There’s no escaping it -- the grain group and their carbs are everywhere. If you want to avoid the mid-store meltdown over white or whole grain bread, you could teach your little one about the ins and outs of the grain food group. It’ll be easier to avoid temptations if your child’s on board.
1. Hands-On Activities
Keep your little one busy and out of trouble by offering some hands-on learning activities. The two of you could go through your pantry and look at food labels together. Even if he can’t read quite yet, you can read each ingredient out loud and the two of you can discuss what food group you think each goes in. The 20 letter names are interesting to try to sound out and you can get creative guessing what it really is. Go to the store and find the bulk food section. Point out different types of grains. Let your child select a few, bag some up and bring them home. Place a handful of each grain in separate bowls and have your child examine them. Let him touch it, squeeze it, smell it and look at it. Ask him to give you details, such as what it feels like to him, does it remind him of anything or what foods he thinks you can make with each. After he’s done checking them all out, have him glue a few pinches of each on a piece of paper or paper plate and you can write the name of each next to it.
2. Edible Activities
Help this topic digest a bit with your child by incorporating some edible activities. Make homemade mini pizzas with your little one and let him add his own toppings to his. Making whole grain bread from scratch, or making cinnamon rolls, French toast or pancakes with your child works, too. Next time you make oatmeal or rice, have your child help you measure out the ingredients and let him keep an eye on the timer for you. Try adding quinoa, orzo, barley, wild rice, bulgar or millet into your family’s meals and have your child offer input on each one. You may even find a new favorite dish that the whole family will enjoy.
3. Sorting Activities
Learning games are a hit with young kids, and you can disguise the fact that you’re trying to teach your child something. Cut several different pictures of food items from magazines or the grocery store ads. You preschooler can cut some out with a pair of kid’s scissors, too. Grab a large piece of card stock and draw the food pyramid. Draw lines across the pyramid so there are four levels, with the middle two levels divided in half. Label the bottom one “Grains,” second from the bottom level will have “Vegetables” in one section and “Fruit” in the other. The next level up will have “Milk and Dairy” and “Meat and Protein.” The top small section should have “Fats, Oils, Sweets” or “Other.” Help your child glue the food pictures in the proper places. As you do this, tell him that the top section is so small because you shouldn’t eat a lot of those items and the bottom “Grain” group is so big because you need to eat a lot of those throughout the day. Let him know that whole grains, like brown rice and barley, are better than other grain group items that are highly processed, such as white bread. You can also discuss what other items he thinks should go in the grain group.
Funny how your child will listen to words of a perfect stranger in a book but your words often fall on deaf ears. Might as well let some books do the talking on this subject. “Pancakes, Pancakes!” by Eric Carle, “Bread and Jam for Frances” by Russell Hoban, “From Wheat to Bread” by Kristin Thoennes Keller or “Everybody Cooks Rice” by Norah Dooley should do the trick.
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: Tips to Help You Eat Whole Grains
- USDA: The Food Guide Pyramid
- North Dakota State University: Kids and Nutrition
- Mealtime Memo for Childcare; Teaching Children about the Food Groups: Grains/Breads; National Food Service Management Institute
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images