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This Is How We Get Kids to Like Vegetables

Baby's 'flavor window' and the science of raising healthy little eaters.

This Is How We Get Kids to Like Vegetables

As adults, we are often proud of the food we enjoy: the burn of kimchi, the bitterness of black coffee, the nuttyness of a good camembert. Why, then, are our little ones relegated to the children’s menu with macaroni and cheese or chicken nuggets as their only options? The truth is, if you hope to raise a gourmand of your own, or at the very least a child who can eat carrot sticks instead of french fries happily, it starts from the beginning -- from their very first bites.

Many Americans have come to expect children to be picky eaters -- they even indulge it. Children’s menus date back to as early as the 1920s, the first of which is believed to have been used by the Waldorf-Astoria in New York. The offerings were bland: “flaked chicken over boiled rice”. Yum. But as the shift toward a more health-conscious and epicurean food perspective continues, the question is begged: why aren’t our kids eating like we do?

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They can, and they probably even should be.

In recent years, the idea of palate training has been top of mind for both parents and baby food producers. The concept is simple: introduce babies to a wide variety of flavors and textures from a very young age, with the hope that early introduction will lead to a lifetime of acceptance. There’s even an evidence-based magic window of time where this works the best.

Four to seven months of age is the golden moment -- the “flavor window,” as food writer and author Bee Wilson coins it in her book First Bite -- where babies are most accepting of the flavors offered to them. In her book, Wilson uses research and what we know about our relationship to food to connects the dots and explain how we can help our children -- and ourselves -- eat better.

“Several studies have shown that when vegetables are introduced at this age, babies are more open-minded,” Wilson wrote. “It takes fewer exposures to persuade them to like a new flavor, and the effects are long-lasting.”

The thought is that if you feed your baby a variety of whole ingredients with rich and diverse flavors instead of, say, processed rice cereal, later on down the road they’ll opt for a healthy dinner rather than a greasy pizza.

It’s why so many baby food brands, like Little Spoon and Plum Organics, are using ingredients we would have never thought to feed a baby ten years ago: curry, quinoa, dragon fruit and so much more.

“Healthy eating has been a huge trend among adults for years, so it was only a matter of time before people started focusing on babies, too,” Kerstin Kuhn, international food writer and mother behind the Los Angeles-based baby food delivery service Little Foodie Club, said. “In some ways it’s crazy that this is only happening now.”

Little Foodie Club offers blends like lamb with potatoes, spinach and rosemary, and beets and parsnips with amaranth and cumin. They’re using unique ingredients with the goal of exposing babies to as many flavors as possible right off the bat.

During this flavor window, research shows babies are busy forming lasting food memories; and those food memories are crucial for them to develop a taste for whole foods and, some advocates argue, could therefore play an important role in battling childhood obesity.

“What’s more is that commercial baby food has no resemblance in taste or texture to the real deal,” Kuhn said. “It’s watered down and lacking in taste and texture. Compare a store bought sweet potato puree with a homemade one, and you’ll be amazed by the huge difference.”

She continues, “so when kids who are only used to eating these processed purees get to eat the real vegetables, they are overwhelmed by the intensity of the flavor of real vegetables and they reject them because they’re not used to them.”

What if your baby doesn’t like the foods you’ve offered? Don’t stress. Maybe your little one laps up prunes, but wrinkles her nose at spinach and quinoa. It’s totally normal. Babies need to try a food ten to fifteen times before deciding if they like it.

And if you’re already out of that four to seven month flavor window, now dealing with a picky toddler who will only eat french fries -- all is not lost. Wilson points to Dr. Lucy Cooke’s “tiny tastes” method of persuading your child to eat a new food.

Cooke, who is a child feeding specialist, developed the “tiny taste” method as a way to introduce foods to extremely fussy eaters. In exchange for tasting a food -- even licking counts -- the child receives a sticker. After the fifteenth day, the child sees that the food is not harmful or scary.

The sticker is important; both Cook and Wilson dissuade parents from using food as a punishment or reward, as it could lead to unhealthy eating habits.

Photo by Hanna Nakano.

14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.


And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

SONTAKEY  I Am Enough Bracelet

May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3

$35

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

Life

My 3-year-old is eating peanut butter toast with banana for breakfast (his request), and we are officially running late for preschool. We need to get in the car soon if we want to miss the morning traffic, but he has decided that he no longer wants the food that he begged for two minutes earlier. What started off as a relatively calm breakfast has turned into a battle of wills.

"You're going to be hungry," I say, realizing immediately that he could care less. I can feel my frustration rising, and even though I'm trying to stay calm, I'm getting snappy and irritable. In hindsight, I can see so many opportunities that fell through the cracks to salvage this morning, but at the moment… there was nothing.

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