Kids want every aspect of life to be fair, which can be hard to appreciate over Brussels sprouts. We share four fun games that help kids find the fair-and-square in veggies.
Next time you spy your kid sneaking broccoli into his pocket, suggest he try putting it into a hat instead.
It may make more sense than you think – if the hat is part of one of our games. In a kid’s world, one of the most practical ways to resolve daily challenges, including the perceived injustice of eating certain foods, could be game theory.
This was illustrated in a recent story in the New York Times. Kids are hard-wired with a desire for life to be fair. And that desire extends from the playground to the dinner table. If two children are required to eat their peas, but one dislikes the taste, then that child will probably feel cheated. Why can’t they each get a veggie they like?
All’s Fair in Games
With game theory, they all could. Following are several game ideas that can make veggie-eating fair, and even fun.
I spy zucchini: This game builds on the understanding that kids are more likely to try foods they recognize by name. At the supermarket, challenge your kids to locate a specific veggie you “spy.” (I spy with my little eyes something purple.) If they find it, then the family has that veggie for dinner that night. In return, kids can spy a favorite healthy food item they like, such as a piece of fruit, which the parent has to find. The kids get to enjoy their treats after finishing the spied veggies. Bonus: Each week the veggie selections could grow more challenging. (Purple cauliflower, anyone?)
Name that ‘shroom: Come up with a super-awesome name for a regular dish. Quiche can become cock-a-doodle-doo pie, or corn chowder can become quarterback stew. The trick is to use words that are relevant to your child. Then dare them to identify at least three ingredients – one for each bite. The more ingredients they identify, the more points they earn that can be redeemed for a special treat. For example, 10 points equal a trip to the library or movies. This kind of earn-and-redeem strategy can be applied to many games.
Veggie lotto: This game invites everyone in the house to play a role in veggie selection. Each family member writes his or her favorite choice of veggie on a piece of paper, which is placed in a hat. Then the kids can each choose one (if you have one child, she can choose two or three). The choices can apply to the veggies you’re having for dinner that night, or to the ones to be purchased at the grocery store that day. What is important is that each kid has a choice. Also, the relationship between the chosen veggies and the eaten veggies should be clear.
Eat ‘n go seek: Kids know veggies are good for them, but we don’t always do a great job explaining why. In this game, parents draw a direct correlation between each veggie and its kid benefits. Yellow peppers and squash are good for bones and teeth. So after eating them, you can take a picture of your kid’s smile and mark his height. Carrots are good for vision, so following a serving, take a fun eye exam (what is the farthest-away thing you see?). And broccoli, spinach and other green veggies are good for memory. What better way to end the meal than with a memory game? The important factor is that each post-meal activity is recorded, so you can compare your kids’ growth and strength over time. They will see that veggies are treating them squarely.
Veggies can be incorporated into many games. They can be the models for finger painting. They can be the bonus prize for eating the most marbles in Hungry Hungry Hippo. Or they can be the mystery food kids have to identify beneath a yummy dip (all-natural and sugar-free, of course). The key is understanding the challenge veggies may present to kids.
Let the kids know it is normal not to like certain foods. Explain that you weren’t so crazy about certain veggies when you were a kid, either. Share your feelings and solutions. Offer to eat one food you do not like if your kid tries a veggie she is not so sure about.
In time, your kids could be leaving the table with empty pockets, but full bellies.