- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
Studies have shown that we develop our eating habits early in life, according to lead author Lenna Ontai, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Human and Community Development at UC Davis.
“We know that it is not enough to just teach parents what to do. We have to support them in how they can take that knowledge home and use it effectively,” said Ontai.
Healthy, Happy Families provides parents with practical information about how children develop and tips for raising a healthy and happy child. It includes fun and easy activities for parents to do with their preschool-aged children to promote healthful eating.
Children who spend more time with their parents tend to be happier and learn better, the authors write. They recommend eating together as a family to help children learn to make healthy food choices. Letting children help plan and prepare meals helps them develop new skills. Children also learn social skills during family meals such as talking and listening.
Each of the eight lessons is designed to take 15-20 minutes. The book includes suggestions for encouraging positive behavior and activities such as cooking together. To entice children to try new, nutritious foods, let them explore textures, tastes, colors and sounds of food. Fuzzy kiwifruit, sour apples, red peppers and crunchy celery may pique their interest.
For cooking with kids, they recommend
- Explaining why it's important to wash our hands.
- Setting up an area for the child that is away from the stove and oven.
- Using a low table or safe step stool.
- Letting the child taste.
- Using child-sized utensils.
- And most of all, making it fun!
In a fun way, parents can create a healthy learning environment and teach their children healthful habits that will last a lifetime.
“Helping parents tune into their children's development and supporting positive interactions around food makes a big difference as children grow,” Ontai said.
The Healthy, Happy Families workbook is available in packages of 10 for $15 in English and is now available in Spanish as Familia sana, familia feliz in Spanish. There is also a companion publication for teachers called the Healthy, Happy Families for Teachers curriculum. All three publications can be ordered at http://anrcatalog.ucdavis.edu.