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Adventures in Early Childhood: Healthy eating starts early

This week in preschool, we discussed dental health, and that which goes hand-in-hand with dental health and early prevention -- healthy eating. As we learned about how to use our toothbrushes every morning and every night to clean our teeth, we also talked about the decisions we can make throughout the day to keep them healthy.

As we talked about healthy living and the types of foods and beverages that are good for our teeth and our bodies, I was reminded of how impressionable kids are and how the experiences they have in their first five years play such an important role in laying the foundation for the rest of their lives. Therefore, we as adults need to constantly model responsible decisions and behaviors. During our lesson on dental health this week, I could tell that the young children in our community have a great understanding of good nutritional choices -- great job, parents.

One of the best ways to support healthy living with children is to bring them into the kitchen with you and let them be a part of the process of turning ingredients into culinary masterpieces. Cooking has many benefits in a child’s learning and development: Children can learn about science by seeing how properties of materials can be altered and changed. They can learn about basic math skills like addition and fractions. Their fine motor skills are supported and strengthened. They can also see that there is a nonexistence of gender roles in the kitchen. Cooking can open childrens’ eyes to new eating options, so picky eaters might feel more inclined to try something they hadn’t wanted to touch in the past if they are involved in preparing it. Working in the kitchen can boost children’s self-confidence and support social development while they are working together. Most importantly, inviting children into the kitchen with you opens the door to an endless assortment of nutritional foods and healthy eating choices.

Using the stove or oven with children must be done with extreme caution, but there are many healthy meals and snacks you can make without heat. One of my favorite things to make in the kitchen with children are healthy smoothies which come in countless variations that you and your child can get creative with. We have two go-to healthy favorites at preschool that I would like to share with you.

For both smoothie variations, combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Strawberry-Banana Smoothie

½ cup frozen strawberries

1 banana

¼ cup vanilla or strawberry yogurt

¼ cup milk

2 Tbsp. stevia extract or agave nectar

Pumpkin Smoothie

½ cup canned pumpkin

1 banana

¼ cup vanilla yogurt

¼ cup milk

¼ cup ice

2 Tbsp. stevia extract or agave nectar

½ tsp pure vanilla extract

¼ tsp pumpkin pie spice

I haven’t met many children that don’t like some kind of smoothie—it is like a healthy version of a milkshake. Plus, to tie back into our lesson on dental health, the fruits and dairy in these smoothies are healthy options for our teeth.

Have fun in the kitchen!