French kids: cooking activities for fussy eaters
Believe 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
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.
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
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.