Today I had the pleasure of assisting in Izzy's classroom. The teachers had planned a Thanksgivingesque celebration. There were three stations at which the children prepared three different dishes, ultimately to be eaten for their lunch at a communal table, rather than at separate, small tables as they usually do.
I helped out at the salad station, where the children chopped up carrots, celery, tomatoes and apples. They were also in charge of the fulfilling and age-appropriate task of tearing lettuce into small pieces. Having trained Izzy to use a knife at an early age, I was not quite aware of knife holding protocol for the uninitiated. The teacher demonstrated how the children were to hold the ridged slicer, holding it in one hand while placing the other on top of it, rather than beside it. I wondered how they would have done, had I not seen her demo..Thankfully there were no injuries.
At the cheese and tomato sandwich station they sliced tomatoes and placed them, along with sliced cheese, on small pieces of bread. Perfect jobs for a three- year old to be sure.
At the third station, Miss L., one of their teachers, prepared a Taiwanese sweet potato soup. She helped them grate the sweet potatoes which she then cooked in a rice cooker. I didn't get to see what went into this dish although it looked like simply potatoes, water and maybe some sugar.
Along with food prep, the children were responsible for making place cards with their names on them and setting the table. When the time came to eat, the children were clearly pleased with themselves, though not enough to actually try what they had helped prepare.
I was amazed at how many of the group (about 17), turned down the salad. I would say it was over half, if not more. The soup was an even harder sell. Of course I qvelled when Izzy continued to ask for extra helpings of it but wished the others would at least give it a try. I decided it was time to intervene. As his adorable friend A. was about to toss hers, I stopped her in her tracks. An amusing conversation ensued and the others became engaged as we discussed what would actually happen if she tasted something she didn't like. All eyes were on her and the others who I challenged to taste the soup. And guess what? They did! The friend even admitted it was not as awful as she would have imagined.
The best place to learn healthy, adventurous eating habits is the home. Barring that, teachers certainly can help to model good eating, as they did today. Indeed, modeling is important when it comes to teaching children to eat well, however peer influence can also prove to be quite useful.
As an educator, I have always been interested in measuring the impact of family vs. peer influence. It is so exciting to see how it comes into play in the realm of food.
I look forward to more time spent eating with Izzy and his classmates. Who knows what they might eat!
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