It all started with a conversation about how bunnies eat lettuce. The glut of Easter bunny decor in the neighborhood inspired my 4-year-old to question what bunnies eat. Following the explanation that bunnies eat green food, my three children got the idea that they were going to be bunnies for the day and eat leaves of lettuce and spinach. My jaw dropped as I witnessed three little kids eating leafy green food without any prodding.
Children have an amazing ability to see the world with imagination and wonder. They find something that seems commonplace and bring it to life in a matter of minutes by associating it with something they enjoy or are familiar with. This kind of fascination is often prompted hrough stories, crafts, media or play time.
After seeing the amount of creativity fervently displayed by my children's bunny transformations, I decided to engage their world of wonder by inspiring more associations with healthy food choices. Rather than putting vegetables on a plate and forcing each arduous bite, I was curious to see if eating healthy food could actually be enjoyable if I presented it in a more imaginative way.
I went to the store and bought a bag of leafy spinach, frozen mango, and apple sauce: these were the ingredients in my youngest child's baby food that she seemed to enjoy. I blended them all together and brought the mixture to the table. Upon first glance, the kids shouted, "Ewww....it's green!!!" I did not stop there, though. Oh no, the fun was just about to begin. I explained that this was no ordinary juice, but this was called Monster Juice. I told them that if they drink it they will have super powers stronger than any monster. That was all I had to say before they all wanted a cup. They drank all the Monster Juice and wanted more. This simple reframe created a very popular drink in our household. Not only does it provide consumption of leafy greens, but it is also at least an hour of entertainment as the superheroes fight to save the day.
In the days that followed, my kids wanted more superpowers, so we made a list of juice colors and the powers they could represent. Knowing that children thrive with structure, visual conceptualizations and identifiable associations, I created a system that engages their sense of wonder and uses colors to visually stimulate positive association, thus making the experience of eating the right food enjoyable and preferred. For example, the kids decided that Blue Juice would make them swim fast in the blue ocean or fly high in the blue sky. So, in the blender I threw spinach, applesauce and frozen blueberries instead of mango. It was, again, a huge success.
After this exercise it occurred to me that there is more than one way to consume fruits and vegetables. Using the power of a child's imaginative mind and positive association, I inspired my kids to prefer greens. And yet, all the while, I realize that I encouraged my own capacity to wonder, create and enjoy the food that makes my body healthy. I now consume one blender concoction a day of fruits and greens so that I can confidently say, along with the bunnies, my family eats green.