Thanksgiving is a great time to teach preschoolers about health and nutrition. With the approaching holiday that promotes “feasting” what better time than now to offer your preschoolers a few nutrition activities.
I think most people agree it is important to teach children healthy eating habits from a young age. With all the food commercials and promotions geared toward little bodies, it’s even more important to actively talk about what good nutrition is, since our kids receive information from various sources that may or may not be best.
And simply modeling for your child isn’t enough anymore either. We have to actively engage our children in healthy eating and openly talk about it with them.
But what is the best approach?
I’m not sure I know the answer to that, but I will share with you how I handle it with my own children and with my preschoolers. It just takes a few nutrition activities designed just for preschool minds.
Three Nutrition Activities for Preschoolers
These activities are crazy simple, require no prep at all, yet they are super effective.
Teach Healthy vs. “Sometimes” Foods
Start by teaching your preschooler the different between healthy foods and “sometimes” foods. I like this approach better than teaching healthy versus unhealthy because when we refer to foods as being unhealthy that gives the impression that we should never, ever eat them. But, is it really all that bad to have fries and a burger once a month, or to indulge in a slice of birthday cake at a party?
I think not.
So, instead I teach my kids and preschoolers that there are healthy foods that we can eat as much of as we want. Namely, fruits and vegetables. At the dinner table, I tell my own kids they are always welcome to have seconds on salad, green beans, or whatever our main veggie is.
But then there are “sometimes” foods. Sometimes foods are things that are ok to eat in moderation and always with a parent’s permission. Examples include popsicles, cheesy crackers, and all forms of sweet treats like candy and cake.
Now, my own definition of a “sometimes” food is bound to be different from another mother’s. So, ask yourself this question, “It’s 5:30 pm and dinner is in 1/2 an hour. Am I ok with my kid filling up on ___ and not eating his dinner?” For me, I don’t care if my kids fill up on carrots or bananas or really any other vegetable of fruit before dinner. I do care if they fill up on butter crackers or cheese sticks before dinner.
For more activities about healthy vs. “sometimes” foods, see the following post:
Look Through Holiday Food Ads with Your Preschooler
My kids love, and I mean love, looking through the holiday food ads. They are brightly colored and the paper is shiny, and my kids love to anticipate what we could prepare for our Thanksgiving meal. They love to give me their two cents.
This is also an activity I love to do with my preschoolers each year. After discussing what healthy and sometimes foods are, we search the ads, as a class, for foods that fall into each category.
Then, I invite the preschoolers to look through the ads themselves and cut out pictures of food they are interested in. I do not give them a set standard of how much of each kind of food to cut out. They just cut out what looks appealing to them.
Here my daughter is cutting out a salad, which she still just calls, “green leaves.”
This also makes fantastic scissor cutting practice as it gives the children the flexibility to mess up a bit and it doesn’t matter.
For more about scissor cutting practice, see these posts:
Finally, we shared with one another some of our favorite foods we cut out. I made up a little impromptu game where one preschooler would share something with the class that he had cut out and then the rest of the preschoolers would look through their own pile of foods to see if they had the same or similar image. This was an excellent Thanksgiving sorting activity because the children had to decide what made their pictures alike, even if they were not the same.
Let Preschoolers Help with Thanksgiving Meal Planning
Now, we didn’t cut out those food ads just for the above activity. I also challenged the children to make up their own Thanksgiving meal with the foods they had so carefully cut out.
Most of the preschoolers cut out way too many for their plate, so they had to pick and choose what they wanted to include most. This time, however, I did challenge them to make up a healthy meal with only a few, if any, “sometimes” foods.
They colored the brim of their plates for added decoration and got to work pasting their foods down into a collage.
When they were finished, we gathered at the circle time area one last time to finish our Thanksgiving nutrition activities.
At the circle time area, the children were invited to share their favorite parts of the meal they had “prepared” for Thanksgiving. This helps them develop their oral language skills as they have to articulate the meal they planned themselves. They have to articulate something specific to themselves rather than just what they have heard.
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