10 Tips for Growing Veggie Loving Kids

At Lil Helper, we love supporting you in all things parenting. Something a lot of us worry about is feeding. We’ve aimed to make a wide range of products to help with this from breast pads to burp cloths and biggie bibs to smockets. But we know as kids get older, we especially want to make sure they eat their vegetables. This week, Kim from On Your Table is sharing her best tips for raising veggie loving kids. Read on for her helpful and fun ideas!


We all want our kids to love vegetables!  As parents, we have to remember that their love for veggies will be learned over many years – not over single meals, days, or even months.  However, if we want veggie loving kids it takes time and, we have some tasks that can make a big difference in the process!

As you may have heard, it can take 30 or more single exposures to a particular food for a child to learn to like it. The number of exposures can vary for every person.

The key is the word EXPOSURE.

Exposure means helping children to experience a food in many preparations and many ways over a long period of time.   The goal is not for kids to take a bite!  The goal is to build comfort by seeing, smelling, feeling, licking, biting, and eventually eating that food.  When it comes to helping kids learn to eat – and even to love – their veggies, it’s all about playing the long game!

So how do we help this to happen?!  I have 10 tips to get you onto the right track.  It’s important to remember that this isn’t a complete list of strategies, but it’s a great way to get started!

Start by having vegetables around! 

Pass the cucumber please! – Sarah S.

Kids need frequent and varied exposure to build comfort and interaction.  Have your kids help you pick out vegetables to buy, and ask them to unload groceries with you.  Try leaving produce visible on the counter (when safe), ask your kids to pass the vegetables to you when preparing a meal, and be sure to add veggie options to all meals – even breakfast!

Get vegetables onto your kids’ plates, every single time they are served! 

Serve meals family style!  Pass bowls around the table so everyone gets a guaranteed look and smell, and make it a family rule that some of every food is on everyone’s individual plate.  A vegetable serving can be as small as one single pea!  We just want them getting close to their veggies as a starting point.  Think of it like making a new friend!

Don’t push your kids to take a bite!  

Sometimes just holding the kale is a win! – Jessica T.

I know, it sounds crazy.  Isn’t that the whole point? Yes, however – the more pressure we put on our kids to eat the foods we desperately want them to eat, the less likely they are to try them.  Our job as parents is to make vegetables readily available, make them fun, help our kids to engage with them in other ways (see point #1!), and then let them taste on their own time, when they are ready.

Lead by example! 

What we model for our kids’ day in and day out is one of the strongest indicators of their future behavior.  Even if you don’t like a vegetable, it’s helpful if they see you put it on your plate anyway, and that you keep trying it.  Equally important is that they see the enjoyment on your face when you eat vegetables you love!

Bring your kids into the kitchen! 

Having kids help in the kitchen gets them seeing, touching, smelling, and maybe tasting before the main event.  This helps them feel ready to taste at the table, and every taste contributes to building a lifelong love.  Think of having your child in the kitchen like a warm up before the big game – the meal!  Worried that getting them into the kitchen is such a headache and a MESS?!  This blog post can help you get started!

Get them into the garden too (even if it’s just a single pot)! 

Carrots straight from the garden are a favorite at our house! -Caitlin M.

When a child is asked to pick a vegetable from a plant, there’s no pressure to eat it.  Low-pressure encounters allow fun exploration without stress, and these instances set the stage for future success.  Plus, there’s an added benefit of the pride kids feel when they watch their tiny seed grow into a plant that produces food!

Think twice before you hide vegetables in other foods! 

I know, it puts your mind at ease to know that they are getting the nutrients they need now.  It’s not worth it!  Known exposure is key to kids learning to love vegetables.  When we hide vegetables in our kids’ foods, it might go well at first, but with time, they will figure it out.  When they do, we have taught them that vegetables taste so bad that they have to be hidden, and that you are not to be trusted!  They might even stop eating some of the foods they once loved.  Add vegetables to whatever you want, but make kids aware.  Better yet, have them help!

Have your kids talk to a farmer! 

If you want your kids to meet someone who gets jazzed up about vegetables, head to a farmer’s market – or better yet, straight to the farm.  I’ve never met a farmer who isn’t willing to chat with you about their produce, how it is grown, what types of varieties they have, and how to prepare it all.  Their passion rubs off on kids, especially if a farm visit involves tractors or animals too!

Don’t give up on your method! 

