Morning circle, glittery crafts and story reading were highlights of my kindergarten career. My two elementary-school children are big fans of snack time and recess. Even though there is a ton of fun to be had in class, kindergarten teachers are always looking for ways to teach children essential lessons that will help them for life.
So grab a spot on the carpet, sit criss-cross applesauce and get ready to learn. Although all of these tips may not have been in the official curriculum, every kindergartner knows these basics—and they apply to grown-ups too!
1. Eat with Your Hands
Although Mom, Dad and teachers advocate for silverware, every kid knows the best food is meant to be picked up and enjoyed. Pizza, apple slices and sandwiches are simple and delicious. Grown-ups can carry on the tradition with more exotic finger food, like Ethiopian injera bread and stew, or this Greek Isle pizza with herbs, lemon, feta and olives.
2. Meals Are Best Enjoyed with Friends
Food shared with a side of laughter and stories is infinitely better than dining alone. Adults, take a tip from school and leave your desk at lunch to sit with a funny co-worker or the new guy in the office. You will feed more than your belly if you don’t dine solo.
3. Eat the Rainbow
Colorful foods are not only pretty to look at, but healthy for your body. The more colors on your plate the better. Think sweet red peppers, roasted butternut squash, silky sauteed kale and earthy beets. Here are 62 ways to get more color in your life.
4. Melted Cheese Makes Everything More Delicious
Roasted potatoes—great. Roasted potatoes with gooey cheese—amazing! See what I mean? There is something about melted, oozy cheese that makes pasta, veggies or a sandwich a little more delightful. Manicotti stuffed with cheese and pumpkin is a perfect example.
5. Food That Looks Fun Will Taste Better
Celery is crunchy and nutritious, but a little boring. Add some peanut butter, raisins and call it Ants on a Log—now you’ve got something! Pancakes with silly faces made out of strawberries and chocolate chips and lunch on a stick are small ways of making food more attractive and fun.
6. Follow Rules—Most of the Time
Class time runs more smoothly if everyone follows the rules, and this holds true for many recipes, too. Baking is a science, and small deviations in amounts and ingredients can have disappointing results. But some recipes are meant to be flexible and can be improved with a cook’s creativity. Stews, salads and pastas are examples of dishes where innovation can be delicious. Begin with a recipe and start with small changes—you might end up with your new favorite meal.
7. Try Everything Once—or a Few Times
A popular parenting tactic for getting kids to eat is the “no thank you” bite, or an “adventure bite,” as we like to say. While forcing kids to eat an entire plate of broccoli is unlikely to create a vegetable-loving child, encouraging them to at least try a bite of everything is a good strategy. A child may have to try a new food 15 times before they decide to like it. Grown-ups should follow suit—there is a wide world of interesting food out there. If you don’t at least taste it, you might be missing out. If you’ve never had sushi, here’s an easy California roll to try. Who knows? Before long, you may be working your way up to sashimi and unagi.
Back to school and back to basics—adding a few of these kindergarten lessons to your daily life will make food more nutritious, delicious and fun.