“I had a carrot for breakfast”

From The Early Years photo cache (click the pic for more).

I had a carrot for breakfast.” No, not me, this was a young child, a participant in the Early Sprouts program. Young children’s connection between growing food and appreciating it at the table is explored in the article “’Early Sprouts’: Establishing Healthy Food Choices for Young Children” by Karrie A. Kalich, Dottie Bauer, and Deirdre McPartlin in the July 2009 issue of NAEYC’s Young Children. This article serves as an introduction for early childhood teachers who want to do a similar “from garden-to-table” project and link it to nutrition education. I’m going to get the book Early Sprouts: Cultivating Healthy Food Choices in Young Children from Red Leaf Press, where the ideas are further developed and try the recipes! Sample recipes are available at the Early Sprouts website.

The author says that they teach children that taste preferences can change. They say “I like it a lot!” “I like it a little bit,” and “I don’t like it yet” to indicate strong positive, neutral, and negative or unfamiliar reactions to foods. And their students pick up and use these expressions.

Here’s my taste preference change story:

Once upon a time a friend brought me some spring rolls she made in the Vietnamese tradition, heavy on cilantro (an herb I had not yet eaten). My first bite I spit out, thinking that some non-food item had gotten mixed up in the spring rolls because I was tasting some kind of petroleum flavor. I soon had many more tastes of the cilantro leaf in Indian, Latin American, and more Vietnamese cooking–although I pushed it aside, I got small tastes. At some unnoted point I began thinking of it as a food flavor and now I love it and use it often. What exactly happened in my brain?

The Early Sprouts program is on-going, collecting scientific data on how growing food can enhance young children’s health through changing food preferences.

For more help in gardening with young children, the online newsletter Kids Gardening News from the National Gardening Association has tips for gardening, grant searches, and workshops. Find out what is happening in your area!

I’m going to try again to garden with the children and teachers in the programs where I’m a science teacher. This time I’ll try using a container with a water reservoir and plant peas and greens in September.


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  1. Gail
    Posted July 17, 2009 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the link to earlysprouts.org. I enjoyed reading about the success and the process that made it all happen. There’s real planning involved to establish a climate of success and positivity. Wonder how I can successfully implement this in a New England classroom where planting time is 1 month before school gets out.

  2. Peggy Ashbrook
    Posted July 18, 2009 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    Gail, I wonder if your students could begin their garden in September with some cold-hardy greens? Aren’t there some kales that can over winter with just a bit of garden cloth for protection? Your extension service might be able to make some suggestions and check the National Gardening Association enewsletter for your region, http://www.garden.org/regional/report/current/14 Can carrots and onions be planted in the spring and harvested in the fall? Peggy

  3. Dottie
    Posted July 28, 2009 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    This is Dottie, for the Early Sprouts team. Gail, if you read about the program, you will find that we start the garden in the spring, schedule families to water over the summer (many of our sites are closed in the summer as well), and begin the actual curriculum with harvesting the vegetables and cooking with them throughout the school year. We are in New Hampshire.

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