Wednesday, September 7, 2011

TEACHING YOUNG CHILDREN ABOUT FOOD SAFETY

I find that interviewers for TV or radio shows never ask me what I think they will or should ask me. Often interviewers usually pose very general questions - difficult to answer in a 10 seconds or less on air.

As I see it, the topic of food safety can be applied to so many different situations, and I am perfectly willing to do so. Last Saturday I was being interviewed for the "Mr. Dad" radio show. This is a good show, which provides a lot of useful information, as do the related column and books. What I expected to be asked were questions that tied food safety to positive parenting, and maybe even to male parenting.

How and what should parents teach their children about safety issues in their food? Of course, it should be age-specific. But you can start quite early. The teaching should involve both teaching by example, and by instruction.

Situations such as shopping for food or preparing a meal provide wonderful opportunities to explain why you do one thing or another if your child is with you. Why are you buying this apple instead of that one? What are you reading on the package? Why are you washing the fruit or vegetables before eating? Why are you cooking the meat?

Before age 5, the simple concept of "clean food is good food" is enough. In thinking about the issue, and given the nature of the typical North American household, which usually includes pets, I would try to instill the following ideas before age 5 - even before age 3 in some cases:

• If food is going to make you grow big and strong it has to be "clean."
• Food becomes cleaner if you wash it or cook it.
• If you touch food with your hands, they have to be clean too.
• If you drop your food, you can't just go ahead and eat it: it has to either be washed or thrown out.
• Your pet's food is not as clean as yours, so if you touch its food (especially dog treats) you have to wash your hands before you eat. Or, if your pet takes a bite of your sandwich or your ice cream, you can't eat it any more.

Pretty simple stuff, right? Yes, but it can provide a solid foundation for more sophisticated learning in later years.

To your good health,
TSF

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

You're right. for 5 year olds, you have to keep it simple, stupid. good advice.

Anonymous said...

You also should keep it simple for 15 year olds!