Quinn on Nutrition: What to do with kids at home

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Temporarily furloughed from her job, my younger daughter is helping her sister with kid-sitting duties. On a recent morning, she video-called to show my 6- and 7-year-old grandkids jumping up and down to a music video led by a dancing hot dog named Not Dog.

This particular character invites her audience to travel via time machine to the year 1985. As she jogs back through time, she leads her audience in various movements to avoid items from past years: 2010 DVD player. Jump! 2007 flip phone. Duck! 1993 pager. Dodge right! 1985 boom box. Dodge left!

I laughed and asked what the kids were watching.

“It’s called Go Noodle,” she said.

Sure enough, this is just one of many free and kid-friendly online resources to keep lively kids active. Heck, some of these videos could even inspire old bodies like mine to get up and dance.

We are definitely living in a strange time. Parents who normally set strict limits on screen time are now using online resources to educate as well as entertain homebound children. Another challenge during these unusual days of social distancing is how to keep kiddos active and engaged in healthful food habits. I’ve gleaned these ideas from experts at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) — the worlds’ largest organization of nutrition professionals:

Isolate from electronic devices at meal times. Research continues to show the benefits of gathering around the table for family meals…without media distraction. Children of families who regularly eat together in this way are more likely to have higher intakes of fruits and vegetables and maintain a healthy weight. They are also less likely to have behavior problems, says the AND.

Make the kitchen a learning lab. Teach children to always wash their hands before handling food. Give instruction on the proper way to set the table. Teach colors (and nutrition guidance) with a variety of fruits and vegetables. Play the quiz game, “What food group am I?”

Let kids help with age-appropriate food preparation. With supervision, 3- to 5-year-olds can mix simple ingredients together, snap green beans, tear lettuce for a salad and press cookie cutters.

Six- and 7-year-olds can peel bananas, shuck corn, use a vegetable peeler and crack eggs. My grandkids especially like to help me measure ingredients into bowls, which makes for an instant math lesson.

Eight- and 9-year-olds can use a can opener, squeeze juice from fruit, use a food thermometer to check food temperatures, beat eggs and pound chicken on a cutting board.

By age 10, most children can slice and chop vegetables and other foods with supervision, make a salad, use the microwave oven and bake foods in the oven.

Use this time to connect with loved ones while you educate. It’s an ideal time to teach kids how to read and follow recipes, practice safe food handling and experience the joy of consuming a healthful meal they helped prepare. Stay well.

Barbara
Quinn
Nutrition
Column

Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator affiliated with Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula in California. She is the author of “Quinn-Essential Nutrition” (Westbow Press, 2015). Email her at to barbara@quinnessentialnutrition.com.

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