If your kids don’t get excited about cooking, gardening, talking to farmers, or any of the traditional ways to engage with food, find what they love and capitalize on it.  Use vegetables for experiments, dissect them, paint with them, read books with vegetables, draw them, or use them as a microphone or telephone.  Whatever you do, just involve vegetables in the kind of fun that your child loves!

Never stop serving a wide variety of vegetables! 

There’s even room for veggies at picnic time on our Lifesaver Mat – even though they don’t always get eaten. – Caitlin M.

Even when they turn up their nose, gag, roll their eyes, and make a fuss, KEEP ON SERVING!  The moment vegetable exposures stop, you’ve taken away the opportunity for your child to grow to love them.

About the Author

Kim Slack is a Registered Dietitian and founder of On Your Table LLC.  She coaches parents on feeding strategies and parenting styles that support children to expand the foods they eat.  She also offers a membership with ongoing lessons and support for parents of picky eaters.  Kim has helped many families have happier, calmer mealtimes and grow competent eaters at the table.  Kim also has 2 boys of her own at home.  Learn more about her here.


My Top 3 Baby Led Weaning Recipes

Lil Helper is pleased to welcome Anne Marie to the blog this week to share some incredible Baby Led Weaning recipes! For more of her delicious meal ideas, you can find her on Instagram @babyledweaning2021.


BLW is a weaning method I very much believe in and has worked very well for us over the past 7 months. Keiran has explored over 100 foods and BLW has also saved me a lot of time preparing separate meals for him. He is able to eat the same meals as the rest of the family. It has changed our diet as a family to a healthier one and so for us it really has had all-round benefits.

My top 3 baby led weaning recipes are raspberry coconut balls, avocado pasta and pizza pinwheels. I love these recipes because they are so easy to make and very baby and toddler friendly and great for the rest of the family too

Raspberry Coconut Balls

The raspberry coconut balls are one of my favourite breakfasts to make! My son absolutely loves them! We include chia seeds in this recipe – a very good source of protein, and also packed with fibre! They are very soft and easy to make – easy for small mouths to chew and take less than 5 minutes to make. A very healthy start to the day!

Ingredients
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup raspberries (I used frozen, let them thaw for about 30mins)
3 tbps desiccated coconut
2 tbps raisins
1 tbps chia seeds

Method
1. We simply put all the ingredients in the food processor and blended until smooth, then rolled into balls.
2. We then simply formed balls and put them in the fridge, then took them about 30mins before serving not to be too cold.

Creamy Avocado Pasta

The creamy avocado pasta is rich in fibre and healthy fats which are very important to support babies digestion and brain development. This meal can be introduced from 6 months, so is perfect if you are new to baby led weaning, and can be an easy lunch or dinner for all the family!

Ingredients
2 avocados
1 tub of ricotta (250g)
1/3 cup milk
1/2 tsp lemon
pinch of chili peppers

Method
1. We simply blended all together in a blender. Once the pasta was done, we mixed the creamy sauce with the pasta.

Pizza Pinwheels

Pizza pinwheels are a fun meal to make with puff pastry. Adults, children and babies all love this recipe. It only takes about five minutes to make and just requires some basic ingredients – mozzarella, tomatoes, puff pastry and any pizza toppings you love. It’s a great recipe to make and get older children involved with too.

Ingredients
1 sheet puff pastry
Tomato sauce
Mozzarella
Handful of basil leaves

Method
1. We rolled out the sheet, and spread a thin layer of tomato sauce.
2. We then sprinkled grated mozzarella and basil on top.
3. We rolled it and cut the roll it into 1 inch pieces.
4. We then placed them on a greased oven dish for about 15mins at 180C.

Baby led weaning has helped us as a family make healthier meals with no sugar and salt. We love having our meals together as a family. If you would like more recipes, please check our blog babyledweaning2021.


Ready to give one of these delicious recipes a try? Grab your smocket or biggie bib and tag us on social media! We would love to see the results!


About the Author

Anne Marie is a regulatory reporter and juggles a busy job with looking after a baby. She has always been interested in exercise and nutrition and so it was a natural next step to start a BLW blog.


Diaper Bag Essentials: Advice from an Experienced Hot Mess Mom

diaper bag essentials

Let me tell you a story. It is not a story of triumph. Because, as you may have guessed from the title of this piece, I am not exactly the mom who has it all together. And spending the last year+ living the always-at-home pandemic life has not made that better. So let me be a cautionary tale on the importance of diaper bag essentials and what happens when you forget them.

It’s been a long year…

This tale of despair begins when I decided to take my children out into a public place for the first time in a very long time. We were all out blowing off some much-needed steam when the inevitable happened: one kid spilled, the other decided that it was the worst day of all time and needed their soother, and general chaos ensued. There was crying, screaming, and much stickiness.

As I rifled desperately through my bag, I realized I had none of the things I needed to rectify either of these situations. In fact, the more I looked, the more I realized that I was missing a TONNE of diaper bag essentials. All of the important sanity-saving items had migrated out of the bag over the long stretch of us staying at home. Quarantine has turned my brain to such mush that I did not even think to collect them again.

Now, this (entirely too) minimalist packing style is a pretty big course correction. When I was a shiny new mom, I was slightly less of a mess. Which meant that I thought through a lot more possible disasters and packed my diaper bag essentials accordingly. This did, however, sometimes lead to me resembling this guy:

Long story short, I am the messy mom who has been on the ugly end of both over and underpacking. So, whether you need a post-pandemic refresher or are a brand new parent trying to get your packing plan started, here are the diaper bag essentials you ACTUALLY need for life in the wild with your littles.

So What’s Essential?

diaper bag essentials
📷 Kelsey S.

The term essential can be a little misleading. It means something different to everyone. What is essential is going to depend on you, your kiddos, and your plans for the day. So when you are gathering your diaper bag essentials, I suggest you try to do a mental walkthrough of your plans. It is generally safe to assume that something weird will happen (because kids are involved) but at least having a general idea of what is in store will help you have the things you need to deal with the day.

All that being said, there are some staple items that you probably aren’t going to want to be without.

Diaper Bag Essentials for the Kids

diaper bag
📷 Alexandra G.
  • Diapers– Let’s start with what should be obvious (but something I have totally forgotten) diapers. You will need one diaper for every two hours you plan to be out, plus a couple of extras just in case. If you have older kids, this is obviously less essential. But if they are still in training pants, make sure not to forget those.
  • Food- Whether this means snacks, bottles, or a boob, don’t forget what you need to feed baby. A hangry kid in the wild is no fun for anyone.
  • Wipes– Wipes are for sure the unsung heroes of the diaper bag essentials. Whether you use disposable or cloth wipes, they are an obvious must-have for diaper changes. But they are also great for cleaning kid-goo off of basically anything, including your child.
  • Change Mat- Even if your diaper bag came with a changing pad, I suggest critically assessing its utility. They are often smaller than you’d like. Plus, other change mats have more uses. If you are short on space, something like our Lifesaver Mini works great. If you can make the room our Lifesaver Mat is a must-have, since it can double as a blanket, burp cloth, emergency towel, or play mat as well.
  • Wetbags- Whether you cloth diaper or not, wetbags are a diaper bag essential for sure. Smaller bags are great for organizing all of the loose items you pack so they don’t end up getting lost in the bottom of the bag. Dry/Wetbags are great for bringing a change of clothes and then carting it home when it gets dirty. If you are headed to the beach or the splashpad a larger bag is great to have to bring home wet towels and suits.
  • A change of clothes- If you have ever interacted with a child, you know why this is necessary. Make sure to throw in a seasonally appropriate hat as well, just in case.
  • Distraction/Comfort Items- This could include pacifiers, toys, or that special blanket. Basically, whatever works to comfort or distract your kiddo long enough to avoid a meltdown at the checkout.

Diaper Bag Essentials for You

parenting essentials
📷 Amanda U.
  • Hand Sanitizer- Even pre-pandemic this was a diaper bag essential for parents. No one knows how fast germs can spread better than a dad who has watched a gastro bug take down their kid’s playgroup.
  • Sunscreen-Bring it and put it on. It is easy to forget yourself when you are worried about the littles. And the lobster look isn’t cute on anyone. I prefer the spray-on variety so that I don’t have to tackle my toddler and wrestle him like an alligator to apply it. Also, throw it and the sanitizer in a wetbag to avoid any issues with leakage.
  • Keys, wallet, phone etc.- Make room for these important personal items in the diaper bag. Even if you would normally carry them in a separate bag. There is nothing like carrying too many bags plus your child to make you feel more like a pack animal.
  • Other items to keep YOU comfortable- Snacks, breast pads, a water bottle (filled with espresso if necessary, we don’t judge). Again, it is super easy to focus on the stuff your little one needs and completely forget about yourself. But you are the one managing the traveling circus once you head out, so make sure you have what you need to stay feeling your best.

