You may have made the choice to become vegan for a variety of reasons. Often these reasons are abstract, personal, or seem complicated. If you are considering becoming vegan and you have a family you may wonder, “how will I ever get my kids to eat this way?”
We often make the mistake of assuming children do not have the capacity to understand big concepts like animal rights, health, or environmentalism. So, how parents introduce their children to veganism?
1) Assume Your Child is Capable
If my experience teaching 3- to 6-year-olds has taught me anything, it is that children are very capable of understanding and making connections. Adults think they need to “dumb down” content for children, but that is untrue. We do need to present the content in a way that has resonance for their background, but your message should stay the same no matter their age.
As an example, pretend you brought grandma’s famous chocolate cake to a party and a friend asks you how you made the cake. You will automatically tailor your answer to what you know about that friend. Are they a baker themselves? If so, you will explain the recipe very differently than to a friend who you know never steps foot in the kitchen. We tailor our descriptions to our audience and it is no different when speaking to our children.
Whatever your reasons for becoming vegan, make connections with the child’s experiences. Maybe you have had several family members with serious health problems you want your family to avoid. Maybe you grew up with animals or took an impactful trip to an animal sanctuary. Children have a very strong sense of right and wrong. Your child will understand, and you will often be surprised by the connections they make.
2) Start off with Foods That are Familiar
Children often need to try a new food 10 times before they will eat it without a fuss. Respect their process. Keep it familiar with only one new food to try at each meal. Resist the urge to force them to eat the new food. Think of it as a fun new experience. Show them you like the new food and they will come around eventually. Remember, you are changing what your child has come to expect seemingly overnight. If it seems like too much change at once for your child, try only eating one vegan meal a day and working your way up slowly.
Let’s say the only vegetable your child knows is a French fry. Now is not the time to serve Brussels sprouts as a main course. Start small. Try a vegan macaroni and cheese. Veggie burgers can be a great place to start. Veggie burgers look like real burgers and you can chop up all the undesirable vegetables so small your child might not even notice. Load them with toppings to keep it exciting and fresh.
3) Let them be the Chefs
…or at least the sous chefs. Young children have a natural drive to help. Use this to your advantage by having your child help you prepare your vegan meals. They will feel invested in the process and be much more likely to eat it. Older children might be less interested in helping but try to pull them in anyway. They will love the time to bond with you, even if they don’t want to admit it, and they will also be more interested in trying foods they helped prepare.
There are so many kid-friendly recipes here on Peaceful Dumpling. Try the Grilled Vegan French Toast recipe by Molly Lansdowne, the Super Simple 5-Minute Oat Milk by Bella Gadsby, or of course always popular Vegan DIY Strawberry Pop-Tarts by Colette Goguen.
Congratulations on your new lifestyle choice! Veganism is wonderful in so many ways. Of course, any change this big comes with challenges but if you include and respect your children you will not be disappointed in the results. Remember to explain even the most complicated information by making connections to what your children have experienced, start off small, and find ways for them to help you in the kitchen. As time goes on you might find you have a healthier body and a stronger relationship with your child!
Do you have any experience raising a vegan child? Let us know in the comments below!
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