USING A BELOVED BOOK TO ENCOURAGE HEALTHY EATING
It’s hard to find a kid, a mom and dad or even a grandma and grandpa who don’t know Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
In fact, 2019 will mark the 50th anniversary of the publication of this beloved picture book, in which a little egg hatches into a tiny (and very hungry!) caterpillar.
After eating his way through five days of delicious fruits, our intrepid caterpillar eats so many things on the sixth day—most of them decidedly not healthy—that he develops a stomachache. He is no longer a little caterpillar, either. He is a big, fat caterpillar. And he won’t be that for long….
My guess is that The Very Hungry Caterpillar, rendered so beautifully in Carle’s trademark hand-painted paper collage technique, will delight little ones for 50 years to come.
Here’s a fun Mystery-Fruit Taste Test activity to do with your kids after Hungry Caterpillar story time:
Gather in the kitchen and have the kids observe as you wash and prepare the healthy fruits in the story—an apple, a pear, a plum, a handful of strawberries, an orange and a slice of watermelon. (You can tell them you’re not preparing the sweets on the caterpillar’s “Saturday” page because they gave him a stomachache—and they don’t want that, do they?!)
Cut all the fruits into roughly the same size. Talk about the fruits as you prepare them: You don’t eat the rough, bitter skin of an orange or the thick skin of a watermelon, for example, but the smooth, thin skin of apples, pears and plums are delicious and nutritious. You don’t eat the pit of a plum or the core of an apple or pear, which contain the seeds of the fruit, but strawberry seeds are impossible not to eat, and some watermelons don’t have seeds at all. (Just be ready to do some research with your kids if they ask how a fruit can possibly not have seeds!)
Now comes the fun part. Place each fruit in a separate bowl. Blindfold your kids and hand feed them a bite of each fruit, giving them a sip of water between each bite to cleanse their palates. Their challenge is to name each fruit as they eat it based on smell, taste and texture. Not too difficult, probably, as these are fairly common fruits that I hope they’ve tried before!
The end result? Your kids get to feel smart, and they get a healthy snack in the process. Sneaky, no?
Once they’ve mastered the hungry caterpillar’s diet, have them try to identify some additional fruits while blindfolded–like the grapes, figs and blueberries in this gorgeous 19th century painting of an open air market, rendered by French Impressionist Gustave Caillebotte. Throw them a curve by tossing tomatoes into the mix, and you can have the whole “Is tomato a fruit or a vegetable?” conversation. (Botanically, it’s a fruit, a fleshy vessel for the seeds of a plant; to chefs–and the Supreme Court!–it’s a vegetable! Read all about it with your kids at the National Geographic site: Is a Tomato a Fruit? It Depends on How You Slice It.) Then send a handful of cherry tomatoes to school with the older kids so they get a chance to explain why they’re eating them for dessert! After all, what kid doesn’t love to be an expert?
Barbara Jean the Story Queen
Photo credit: Google Art Project via Wikimedia. Book cover image: amazon.
ABOUT THE STORY QUEEN
First, a disclaimer: I’m not a doctor. I’m not a nutritionist. I’m not a chef. I’m not even a mom. What I know about healthy food and healthy eating I’ve learned by reading and doing, just like you.
What I am is a children’s book author. A Story Queen! My area of expertise is FUN. In the last dozen years, I’ve written a number of entertaining, award-winning picture books–about monsters, cats, Disney princesses–and veggies, of all things.
I’m big on imagination. Monsters Don’t Eat Broccoli encourages kids (the way my dad encouraged my siblings and me) to think of broccoli as crunchy, munchy, fun-to-eat trees. Once Upon a Parsnip is a fairytale rematch between Little Red Riding Hood (a vegetarian) and the Big Bad Wolf (NOT a vegetarian). Scary fun!
On the surface, neither of my veggie books is really about healthy eating–they’re just plain fun. But the fun is subversive: both books introduce and normalize the idea of eating healthy, fresh-from-the-garden vegetables. (Never underestimate the power of fun to get your kids to try something new!)
My goal in these pages is to find and share fun ways to introduce fresh fruits and vegetables to children and to normalize healthy foods and healthy eating in their experience. My means is to expose them–through you, their parents and caregivers–to food-friendly books, videos, downloadable and printable posters and coloring pages, hands-on activities and kid-friendly recipes. Anything that equates healthy food and FUN!
I’m here for you–to help you make healthy eating feel as natural to your children as breathing.
Because healthy food and healthy fun make healthy kids. And that’s something all of us can get behind.
Barbara Jean Hicks, a.k.a. “The Story Queen”
To purchase signed, personalized copies of my picture books, visit the “Books” page on my website. To contact me about my well regarded young author presentations for schools, or for other enquiries, send an email from the “Contact” page at barbarajeanhicks.com. I look forward to hearing from you!