-H Food Smart Families program is educating families and teens on establishing life-long healthy habits. The impact on this program has been so amazing and beneficial for so many families. Our youth is such a large impact on engaging other teens that the 4-H Food Smart families has leveraged their influence and has currently trained over 400 to be Teens as Teachers. These teens serve as role models and mentors with the mission to educate their parents, families, and younger generation.
One of the most common misconceptions, in my opinion, is that healthy foods are more expensive leaving lower income families to resort to less ideal food for their families. With a little research, planning, and education from the 4-H Families foundation these families can learn to create healthy meals on a budget. One of the best things about Florida is their WIC program for women, infants, and children. This program gives families access to healthy food benefits, resources, education, and nutritionists. Thanks to United Healthcare and 4-H they’ve been able to deliver their outstanding program to over 340,000 youth and their families in 14 states.
On a personal note, when we moved to Florida a neighbor told us about WIC and since I was just 2 months postpartum with my son I should go apply. We hadn’t lined up jobs prior to our move leaving us without insurance. To say I was grateful for this program would be an understatement. I was able to receive benefits for my kids (and myself up to 6 months postpartum) to provide healthy, wholesome foods to nourish their little bodies and even special, prescribed formula for my milk/soy protein intolerant baby.
To learn more about 4-H and the impact they’ve had check out this video: