Five ideas on how to nurture your kid to be a wander lusting foodie to embrace different cultures and cuisines and try new foods.
The word foodie is thrown around a lot and to most people it probably conjures up images of people eating at Michelin star restaurants, of adventurous street food eating and globe-trotters sampling weird food around the world. But to me as a parent, when I think of my child as a potential foodie, I think of someone who is open to trying new things, who is excited about new foods and flavours. I envision a child who is equally thrilled about eating from a rickety street cart as a fancy restaurant. I think about a child who asks intelligent questions like: who eats this, why do they eat this, what is it made of, how is it made, is it good for me?
A foodie to me is someone who not only has a great passion for food and eating but also has a great sense of adventure, openness, and curiosity about the food and experience around eating. So as you embark on great adventures exploring everything the Little Red Dot has to offer and travelling the great seas beyond, here are 5 ideas on how you can nurture a wanderlusting little foodie:
- Lead by example:
Let’s look at a typical nice hotel breakfast buffet here in Asia. Usually you will be offered a tremendous variety of food, from eggs, to waffles, dumplings, noodles and sushi. If you’ve grown up eating a standard Western breakfast, then right here is a good opportunity to open your mind and palette to something new while inspiring your family. Your kids might squeal at your ‘unusual’ choice of sushi first thing, but that’s your chance to discuss with them that different countries eat different kinds of foods for breakfast and that most Asian countries start their day with savoury food. Never push new choices but do encourage them by making new choices yourself. Excitement and energy around food is contagious.
- Build the experience:
Street food tours and cooking classes have gained popularity in the travel industry and are a great way to explore local foods in a new city or country (or even in your own city!). Check the age suitability for cooking classes and pick shorter classes, as young ones tend to have more finite attention spans. Most food tours are family friendly and I highly encourage you to include one in your next holiday itinerary. We recently took our 4 year old on a street food tour in Hanoi and while the crazy motorbike rides between food stops were his favorite part, he thoroughly enjoyed slurping on Pho noodles, trying new foods and meeting new people….everyone had a great time.
- Create curiosity:
Keep asking questions…to your host, your guide, your kids, your husband, everyone! What is this made from? What makes this spicy? Why do you think this noodle dish is so popular? How do they get these rolls so crispy? What kind of fish is this? What is a favorite snack food here? Your curiosity will spark interest and conversation as a family, and everyone will be smarter for it. Teach each other about flavours, spices, ingredients, food facts and stories. You don’t have to have it all figured out—its often fun to discover new things together (with help from Google!). If you have a slightly older child, encourage food photography and fun fact sharing via a blog, journal or social media (if they are old enough!).
- Be Positive, not Pushy:
Most children thrive on the comfort of routine and familiarity. This is why many will resist the unknown. And that’s okay. Take a deep breath and if you’re doing the steps above, you’re already doing great. Pushing a child to try something new or making them feel bad about not trying something is counterproductive. Try and be patient, ask gently if they would like to try something new and stay positive and encouraging no matter the reaction. With experiences that are pre-booked, prep the family in advance, drum up excitement , anticipate any potential resistance and concerns, set expectations and lastly, address all fears. Ultimately you know your child best so while some may prefer this type of pre-discussion and would rather know what to expect, others are big fans of spontaneity.
- Mix Things Up:
They say variety is the spice of life and for foodies, this couldn’t be more true. From street food to award-winning restaurants, make sure you cover the spectrum of food experiences. Unique foods and eating experiences can be found anywhere, from the exotic to the simple. Yes, I’ve eaten crunchy fried crickets in Mexico but one of my favorite food memories was simply tucking into fresh produce on a boat off the southwestern Italian coast!
Nurturing a wander lusting foodie means opening our children’s eyes, minds and palettes to all things new and adventurous, to embracing different cultures and cuisines. It is one of the best gifts that we can give our little ones.