Turnips for Toddler Food Preparation
by Minaxi Punjabi, Toddler Guide
Preparing a snack of baked turnips helps toddlers acquire a taste for a variety of flavors and develop nutritious farm-to-table eating habits. On our classroom shelves today, we had boiled turnips, green onions, red sweet peppers, garlic for peeling and chopping, and some olive oil with Braggs amino’s stirred in for basting and some black pepper ground with a hand-grinder. The toddlers came into the classroom and were ready to get to work!
A typical morning in Fiore‘s Infant-toddler Community of 16 to 34 month old children is buzzing with activity. Some are busy with language building, others working on their independence through toileting, and yet others feasting their sense of smell, touch, taste, and sight in the food preparation area.
Throughout the morning work cycle, several children began to “work” by choosing their favorite tray, and then peeling, chopping, grating and composting.
Today’s recipe called for preparing a pre-greased baking tray with all the above ingredients to be tonged from the bowl to the tray, basted with the dressing, seasoned with black pepper and baked in the oven. The result of this simple toddler food preparation activity became a delicious snack! The children did not tire of having multiple servings, and even when we ran out of helpings, they continued to wish for more.
Color, texture, and aromas are a great attraction for young toddlers. It is also an added bonus that young children love to work with materials which are typically used by the adults surrounding them. Before you know it, when you’re in your kitchen preparing food, your young children will be gathering around you!
Dr. Maria Montessori identified this age child as being in the period of the absorbent mind — a mind that takes in everything around it, helping the brain to learn and and the child to develop. Keeping that in mind, whatever the toddler confronts and experiences becomes a permanent framework of his or her personality. Food preparation activities at an early age instill a love for fresh food and cooking. At Fiore, we bring together the love for food, friends and adult-like role playing to produce a lifelong preference for fresh, nutrition-rich ingredients and exploration of flavors to counter life’s usual picky eating habits.
Of course, development of taste buds and an eagerness to eat turnips does not happen overnight!
At first we introduce more commonly eaten vegetables like sweet peppers, apples, and carrots on the food shelf. We gradually begin exposing the children to heartier foods like root vegetables, such as beets. Later in the school year, we gently cajole the taste buds to move toward perhaps unfamiliar foods such as turnips and brussel sprouts.
As we introduce a variety of new and strange food items, we keep in mind to always first serve them when the child is hungry and the drive to eat is the strongest. The motivation a toddler has to satisfy his hunger pangs will typically drive him to at least take a bite or two of the pure taste of that particular vegetable.
Like all new things, initially a toddler might spit it out, but please don’t take this rejection literally. Instead, know the brain is experiencing new stimuli that its nerve centers have to decode and adjust to, just the way our eyes need to adjust on a bright sunny day when the curtains are pulled open in a dark room.
Foods are repeated several times before we see the children basking in the sunshine of the particular flavors that we conjured up for our snack today!
We hope you will be adventurous with your children and give them similar opportunities to have fun with their taste buds. Click here to find ideas for simple veggie recipes that can be converted to toddler “work” just as we do in our classroom. This type of exploration not only contributes toward the nourishment their growing bodies and brains need, but also, allows them to explore and experience the bountiful returns that the Earth provides for the human race, thus, producing a new generation of stewards of this rich planet, who are independent and fierce guardians of their own health and that of their home environment.
We hope you and the children will have many opportunities to have fun with the variety of produce and preparations available from around the globe that are now available in our neighborhood grocery stores, and look forward to hearing your flavor-filled stories in the comments!