From alpha getti, to bento boxes, there has always been a strange enthusiasm for characterising food. What’s the psychology behind the phenomenon? 

The the art of feeding children is something known to all. We’ve seen it with our parents who sang, “here comes the choo-choo train”, and we’ve also seen it with their attempts of arranging vegetables into fun shapes on our dinner plates, in the hopes it’s appeal will encourage us to eat it. However, is the innocence of characterising food actually leaving a lasting impression on our children?

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Recently, researchers in Canada asked 6-11 year olds to reflect on how, and more importantly why, they categorised foods the way they do. According to the children, they thought “children’s food” was:

  • Primarily junk food, processed and from a box.
  • Breakfast “candy,” or what most people call cereal.
  • Fun. (Kids’ food comes in different colours, and in interesting shapes and sizes).

In contrast, when the children thought of “adult’ food, they thought of fruits, vegetables, and meat.

So, should we really teach kids that food/eating is entertainment? Or should we be teaching kids that food is tasty and nourishing, or even that the act of eating as a family, is more important?

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Sociologist, Dina Rose, says: “I’m not saying that you should never pull out the cookie cutter to make your child a heart-shaped sandwich, or that you should never give your child some parmesan “snow” to sprinkle on her “broccoli trees.” However, I am suggesting that it’s time to rethink what we’re teaching our children about the function of food in their lives”.

Maybe she has a point. 


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