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More Please: Convincing Kids to Eat Spinach

It’s mid-May and gardens throughout Trenton have come back to life. If you’re like us, this is you’re favorite time of year. We’ve been patiently waiting for the weather to warm up so that we could to return to our gardens, get our hands dirty, and harvest mountains of fresh veggies.

While many may share our sentiment for produce straight from the garden, you may not be surprised to learn that when we walked into a classroom with a bag of spinach and explained to a group of nine-year-olds that we’d be making a spinach salad, we received looks of shock and horror.

So, how do we transform this group of spinach skeptics into spinach lovers? We follow these fail proof steps:

First, set the tone for the class. Positivity is key. We remind students to keep an open mind, use kind words, and refrain from any negative terms, especially before tasting a dish.

Next, make the activity hands-on. Each student plays an active role in preparing a recipe. They may be slicing tomatoes, chopping herbs, or measuring ingredients for dressing. This gives kids ownership of the dish and cultivates an emotional connection and sense of pride. Would you want to invest all that hard work into creating a meal and then not even try it? Of course not!

Finally, it’s key to celebrate successes (even small ones). If students liked what they tried, that’s an enormous success. Make it a big deal. Was there a student who overcame a fear of trying a new food? Congratulate her. Was a student apprehensive about touching spinach but will now tolerate it on the plate? Affirm him.

Additionally, remember to create a safe space by letting students know that it is okay not to like something. Never shame them for not being ready to try something new. This process takes time.

So, what did the nine-year olds think of the spinach salad they prepared? We’re proud to report that their expressions of shock and horror were replaced by delight as each student tasted the salad. Twelve of the twenty students asked for seconds, some licking their plates clean, and one student shared that it was her first time eating spinach and that she hoped to make this recipe at home.

We’d call this a successful day.

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