French kids: cooking activities for fussy eaters

MyFrenchLife™ - french kids - a tableBelieve it or not, there is no such thing as ‘food for kids’ in France. Les enfants simply eat normal food

This is something My French Life™ contributor Samantha Verant found whilst trying to cater for her two French stepsons.“I couldn’t imagine an American child delighting in the buttery goodness of foie gras or savoring the flavours of soupe de poisson or confit de canard,” she says. “But French kids – at least the ones in my house – do.”

In my time in France, I was constantly shown up and left looking silly, all thanks to my 10-year-old host brother who would eat things I could only bring myself to stare at. They say French kids don’t throw food, but how do they have such good eating habits?

Well, they’re exposed to lots of new foods from very early on. But don’t worry, there’s still hope for your kids – over time I learned to love French food too. Once you develop your palate and get a sense for new flavours and textures, the rest comes naturally.

“To save your children the embarrassment of being a 16-year-old qui ne mange rien, it’s time to start training!”

If French kids aren’t fussy eaters, then why not take a leaf out of their book and start exposing your kids to some of your favourite plats.

Getting kids excited about French food

MyFrenchLife™ - french kids - cooking

Kids love to be involved, they enjoy hands-on activities and a lot of them love helping to cook. Sure, maybe the only reason they want to help is to lick the bowl, but that’s still a start.

Most children are proud of things they’ve made; cooking gives them yet another thing to happily parade around.

Linda Drummond from Kidspot says cooking is a great learning tool for kids. “It’s surprising how a fussy kid will try a new food when it’s something he’s cooked himself… Cooking helps children understand why we eat the foods we do – what foods go well together, and what we need to include for a balanced meal,” she explains.

If they’re proud of their product then they are more likely to try it. This is the perfect way to encourage your petit chef to try new foods.

French food with a side of language

If you are teaching your child French or they are learning at school, this is also a great way to boost their confidence and vocabulary.

MyFrenchLife™ - french kids - menu

Use a recipe in French, so they can read the recipe out loud as you go. The added bonus is they can see how all the new words are spelt.

“Sounding out the words in recipes, or reading ingredients from packets in the pantry can help children with their spelling and reading,” says Drummond. “It also helps when they need to recognise words and connect the word ‘flour’ in a recipe with the word ‘flour’ on a pack.”

Try labelling your jars in French so your child can find la farine instead of the flour.

Not only will they learn how to cook French food, but this activity also caters to visual, auditory and kinesthetic learners: it’s hands on, you must read the recipe and you can talk about what you are doing as you do it. They have a better chance of remembering new vocabulary if they are using their preferred learning style.

Don’t forget you can use this cooking time as a leçon culturelle as well. Try discussing the history of the dish you are making and the region it came from.

French recipes for kids

MyFrenchLife™ - french kids - madelines

We all know how messy cooking can be, especially with kids involved. So it might be best to start with something simple.

Go for the classics: tarte aux pommes, madelines or pain perdu (French toast). You could also try a soup au pistou, gratin dauphinois or tartiflette with a crème brûlée for dessert. And don’t forget the good old croque-monsieur.

Once you’ve got the basics down pat you can graduate to more challenging French recipes.

What’s your favourite French recipe to cook with your children? Be sure to let us know in the comment box below!

Image credits:
1. Kids table, by Jeremy Sabol, via Flickr.
2. Kids stirring jam, by Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism, via Flickr.
3. French menu, by Miss Vio, via Flickr.
4. Recette pour la Madeleine, by MairieSY, via Wikipedia.

About the Contributor

Judy MacMahon

Experience FRANCE beyond the CLICHÉ with MyFrenchLife is for Curious Savvy Francophiles wherever you are. Meet Francophiles in France, online, and/or wherever you live. You’re very welcome to join us - Judy MacMahon -

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  1. Alexandria Rogers Sep 26, 2014 at 1:42 PM - Reply

    I remember being utterly shocked when the little kids I babysat ate salmon caviar and foie gras with their parents. Part of it is certainly cultural but I think that cooking is a great way to help bridge that gap. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Christina Guzman Sep 30, 2014 at 10:39 AM - Reply

    It’s interesting that they eat everything and are not afraid to try new food – I think that this behaviour is fundamental to low eating disorder rates in France. I may be wrong, but growing up appreciating and not being afraid of food or eating it, is crucial to to how you view food and your eating habits.

  3. Jill Craig Sep 30, 2014 at 7:33 PM - Reply

    This surprised me in France too – kids are much less picky even when it comes to fruit and vegetables, and especially with cheese. I felt miles (and miles!) behind them. That said, the kids I looked after would still have never turned down a Mcdonalds…!

  4. Elise Mellor Oct 1, 2014 at 9:52 AM - Reply

    Speaking personally, my two sisters and I would eat ANYTHING when we were growing up – my parents would not have abode anything else! We lived in a country town (in Australia) until I was 8 and there was not a lot of cultural diversity – all the families i knew lived on meat and three veg, maybe a spaghetti bolognese occasionally… not my family though! my parents travelled a lot before we were born and my mum was whipping up curries, vichyssoise, Swedish pickled herring…
    When I was a teenager I au paired for two English boys (3 and 6 years old) living in France. And these kids would ONLY eat rice or pasta with cut up sausage. For lunch and for dinner, with tomato ketchup. Evey day. I could not get my head around it, and why the parents didn’t insist on a more varied diet. I hope that once they started school (in France) they got a little more exposed to proper food and learnt to eat like French kids. 🙂

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