TastEd Fun and Games for Families at Home
The Easter holidays have come early for many families. In the wake of coronavirus, so many of us are self isolating at home, going a little crazy behind closed doors, wondering how to fill the hours and weeks until children go back to school. Here are a few fun and cheap ideas for some TastEd games you could play together as a family (which have the added bonus of encouraging your children to experience and enjoy some new foods).
Before you start any TastEd game, everyone washes their hands. The second thing which is really important is to tell the children that TastEd has two golden rules. ‘No one has to try’ and ‘No one has to like’. These rules may not be the same ones that your family uses at dinnertime. That’s fine. But when doing TastEd, these rules are crucial for allowing the children to know that all of the pressure is off and they won’t have ‘failed’ at the game for not liking something or for feeling that they just can’t put something in their mouth.
Looking at Vegetables
This is a fantastic game for encouraging reluctant vegetable eaters to engage with new foods in a positive way.
Choose a vegetable that you have in your kitchen. Tomatoes or peppers or broccoli or carrots are all good ones to try. Explain that the game is nothing to do with tasting. It is just about looking at the vegetable and saying what you see.
For example, you might look at a Romano pepper together and the child might say ‘it’s like a tongue’ and you might say ‘it’s like a wizard hat’ or ‘it’s red like Spiderman’ and so on. When you have finished looking at the outside, cut the vegetable open and have a really good look inside. What patterns can you see? Now you can wash the veg and offer some to try reminding them that it’s OK to lick or smell the veg if they prefer. Model eating the veg yourself and describe how delicious/crunchy/sweet it is. If you have more than one colour of the same vegetable it can be fun to see whether it tastes the same: e.g. orange and red pepper or yellow and red tomato.
Finally, you could get out paints and paper and do a painting of the veg together.
The point of this game is to give children the chance to get up very close with vegetables without any pressure to eat. It seems to work as reverse psychology and in the total absence of pressure, trying the food actually becomes easier.
Before the children come in the room, take an assortment of spices from your cupboard. Some good ones to use are: cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, cloves. But really, use any spices you can find. You could also use: orange or lemon zest, fresh ginger, fresh mint leaves, vanilla essence.
Find some empty jam jars. Put a little of each spice in each jar and cover it with foil so that the spice is hidden from view. Make a couple of small holes in the top using a fork.
Now ask the children in the room. Pass round the jars and describe what you smell and what it reminds you of. It doesn’t matter if the children can’t name the spice. In a way, the game is more fun if they can’t. You want to be asking them to say things like ‘it reminds me of Christmas’ or ‘it reminds me of cooking rice’ or ‘it reminds me of when I eat porridge’. See if they can use some adjectives. Is it sweet? Is it spicy? Is it peppery?
Now open up the jars and see what’s inside! Maybe you could plan a cooking project together using one of the spices.
The Nose Game
What You Need: Carrots and/or apples. Peel the carrots, wash the apples and cut into pieces. Ground cinnamon or ground ginger.
The point of this game is to learn the connection between smell and flavour. Most of what we call flavour is really smell. Ask the child/children: do you know where flavour happens? They will probably say ‘mouth’. Say you are going to do an experiment to test if they are right. Take a piece of apple or carrot and dip it in the spice. Try it with your nose pinched. What can you taste? Now try it again with your nose unpinched. There should be a huge difference! This sometimes comes as a surprise to adults as well as children.
There are all kinds of variations of this game. You could try blind tasting – could you tell apple from pear with your eyes closed?