One last essential…

Some grace for yourself. Whether you are a brand-new parent or one who is feeling a little rusty after a long and tiring year, you are going to have moments when you forget something important. Don’t beat yourself up. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. I for one would be more than willing to lend pretty much any diaper bag essential to a fellow parent who forgot their own. And I’m betting I am not the only one. So don’t suffer in silence if you forgot sunscreen and it is 400 degrees.

What do you think? Is this a good list of diaper bag essentials? Is there anything you think I forgot? Let me know in the comments below.


About the Author

Amanda is a teacher and mom of two from small-town Ontario. When she isn’t struggling to keep up with her boys, you can find her reading, crocheting, or writing poop-jokes for Lil Helper’s website, emails, and blog.


diaper bag essentials

3 Easy Crafts To Build Your Toddler’s Fine Motor Skills

Today is World Lion Day, and that seemed like as good a reason as any to get crafty! 9 times out of 10, I like to give my kids art supplies and just let them get creative. But as a former preschool teacher, sometimes I still like to do a little pre-planning and give my oldest a craft that focuses on practicing fine motor skills. Here are my 3 favorite lion themed crafts. These took 5 minutes of prep work and used things I already had around the house. Because fun should be easy too.

Fine Motor Skill: Cutting

This one can be intimidating to some parents, but I would encourage you to not shy away from letting your 2-3 year old try scissors – with adult supervision of course.

At first, all they need to practice is simple snips. Short cuts to use the muscles that open and close scissors.

Lion Craft: Colour and Cut the Lion’s Mane

Draw a lion’s face on a paper plate, and short, single-snip-length thick lines around the outside of the plate. Encourage your child to colour the lion.

Tip: Talk about what colours you think of when you think of a lion, and how a lion’s bushy hair is called a mane (everything can be a vocabulary lesson too!)

Have your child cut the lines to create the lion’s mane. Your child might need you to stand behind them and help them snip but with practice those hands will get stronger and your child will be a pro!

Tip: To help your child remember to hold their scissors correctly, use a washable marker and draw a heart on the back of their thumb. If they can see the heart, they are holding their scissors right!

Fine Motor Skill: Pincher Grasp

While cutting is an important skills, there are lots of other tactile ways to build finger strength. This activity involves ripping tissue paper for the lion’s mane. Ripping the paper and scrunching it into small balls helps build fine motor strength. Dipping it in glue and sticking it helps the same muscles that your child will one day use to write!

I cut the tissue paper into strips first, and encourage my child to rip it between their pointer finger and thumb, rather than in fists.

Tissue Paper Mane Lion Craft

The steps are simple, rip a piece off, and scrunch it up into a ball. Once you have a small pile, dip each piece in white glue and stick around the edge of a paper plate. Once again I prepped the plate by drawing a face on it. This activity is also great as sensory play. Listen to the rip of the tissue paper. Feel the paper in your fingers, and the sticky glue when you dip it.

Practice Using Tools: More than Just Paint Brushes!

Painting is a favorite activity for most kids, but it doesn’t have to be limited to finger paint and brushes! Different tools help kids practice holding different shapes, different ways and using different muscles. For this one, we are painting with a fork!

Lo

For less mess, you can of course use a disposable fork. And don’t forget your smocket!

Lion Mane Fork Painting

For this one I let my kiddo choose what colors to use and we ended up with a beautiful rainbow lion! I demonstrated once how a gentle dip in paint and touch to the paper makes a hairy mane and then let my kiddo get creative. For prep work, I drew a circle with the face in the center of the paper.

Things to Remember when Crafting with Kids

The goals of craft time should be: joy, creativity, sensory play, and fine motor skills. In that order. You won’t get a Pinterest worthy result every time, and you aren’t supposed to. The goal is quality time and learning experiences. Keep it fun, and the learning and skills will come naturally.

Do you have a favorite craft with your littles? Share it with us in the comments!


About the Author

Caitlin lives in Alberta with her husband, 2 little girls, and too many animals cause she is a sucker for a rescue. When she's not chasing kids and changing fluff bums she spends her time crocheting, gardening, and binging true crime docs.