Parents frequently ask us about our three-phase transition into a Paleo lifestyle, and how we got our kids on board with all the changes? And our tip is simple – get the kids on board by getting them involved, hand them the spatula! That is right, put them in the drivers seat in the kitchen, give them a voice while meal planning and grocery shopping, get them involved with every facet of the lifestyle change. This mentality doesn’t only ease your children into a healthier lifestyle, but it allows for great time together as a family, endless opportunities to learn, and so much more!
Amber from the site Real Food With Kids shares our passion for teaching others about this approach to parenting. While Amber’s kids are young, she welcomes the opportunity to have them side-by-side with her while prepping food, and shares on her experiences with them in the kitchen on her blog and social media accounts (warning – adorable kids on this feed!).
Today Amber joins us to share more on the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of this philosophy, and how it has impacted her family – – take it away Amber!
I’ve heard a lot of comments from parents about kids + food over the years. “Little Jonny will only eat chicken nuggets and pizza!” “I don’t have time to raise kids and cook healthy food.” “5:00 is insanity at my house while I’m trying to cook!”
Many people I come across, who are overhauling their diets and lives, try to separate learning a healthy lifestyle from parenting. They compartmentalize one from the other – if it’s time to read up on health or practice a new traditional method for food preparation, the kids are asked to do something separately. And if it’s time for them to spend quality time with their kids, it’s done snuggled up on the couch with a book or out of the house on an outing. The value and importance of working and learning alongside our kids is often downplayed or completely overlooked. Quality bonding time is rarely connected to learning life skills.
The struggle is real, don’t get me wrong. When we started this journey 4 years ago, due to my husband’s diagnoses of Fatty Liver Disease, I was overwhelmed trying to learn a completely new lifestyle. Traditional food preparation had never been on my radar – I’m a creature of habit and cringe at the thought of change. But here I was, in a place I never expected, with no get out of jail free card. I cried many times. I ruined many recipes. I panicked daily. I reread and reread and reread tutorials. I watched how-to videos dozens of times before starting anything, positive I was going to get it wrong [and I often did.] I cried more.
Throughout this whole process, I kept shooing my daughter, Emery, out of the kitchen. I was neck deep in learning new skills every day and thought I needed to work in peace. I would try to entice her to play with toys, watch a show, or whatever distraction I could think of.
After weeks of this, I finally realized two things. First, I didn’t want Emery to grow up with amazing health but no relationship with me because all I do is cook by myself. Instead of balancing her heart and her health, I was neglecting one for the other.
And second, I was in this stressful position because I was never taught how to traditionally prepare food. If I’m going to this insane amount of trouble to teach myself, why am I hoarding my education? Emery was going to grow up in a real food home, but leave the house just as clueless as I was. For me to learn all these new skills but keep her out of the kitchen didn’t make sense to me at all, once I thought about it. I was spending all this time struggling because I didn’t have anyone in my life to show me real food skills in person and I realized Emery was going to feel the same way in 16 years. But she would have every right to be mad at ME because she had lived with someone who could have shown her but chose not to because I was too self-focused.
What a wake up call.
At 19 months old, I immediately stopped sending her out of the kitchen. I stood her up in a chair while I chopped some veggies and started a new chapter of our real food journey. We’ve giggled, chatted, learned, explored, made messes, taste-tested, and bonded. I have no regrets from that point forward. I’m caring for her heart and her tummy at the same time. I’m investing time and patience into her that are incredibly valuable.
In hindsight, she was never hanging on my leg while I cooked because she wanted to drive me insane and stress me out, she wanted to be with me. She wanted to connect. To be invested in. For her mom to fill up her cup with love and quality time. I let go of my control and gained the heart of my child. I’m learning to sacrifice my personal space in the kitchen to set her and my grandkids and great grandkids up for excellent health. I don’t want to simply impact my kids for 18 years, I want to influence them for life by equipping them with essential skills to thrive.
I’ve discovered that the secret to getting my kids excited about real food is to pair it with something they’re already excited about – me. How many chefs have you read about that attribute their love of cooking to growing up in the kitchen alongside their mom or grandmother? How many stories have you read about their precious memories? I’ve heard dozens. Food connects people. It bonds people together with lasting memories. Working along side someone, smelling the amazing aromas, learning new skills, joking and laughing about silly mishaps, and beaming over your accomplishments leaves an impact on a person. It will leave an impact on your children.
It’s so easy to let the fear of the mess or the assumption that they’ll ruin something keep me from inviting my kids into my cooking space. But the measure of my success is not in the cleanliness of my home or a well plated meal. It’s in how I invest in the hearts of my kids. I can’t change the fact that I need to spend significant time in the kitchen, but I can change how I go about it. I could work alone and grow in personal knowledge and skill or I can invite my kids in and invest in their hearts while teaching them the long lost art of preparing food traditionally. I’ve diffused more fits, calmed more insanity, and lifted more spirits than I can count with the simple question, “Do you want to help me with dinner?”
The bottom line is, you’ll never get this time back with your kids. There’s such a small window of time where they crave your attention over anyone else’s – don’t waste it.
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://paleoparents.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/unnamed.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Amber Barraclough is a follower of Christ, wife, and stay at home mom to two little kitchen minions. Her family is dealing with Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, hormone imbalances, gluten, dairy, and grain intolerance, and adrenal fatigue. She shares regularly about how and why to involve your kids in the kitchen, nutrient dense kid friendly recipes + convictions of the heart throughout the parenting journey. You can find her on RealFoodwithKids.com, Facebook, and Etsy [selling kombucha SCOBYs], but the real party is over on I N S T A G R A M![/author_info] [/author]