Before Eden began eating solid foods I had big plans to make her a clean eater. I didn’t understand why kids had to get SO messy while they ate and simply put, pureed squash smeared across the face kind of grossed me out. Those first few days of eating I would hold her hands with one hand while spoon feeding her with the other. Her tongue explored the tastes and textures of this new experience, but that wasn’t enough. She wanted more. She wanted to feel the food between her fingers and learn how to bring the food to her mouth. She wanted an active part in this new experience of eating. And so my plans quickly changed.

Yesterday as she rubbed the pureed vegetables between her fingers before she shoved it in around her mouth, I started thinking about our relationship with food and the importance to Eden’s process became clear to me. To become intimate with our food, and thus responsible global (and local) citizens , good stewards of this earth, and learn a life-long respect for animals, maybe we need to smear a little summer squash on our faces now and again.

As I have pondered how I will raise me daughter to eat, how to make her aware of the importance of our consumption, I mistakenly thought of raising a vegan as a list of negatives, what she can’t eat. But as I watched her eat yesterday I realized that learning how to eat should not be focused on what I will keep her from, but rather the process of becoming closer to her food.

So how will I teach Eden to eat? Here are a few things I have been thinking about”

1. Grow a Garden: One of the clearest ways to understand where our produce comes from is to pull it from the earth ourselves. I hope to teach Eden how important it is to treat our soil well, how weather affects our crops, and ultimately how our life is affected by how we treat the earth. Having children watch food grow from seed, over the course of a season, and harvested moments before dinner will help them understand that growing of food takes time and labor that should not be taken for granted.

2. Know your farmer. I want Eden to know where her food comes from. We can know our local farmers by being part of a CSA or buying produce at farmers markets. We can also know our global farmers. If Jason and I splurge and buy fruit in the winter I want Eden to understand the compromises that were made for us to enjoy those fruits.  Knowing the impact of our daily food choices, help children (and us) learn the true value of food.

3. Cook with your child. I am so excited for the time Eden is old enough to cook with me. Cooking and baking has, for a long time, been more than just a creative outlet for me. When children become aware of the cooking process, they understand all the different places that food comes from, beyond the grocery store. Being part of the baking and cooking process gives children pride and creative choice, building a stronger relationship with their food.

4. Read books. My sister, Megan, shared this list of books – to read with your child, making kids more aware of their food. I haven’t read any of them yet,  but will definitely start as Eden grows into them. Food is a HUGE part of life extending beyond the kitchen and table and rightly into the bookshelf, reminding us that food and food choices affect much more than mealtimes.

Taking active steps in Eden’s food education will help develops an honest, compassionate, and creative relationship with food that will guide her as she makes future decisions. Next week I will be starting a 4 part series: Why I Choose Vegan which will allow me to delve deeper into these topics.

And in the meantime, how do you educate/plan on educating your children to be good consumers of food?