Healthy Food, Fun? You Betcha!



The Vegetable Stall, William York MacGregorDoes your child turn up his nose at vegetables? Would she rather miss out on dessert than finish her greens?

Children often do not like trying new foods. Sometimes we have to talk them into taking just one bite of something new–and do it every day for a couple of weeks, months, maybe even longer–before they decide that maybe it isn’t so bad after all. And might actually be delicious! (It doesn’t hurt to dream….)

Check out the activities, coloring pages, books and videos below and share them with your children. Make veggies familiar to and fun for your kids. Maybe they’ll ask to try a food they haven’t tried before? Again–it doesn’t hurt to dream!


“The Vegetable Stall,” above, was painted by Scottish artist William York McGregor in 1884, when he was 29 years old. He was mostly known as a landscape painter, but this still life is considered his masterpiece. Click on the painting to enlarge the image. Look at it closely with your kids. How many different kinds of vegetables are in the painting? Which ones can they name? Which veggies are not familiar to them? Count the onions hanging from the rafters and the potatoes in the bin. What kind of recipes might use these ingredients? (I can almost taste a savory potato-leek soup and crunchy slaw….) Print out the painting and take it to the farmers’ market or the grocery store to see if your children can find and identify the “mystery vegetables.” Make it a game!


Download the coloring pages by clicking on the images. Your preschoolers can color the veggie folk while your older kids–or maybe you!–color the salad bowl. Talk about the vegetables you’re coloring. What are they? What role would you guess that each one plays in making our bodies strong and healthy? After you’ve finished coloring, you can do a quick Internet search together to check your theories. Have your kids write down the name of each vegetable on their coloring page. (And know, I don’t mean “Elvis” or “Priscilla” for those cute little veggie critters!)

Veggie People Coloring PageSalad Coloring Page


I love using books as a way to familiarize kids with farms, food and gardening–especially a book with a good story and great illustrations. Here’s a pair, a funny favorite for preschoolers and a classic to download for little ones to listen to and older kids to read on their own:

Tops & Bottoms Cover
Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens (1995)

This funny, energetic, Caldecott-Honor book, a retelling of an old tale of the American South, celebrates the trickster tradition of using one’s wits to overcome hardship. Lazy Bear and clever Hare are involved in a gardening partnership, with Hare agreeing to do the hard work on farm land that belongs to Bear. Hare is scrupulous about sharing the harvest equally, even letting Bear choose which part of the crop he wants–top or bottom. Yet somehow Hare always ends up with the half worth eating. Poor Bear never quite figures things out, but your kids will feel as clever as Hare when they see what’s coming! Ages 4-7. 

Peter Rabbit 1902 Cover
The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter (1902)

A classic in every sense of the word, this book was initially published privately because the author and illustrator, Beatrix Potter, couldn’t find a publisher. A year later, in 1902, an editor finally recognized its charm and appeal, and it’s been in print ever since. Translated into 36 languages and with 45 million copies sold, it’s one of the best-selling books of all time.

The story follows a hungry rabbit with a mind of his own who sneaks into Mr. McGregor’s vegetable garden for a snack, even though he’s been told not to. Of course the gardener spots him, and a harrowing chase ensues. Peter eventually makes it home safely, where his mother serves him chamomile tea for a tummy ache (too many veggies!) and sends him to bed. Ages 4-8.

Find out more about this wonderful story here. Your kids will enjoy learning that Miss Potter had a pet rabbit named Peter Piper when she was a girl, and that the story was first written for a young friend in a letter.

For a fun and different experience, try this wonderful resource from the University of South Florida:  a Peter Rabbit MP3 to download and listen to, plus the full text for download and printing so your young reader can follow along

Food Rainbow Screen Shot4. SING A VEGGIE RAINBOW

Richard Tuttle is a K-12 music teacher in the tiny Ada-Borup School District in Minnesota’s Red River Valley. He wrote “Food Rainbow” for the kindergarteners–and I’m willing to bet after hearing it once, your kindergartener will want to sing along. And maybe she’ll be more interested in having a rainbow of food on her plate every day, too. You’ll need to follow the link to hear the song; the file is too large to post here.


Veggie Critters screenshot5. CARVE A VEGGIE CRITTER

Carving vegetables requires a sharp knife, so you’d best do this activity on your own as your kids watch. They just might be so awed by your artistic talent they’ll absently reach for a carrot to munch on while you’re creating.

I found these instructions with a quick search on If this turns out to be lots of fun, there are plenty more where this came from!

Eat well and have fun–

Barbara Jean the Story Queen

Healthy Food

Photos used with permission via “The Vegetable Stall” and Peter Rabbit cover image, wikimedia; coloring pages, Food Rainbow, Richard Tuttle. Veggie critters, ItalyPaul. Tops & Bottoms cover image from



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”

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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 I look forward to hearing from you!

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