Getting kids to eat new foods is tough. Getting them to eat new foods from different cultures, with unfamiliar ingredients, tastes, and textures may seem impossible. However, exposing kids to different ethnic foods is a great exercise for so many reasons:
- Exposes kids to new and different tastes, laying the groundwork for a lifetime of adventurous eating.
- Gives kids a chance to learn about different cultures and the food they eat.
- Gives families a chance to try ethnic restaurants together.
- Can help families enjoy eating ethnic foods while traveling to different countries.
- Exposes children to profile of nutrients that is not in their every day diet.
My friend April of Wicked Tasty Harvest came up with a great idea to encourage her daughter to eat new ethnic foods. She wrote about this idea in the blog Boston Mamas a few months ago. She made a “Food Explorer Passport” which she and her daughter decorated and could take to different places when trying ethnic foods. When she tried a new food she could get a sticker in her passport. It is a great way to reward kids for adventurous eating.
Recently I invited seven of my Tiny Tasters to an “International Food Night” where we made food passports and the kids tried food from three different countries. What a successful night we had trying food from Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Italy!
MAKING YOUR FOOD EXLPORER PASSPORT
- Find a small passport-sized notebook ( about 3.5 inches by 5.5 inches). I found mine at Target, and they came in packs of three with graph paper on the inside. You can also download the front cover and print out on cardstock paper (prints two covers). Use regular paper and staple or tie them into the the front cover to make the inside pages.
- Make the inside jacket. Click here to download a copy of the inside jacket of the passport in Microsoft word format. You can type the name, birthdate, and “date of issue” when you make your passport. Cut and glue it into the inside front cover. Glue a photo in the empty space. An extra wallet- sized school picture words great.
- Decorate the outside with stickers. Give kids other stickers for the kids to decorate the outside and make it their own. Some of the kids even spelled their names out with stickers for the front of their passports.
- Find a special ink stamp to use when they try a new ethnic food at home, at a restaurant or on vacation. Record the name of the country, type of food and date. If you are at a restaurant, you may even ask the chef or server to sign you passport.
For our party we made the kids their own flags, made a flag banner and used a globe as a centerpiece. We asked the kids to find the different countries on the globe as we served the foods. Once the kids finished their passports, the tastings began. First up was Pad Thai, a traditional rice noodle dish from Thailand. We made ours with shrimp, which was a big hit. The second was a Kiddie Chicken Curry from Sri Lanka. My mother, who was born and raised in Sri Lanka used traditional Sri Lankan flavors, but toned them down to make a non-spicy, mild chicken curry. This is recipe is an introduction to curry flavors which can be found in Indian, Sri Lankan and other South Asian cooking. We served it with “hoppers” a traditional bowl-shaped pancake made of rice flour and coconut milk. The hoppers can be dipped in the curry, which the kids seemed to enjoy (kids love dipping food!) I was not sure how the curry would be received by the Tiny Tasters. Much to my surprise it was a big winner! Even Allison, age 3, ate up her chicken and asked for more!
The last dish from Italy was made by my friend Andrea. It is was Baked Ziti recipe which was made healthier using omega 3 penne noodles, low-fat cheese and low-fat ricotta. Of course the Tiny Tasters ate this dish up happily. After each tasting, the kids passports were stamped with a special Chef Stamp and the country and food was recorded on the page.
The kids seemed to have a great time, and we encouraged them to take their passports on vacation, to new restaurants, or at home if they prepare a new ethnic food. Parents can either place a stamp or sticker on a page and record what they ate. Kids can even ask a chef or waiter to sign their food passports.
We recently did another International Food Tasting with the Elementary Students from Odyssey Montessori. One of the featured foods was sushi from Japan. The kids had fun making their own sushi rolls. See our article and Video on Our Sushi Party.
Thanks to April for this wonderful idea! Write in and tell us about your Food Explorer experience. We will post comments and pictures on Fredericksburg Parent and Doctor Yum.