If you homeschool, chances are you’ve heard of Poetry Teatime – an ingenious concept developed by Julie Bogart of Brave Writer. If not, allow me to introduce you to this gem. The concept is pretty simple. And you certainly don’t have to homeschool to implement it. Sit down to a lovely snack, read, and enjoy. That’s it! So, why are Poetry Teatime and picky eating a “match made in heaven”? Because teatime is all about creating a calming atmosphere around food (and drink) – which is exactly what reluctant eaters need.
Low Pressure = Low Anxiety
One of the hallmarks of Poetry Teatime is, of course, the poetry (or literature in general). But the atmosphere is really just as important. A little extra effort (tablecloth, special dishware, etc.) sends a big message. It says, “This is a privilege. And it is ours to enjoy together.” It’s a chance to be present with and tune into your child.
If mealtimes have been a source of conflict in the past, new foods may also feel less intimating outside of standard mealtimes. Since food is not the direct focus here, shifting your attention to anything but food may be a huge relief for your child.
It’s important to remember, however, that the atmosphere is going to be only as relaxed as you are. Just like every other mealtime, this is not an opportunity to coerce or trick your child into eating. The goal is simply to enjoy whether or not your child decides to eat or read poetry.
An Opportunity for Indulgance
In my post about dessert’s rightful place in your child’s diet, I mentioned that children should be allowed to enjoy as much dessert as they want from time to time. This teaches a child that desserts need not be prized above other foods and that he or she is entitled to satisfying their craving for sweets.
Since Poetry Teatime is all about fun and is itself a special treat, it’s the perfect time to let your child indulge. But that doesn’t mean that your teatime can’t include fruits, vegetables, and/or protein foods. In fact, even better if it does! Why? Because 1) these foods are fun too! and 2) children may be more likely to accept novel foods when paired with preferred or familiar foods.
Cartoons are cooler than Parents
Have you ever noticed that your child is super-into anything promoted by a favorite cartoon character? There’s a reason animated faces are plastered all over cereal boxes and packaged snacks. Children want the goodies these characters are happily devouring.
Literary characters can be much the same in that children often have special relationships with and are influenced by them. In fact, the featured dessert for our spring teatime came from my daughter’s incessant request for me to bake honey cakes (recipe here), a treat enjoyed by the critters in her beloved book, Bear Wants More. And honestly, after reading the book a-million-and-one times, I wanted some myself! They did not disappoint.
My point here is that literature can be used to pique your child’s interest in food. And, since taste isn’t usually a sense we associate with reading, using book-inspired food could even be a way to experience the literature itself in a new and deeper way. Essentially, it’s a win-win.
A Cultural Connect
Many countries all over the world participate in teatime as a cultural custom. And of course, they all do it differently (there are some wonderful children’s books about that too!) Exploring teatime around the world provides an excellent opportunity to learn about different cultures as well as the foods they eat (with and without tea).
It’s worth noting that, if you have a reluctant eater, diving into a full Japanese teatime with wagashi may not be wise. You don’t want to overwhelm your child. And remember that new foods are more likely to be eaten with familiar flavors. But inspiring curiosity about a culture’s customs could easily lead to curiosity about that culture’s cuisine. Just remember that you are there to plant and water the seeds of curiosity – whether it grows is up to your child.
Come On, Give it a Chai!
The beautiful thing about Poetry Teatime is that making it special really doesn’t take a lot of extra effort. You don’t need super expensive, ultra-delicate China – in fact, I’d advise against it (no drama if/when it breaks). You can likely find just about everything you need at a thrift store for under twenty dollars; we did! You don’t need a library full of poems. Print them off the internet or borrow from the library if it’s more convenient. You don’t need fancy imported teas. In fact, you don’t even have to drink tea if you don’t feel like it (but if you do, keep it decaf or limit caffeine for older children)!
So, why are Poetry Teatime and picky eating a “match made in heaven”? The simple answer: because the best way to encourage your child to explore new foods is by simply being present and enjoying meals together. Of course, there’s no guaranteeing that your child will ultimately decide to move out of his or her comfort zone and try new foods. But they just might! And you’re sure to make wonderful new memories together in the process.
Can Poetry Teatime can help with your child’s picky eating? Wonder if you and your child will love sharing in this cozy activity? There’s only one way to find out.
Disclaimer: The information on this site is in no way intended to be a substitute for medical advice. It is intended for general informational purposes only. Always seek personalized medical advice and consult your practitioner with questions regarding your or your child’s health.